News is all around us. It's on television, on the Internet, and now on our phones. But is everything that is reported to be "news" really news? Determining the difference between whether an event or subject is newsworthy can be difficult. Determining newsworthiness can be as simple as answering the following questions.
First, does the story convey a message that is urgent? Does the public really need to know this information now?
Common urgent stories deal with crime and weather. When determining whether a story is newsworthy, follow the old journalism rule of thumb: If it bleeds, it leads. Crime leads first, then weather.
Second, does the story impact someone's life?
Most stories dealing with government fall into this category. This could be something as simple as when a busy street will be paved, if taxes are going up and if the new housing development will lead to increased property values or more traffic congestion.
Third, does the story make a difference?
Will this "news" result in greater participation in a charity walk-a-thon or seeing the feel good story of five sisters who were separated as little girls? Even the most heartfelt stories can be considered newsworthy.
Fourth, are people talking about this issue?
Stories involving Hollywood gossip may or may not be considered news, but if people are talking about it around the water cooler, it becomes a trending topic on Twitter and it's included on people's Facebook statuses, then it is probably news.
Fifth, what is the targeted audience?
If reporting for a major news network, the event or revelation must carry with it great importance, i.e. a major political scandal, a high death toll for an international disaster or winning the World Series or SuperBowl. If working for a small, community paper, front-page news is the local borough council meeting, vehicle break-ins along Main Street or two inches of snow in the forecast.
Sixth, is the source credible?
A story may have all the makings of a Pulitzer Prize, but if the source is questionable and facts cannot be confirmed, there is no story. News is all about credibility, and if credibility is constantly questioned, then a story cannot be considered newsworthy.
The best news stories are those that boil the issue down to how it will affect the readers and the viewers. The who, what, when, where, and why -- the five tenets of journalism -- all must be answered.
If in doubt of newsworthiness, talk to your peers, editors and others. Is the story good enough for page one or to lead the newscast? Will other news outlets follow the lead?
Newsworthiness is all about judgment. If you find it interesting, chances are someone else will, too.