What is Newsworthy?

Host: Mike Green

Overarching outcome of session (consensus among participants): The people that newsrooms aim to serve should be involved in the process of deciding what is newsworthy.

Synopsis: The group believed that too often storytelling and the framing of issues and what constituted “news” was pre-determined by newsrooms and that wasn’t a healthy approach. They asked a variety of questions regarding how newsroom narratives that frame issues around controversy, the rush to post stories first, and digital cash-for-clicks business models impacted the health of the communities they serve. The conversation initially centered around a frustrated community that perceived all media as a monolithic entity separate from the community, which produced a stream of sensationalism versus covering real issues with context and sensitivity to the impact those stories would have on real people. The lens through which communities often view media was described as “Apocalypse Fatigue.”

The conversation evolved toward changing the newsroom model that determined what is newsworthy. Questions regarding newsroom capacity and a need for speed suggested some stories lacked the quality they otherwise might have due to the pressures upon the newsroom itself. Reporters too often gravitate toward ease of story discovery and controversy, which undermines the integrity of newsrooms to engage and cover the community with an honest concern and sensitivity around the impact of issues and narratives.

The group concluded that newsrooms should see themselves as a part of the community, which could be defined as a group of people with shared experiences; people with whom we have relationships and to whom we feel accountable. The group felt that media literacy through the training of communities to engage proactively with newsrooms in a healthy manner is important. Communities could be invited to assist in finding errors and actively submit stories and issues important to them through a recognized and easy process to which the newsroom is responsive.

Q: How can journalists incorporate a balance of controversy vs community-based solutions? Can journalists be more proactive vs only reactive?

The group suggested when newsrooms are determining what is newsworthy they should ask:

  • Why does this matter?
  • Can newsworthy items contain more than hard news?
  • What makes the community feel proud?
  • Is there a balance between advocacy journalism and hard news?
  • Is advocacy and community engagement “real” news?
  • Do the tone and tenor of the words reflect the attitudes of community members?
  • What is our “community”?

MORE NOTES:

Is a monolithic media perception healthy?

Click for cash model has changed media’s relationship with the community

Community is frustrated with sensationalism and that media often miss real issues

Current business model and focus on speed undermines integrity

Lack of newsroom capacity impacts quality of stories

Reporters gravitate toward ease of discovery and controversy

How can journalists incorporate a balance of context and relevant information that is newsworthy

Journalists key on community controversy when listening to conversations

Need balance between ease of access to controversy vs community-based solutions

Community has apocalypse fatigue

Social media provides space for community conversation

When determining what is newsworthy, ask why does this matter?

Too often institutionalized thinking vs community input informs the narrative

Multiple stories on an issue can emerge from community conversations and journalist curiosity

Audiences form around affinity issues

Community – a group of people with shared experiences; people to whom we feel accountable, have relationships with

Storytelling too often pre-determined by newsrooms

Framing issues through the lens of who to quote or cover

What should newsrooms do when communities respond with backlash?

Newsrooms begrudgingly respond to error; should make catching errors a community activity

Media Literacy: How do we train communities to engage newsrooms with prospective news stories?

Reporters lens: what is new, timely, unique?

How does systemic bias play out in newsrooms?

Are we pigeonholing community members by race, gender, etc?