I hate watching the news. Period. Call me cynical and “class-less”, but I do. It’s filled with such waste and negativity. In a recent class I took at Queens University of Charlotte, titled Communication Theory, we were always relating the theories to real life scenarios. Most of the time, the news and politics were the easiest to relate it to. The question came up of why we think people watch the news, and if we did. I was called on, and there was my answer: short, sour, and direct. A classmate decided to respond by telling me that I have to actively seek out the good news. At first, I truthfully didn’t appreciate that; shouldn’t the good news be apparent? Thinking back now, I realize that I have always done so.
Unless you have been living under a rock for the past decade or so, you’re all familiar with social media. When I started off by saying “I hate watching the news”, that doesn’t mean I don’t intake the news. I, like most people, prefer to pick what I want to read or learn about. That’s what makes us all so different; we like different things. I might deem a news release on the relationship of Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart newsworthy because of my undying love for their career debut movie, Twilight; however, Susie Q could care less.
My point is that most news is actively seeked out, given the numerous mediums we have at hand. For me, I would much rather scope my Twitter feed to see what news stories seem interesting to me. What do I deem interesting? It’s hard to pin-point, because it all depends. But what I do know is that it needs to be well written, localized, and newsworthy.
Courtesy of Fraser Seitel, author of The Practice of Public Relations, if a news release fails, it is because it lacks one of those three elements. If something I read is poorly written, I cringe. I can’t stand it. But this is beyond the typical misspelling, grammatical errors. According to researcher Linda Morton, releases that are poorly written are because they’re too complicated to understand (Seitel, p.303-320). It’s as if you’re reading a foreign language. The aim is to make the news release specific, brief, and easy to read. By doing this, the author is making their words count. For example, a news article published on my very own schools website, titled Spring MSOD Capstone Presentations, didn’t fully grasp this for me. For the most part, it stayed brief and on point. Then I got to the third paragraph, and found myself re-reading the first sentence over and over because I could not understand what it was trying to say. This is what Seitel meant when he explained the difference between writing for the ear and writing for the eye, and how important it is. Since I can re-read it over and over, I am able to critique it catch anything that is poorly written.
Another point that is easily missed is keeping it localized. Unless it’s a global issue, the news release should target its local community as an audience. Make it purposeful and showcase the central idea. Research shows that news releases localized are ten times more likely to be published than not. Morton presumes the reason most news releases fail to do this is because they don’t want to put in the extra work. I think this is extremely important for a news release to have. On the rare occasion I actually watch the news, I watch the local news. I like to know what’s going on in my community, whether it be for entertainment or for information.
To conclude what causes a news release to fail: is it newsworthy? This is the main reason why most go unpublished. It’s almost a challenge; it needs to be universal enough for majority to enjoy it, but local enough for it to have a community feel. A great example of this for the Queens community was a “newsworthy” article titled, Queens Combines Digital Media and Community Engagement in an Experiment of Flash Philanthropy. It included three of the five requisites Morton gave that makes something news: impact, oddity, and proximity. An important and relevant quote was used, as well, making it different and unique. In addition, the title itself is an attention getter. It made me want to read the article; that is what every news release should do.
The image displayed is credited to HollywoodLife.com.
Both articles mentioned can be found at the Queens University website.
Seitel, Fraser. The Practice of Public Relations. 11th edition. New Jersey: Pearson Education, Inc., 2010. 303-320. Print.