England winning Euro 2012, now that would be news, mega news. Team GB topping the gold medal table at the London Olympics? Worthy of a front page splash. Even non sports fans concede that.
But out of the national glare, on a local level, what exactly is news? Essentially it’s what gets people talking, tales that prompt them to look up from their computer screens to ask: ‘What was that? Where are they opening the new factory? How many jobs will it create?’
Most journalists have in-built radar systems enabling them to recognise a news story automatically even if the teller doesn’t realise what they are relaying is news. Out for a pint, talking to friends, all of a sudden our ears prick up, we instinctively shift into work mode, pouncing on a best pal, relative or even a complete stranger. Exactly how much did you raise from your sponsored wing-walk? Why did you do it? How old are you again? Ninety three. Great!
They are not all so easy. A businessman may insist there’s nothing remotely newsworthy about his company, while simultaneously bemoaning how he is rushed off his feet after securing a multi-million pounds new contract – in the middle of a recession.
News stories are about people (OK sometimes cuddly animals too) and how they are affected by the world around them.
They can be tales of personal achievement – a mum of six studying for a degree in her spare time, or worldwide domination – you’ve just been headhunted by Mark Zuckerberg.
Your announcement can have far reaching consequences – you’ve discovered the scientific code to give us all the power to teleport, or small scale – you’re opening a handy new wholefoods store down the road.
The skill of the journalist and PR professional is to recognise the relevance of the information and identify its potential impact on others. Then we glean the facts and transform them into an exciting readable format. If we can couple that with an eye-catching photograph then all the better. Because, let’s face it, we’d all like to see the triumphant glint in the eye of the goal-scorer who wins us the day – any day!