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1-2 The Elements of News

IMMEDIACY -- Timeliness, as discussed above is an indispensable part of the straight news story.  Without timeliness, the news story is a historical record.  In the Army, few Journalists write for daily newspapers.  Most write for weekly or biweekly publications.   That means breaking news will often be history by the time it can be printed in their papers.  Army journalists seek fresh angles, late-breaking developments, analysis of the events and their effects.  When such angles aren't available, Army journalists treat the event in news-feature or feature styles.

If the press reports that Congress approved a record defense bill, an army newspaper may have to wait days or even weeks to report on its installation's slice of the money.  When this new development is available the paper has a timely news story.

PROXIMITY -- News events may occur close to readers in both the physical and psychological sense.  The most important person in the world is the individual reader.  Write about what he thinks or does, and his attention is guaranteed.  Write about his family, friends, church, club, hobbies, career or city and his attention will be captured in varying degrees.   The automobile accident in front of his home is more important than one across town.  The accident, in another state, which involves his family is more important than the one in front of his home.

If a servicewide event taxes place, you must localize it --tell how it affects the folks at your post.  If the defense appropriations bill is approved in Washington, D.C., how will it affect the budget of your post?  Localize.   Don't just take "canned" material from Department of Defense or Department of the Army news services.

All too often a story is taken directly from the news services and used without being localized.  Doing this cheats the reader.  If the story has an Army-wide interest it should also have a local angle as well.  Find it.  Write about it.  Tie it in with the news service story and publish it.

CONSEQUENCE -- The more people affected by a news event the greater consequence it has for the readership.  The journalist's job is to discover and report how readers will be affected, and now long they will be affected.

If the water main to one street of houses bursts, the consequence is great for those living on the street, but negligible for the rest of your readers.  Such a story might be reported on the inside pages with a few short paragraphs.

Let the post's central water main burst and its consequence will throw the story to page one.

PROMINENCE -- When Mr. Cruit has a gall stone attack, it has little news value.  Let the same thing happen to a football quarterback the night before he's to start in the Super Bowl, and it's newsworthy.  If Mr. Cruit says cigarettes should not be sold in commissaries, no one listens. 

The place of a news event may raise it to prominence.   If Mr. Cruit's wife has a baby in the post hospital it has little news value, perhaps a birth announcement.  If she has the baby while on a tour of the White House, it has tremendous news value.  Time may also bring prominence if the child is the first born in a new year, or the first born in a new hospital.

SUSPENSE -- Soldiers are always caught by the suspense of promotion board results, or Congressional consideration of pay raises.  A continuing story about efforts to locate a missing child contains suspense.

ODDITY -- Readers are interested in people, animals and things which don't fit the norm.  When whales beach themselves without reason, the oddity of the act gives it news value.  Be wary of the danger in this element, though.  You must have good taste not to engage in the bizarre for its own sake or merely for shock value.  Never ridicule people.  Never depend on oddity to fill your paper.

SEX --Sex is a touchy topic, but it has a strong attraction for readers.  The romance of Prince Charles and Lady Diana is an example of the sex element of news.  An article on the first woman to be selected as the Army.  Chief of Staff would be strengthened by the sex element.   A story about the winner of the post knitting contest would be strengthened by the sex element if the winner is a man.  The mix of gender and oddity form strong sex elements to news.  Any discussion of venereal disease, AIDS, single parenthood, rape, fraternization and the whole issue of women in combat is based on the element of sex.

CONFLICT -- Sports fall into this category, as do wars and gang fights.  but, conflict also spreads into other areas of life such as people opposing rate hikes in their telephone bills, or arguments about whether smoking should be banned from public areas.

EMOTION -- When the space shuttle Challenger exploded the emotion was tragedy.  When the first man stepped on the moon the emotion was elation.  When peace came at the end of World War Il the emotion was Jubilation.  When a family dies in a house fire and a father watches in tragic helplessness the emotion is sorrow and empathy.  People are interested, and want to somehow share, in the drama of life.

PROGRESS -- Progress fascinates people.  Readers always want to see what new technologies are doing to improve everyday life.  New weapons systems and training devices and new uses for computers are always being introduced to the Army.  Take advantage of these advancements and write about them for your readers.  Take the time to explain how these advancements improve the quality of life or the ability to perform the mission.  Progress can also b& achievements in nuclear arms reductions, civil rights, etc.

The dominant element of news is often called "the News Peg or Angie."  Once the writer analyzes a news event for its newsworthiness, he will want to determine which element within the story is most important.  That element becomes his news peg.  However, these elements of news are not independent or exclusive of each other.  They intertwine and support each other.  It is difficult to use them separately.


David L. Heiserman, Editor

Copyright   SweetHaven Publishing Services
All Rights Reserved

Revised: June 06, 2015