Bad Journalism + Biased Editor = The Gray News

Sunday, September 03, 2006

News is not just Black and White: News judgment

News judgment involves deciding which stories to pursue, how they are pursued, and where they are placed in the paper. A review of the Gray News's front page this week (9-1-06) shows the severe lack of news judgment. But first, what is news judgment?

Some of the key factors include:

Impact: The Town council is preparing to offer voters the opportunity to decide whether to change the structure of town meeting, something that impacts everyone in town. The Gray News did decide to publish an article about it, however, in their judgment they placed it below the fold and underneath press releases promoting an auction and a notice about town hall operational hours. This is poor news judgment because the bigger impact story is relegated to a lesser status.

Conflict: If a story has a conflict, it is a bigger story than that which does not have one. The front page presents a story about a town employee receiving an award over the article about the biggest change in town government in its history. Poor news judgment.

Prominence: Are celebrities or politicians involved in a story? If so, it's a bigger story. The Gray News rarely has anyone of prominence in its paper so this note about news judgment is moot.

Proximity: If your newspaper is in Gray, Maine, and a rash of burglaries occurs on Main Street, that's big news. But if a rash of burglaries occurs in Worcester, Mass., you are not as interested because it isn't close to your readers. This week, The Gray News published a long column inside the paper about a man who had an experience in Boston, 200 miles away. That space could have been saved for more immediate articles with higher relevance to the general population.

Freshness: The front page dedicated half a column to an event that will be held 7 weeks from now. That's not as fresh as other news occurring more immediately. As to photos, it should be noted that three weeks ago the paper's major, front page photo was of fireworks. This week, the major, front page photo is of fireworks. Repeating the same photos is not fresh.

Novelty: There's a saying that "if a dog bites a man it isn't news, but if a man bites a dog, that's news." Human interest. Unfortunately, there is not one article on the Gray News's front page that's novel. That is because they rely on releases and don't write articles themselves. Of the five front page articles, only one was written by news staff. Of the entire paper, only 25% is originally written, but submitted by outside contributors, not news staff. Worst of all, only 10% of the entire paper this week was written by a Gray News staff member. Three small articles. Not novel at all.

These factors are all a part of news judgment. The Gray News regularly fails to display any.

Source News is Not Just Black and White, a workbook produced by the Canadian Newspaper Association.


  • I still cannot put the Gray Enquirer in the News category...sorry.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 6:24 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home