Module 64


Updated: 02/18/2017


" The world is a dangerous place, not because of those who do harm, but because of those who look at it and do nothing."

- Albert Einstein

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Part  I IModule 64







News and

Documentary Production

Twelve Factors in


Those involved in broadcast news must understand 12 factors that constitute news value or newsworthiness.

€ timeliness
€ proximity
€ exceptional quality
€ possible future impact
€ prominence
€ conflict
€ the number of people involved or affected
€ consequence
€ human interest
€ pathos
€ shock value
€ titillation component

1. Timeliness: News is what's new. An afternoon raid on a rock cocaine house may warrant a live ENG report during the 6 p.m. news. However, tomorrow, unless there are major new developments, the same story will probably not be important enough to mention.

2. Proximity: If 15 people are killed in your hometown, your local TV station will undoubtedly consider it news. But if 15 people are killed in Manzanillo, Montserrat, Moyobambaor, or some other distant place you've never heard of, it will probably pass without notice. But there are exceptions.

3. Exceptional quality: One exception centers on how the people died. If the people in earthquake.jpg Manzanillo were killed because of a bus or car accident, this would not be nearly as newsworthy as if they died from an earthquake or stings from "killer bees," feared insects that have now invaded the United States.

Exceptional quality refers to how uncommon an event is. A man getting a job as a music conductor is not news—unless that man is blind.

4. Possible future impact: The killer bee example illustrates another news element: possible future impact. The fact that the killer bees are now in the United States and may eventually be a threat to people watching the news makes the story much more newsworthy.

A mundane burglary of an office in the Watergate Hotel in Washington, DC, was hardly news until two reporters named Woodward and Bernstein saw the implications and the possible future impact. Eventually, the story behind this seemingly common burglary brought down a U.S. President.

5. Prominence: The 15 deaths in Manzanillo might also go by unnoticed by the local media unless someone prominent was on the bus—possibly a movie star or a well-known politician. If a U.S. Supreme Court Justice gets married, it's news; if John Smith, your next-door neighbor, gets married, it probably isn't.

6. Conflict: Conflict in its many forms has long held the interest of observers. violence.jpgThe conflict may be physical or emotional. It can be open, overt conflict, such as a civil uprising against police authority, or it may be ideological conflict between political candidates.

The conflict could be as simple as a person standing on his principles and spending a year fighting city hall over a parking citation. In addition to "people against people" conflict, there can be conflict with wild animals, nature, the environment, or even the frontier of space.

7. The number of people involved or affected: The more people involved in a news event, be it a demonstration or a tragic accident, the more newsworthy the story is. Likewise, the number of people affected by the event, whether it's a new health threat or a new tax ruling, the more newsworthy the story is.

8. Consequence: The fact that a car hit a utility pole isn't news, unless, as a consequence, power is lost throughout a city for several hours. The fact that a computer virus found its way into a computer system might not be news until it bankrupts a business, shuts down a telephone system, or endangers lives by destroying crucial medical data at a hospital.

9. Human interest: Human-interest stories are generally soft news. Examples would be a baby beauty contest, a person whose pet happens to be a nine-foot boa constrictor, or a man who makes a cart so that his two-legged dog can move around again.

On a slow news day even a story of fire fighters getting a cat out of a tree might make a suitable story. (Or, as shown here, a kid meeting a kid.) Human-interest angles can be found in most hard news stories. A flood will undoubtedly have many human-interest angles: a lost child reunited with its parents after two days, a boy who lost his dog, or families returning to their mud-filled homes.

10. Pathos: The fact that people like to hear about the misfortunes of others can't be denied. Seeing or hearing about such things commonly elicits feelings of pity, sorrow, sympathy, and compassion. Some call these stories "tear jerkers."

Examples are the child who is now all alone after his parents were killed in a car accident, the elderly woman who just lost her life savings to a con artist, or the blind man whose seeing-eye dog was poisoned.

This category isn't just limited to people. How about horses that were found neglected and starving, or the dog that sits at the curb expectantly waiting for its master to return from work each day, even though the man was killed in an accident weeks ago.

11. Shock value: An explosion in a factory has less shock value if it was caused by gas leak than if it was caused by a terrorist. The story of a six year-old boy who shot his mother with a revolver found in a bedside drawer has more shock (and therefore news) value than if same woman died of a heart attack.

Both shock value and the titillation factor (below) are well known to the tabloid press. The lure of these two factors is also related to some stories getting inordinate attention, such as the sordid details of a politician's or evangelist's affair—which brings us to the final point.

12. Titillation component: This factor primarily involves sex and is commonly featured—some would say exploited—during rating periods.

This category includes everything from the new fashions in women's swim wear to an in-depth series on legal prostitution in the state of Nevada.


News Sources

Broadcast news comes from:

  • the local reporter's primary sources
  • news services such as the Associated Press
  • media outlets, such as newspapers, radio and TV stations
  • press releases provided by corporations, agencies, and special interest groups

More recently, a major source of news, or at least news tips, has been the social media.

Not only do sources such as Twitter and Facebook bypass "the corporate media," which some people feel is unduly influenced by the interests of big business, but these sources often report news in advance of the traditional news services.

However, without the checks of professional "gatekeepers," social media is subject to rumors and unsubstantiated reports. The latter can include stories planted by special interest groups.

 The world'sAP  largest newsgathering association, the red dot Associated Press (AP), operates bureaus in 120 U.S. cities and in more than 130 foreign countries. The AP is a nonprofit corporation that is owned by its 1,400 member papers. The AP supplies text, photos, audio feeds, and videos to thousands of media outlets. 

Newspapers, which have been hit hard by the economic downturn have not only been cutting staff, but in place of the expensive membership in AP, some are turning a new and less expensive source of print news: CNN.  CNN, which has been expanding its news operations, both in its U.S. and foreign bureaus, now includes a wire service to newspapers.

Although not as large as AP, red dot United Press International (UPI), which was started more than 100 years ago, UPIuses a variety of media platforms including streaming video, blog technology and high resolution photos.  This is all uploaded directly to their website. The UPI site is updated 24-hours a day.

red dot Reuters another major news-gathering organization, has a team of several thousand journalists in 200 cities in 94 countries, supplying text in 19 languages.

Reuters This organization started in 1850, and even used homing pigeons as part of its original news links. Today, almost every major news outlet in the world subscribes to Reuters.

Like the other major news organizations, Reuters has lost numerous correspondents in the Iraq war -- a war that has claimed more journalist's lives than World War II.

Is this loss of life worth it? That's a topic for debate, but recall what Thomas Jefferson said: "When the people are well informed they can be trusted with their own government."

We've seen throughout history that relying on censored material, "managed news" or carefully crafted news releases do not result in the public being well informed. 

Internet Research

With billions of pages of information available, reporters now rely heavily on reputable Internet sources in researching stories. They also consult newspaper archives or stories that were previously published in newspapers.

And there are the Internet blogs. The writers of reputable blogs have become a significant social and political force in our society. Many of these writers are featured on TV news and interview programs.

Computerized Newsrooms

Today, broadcast stations have computerized newsrooms and the steady stream of news from these services is electronically written onto a computer hard disk. Using a computer terminal a news editor can quickly scroll through an index of stories that have been electronically stored.

Some news editing programs, such as the one illustrated below, allow users to bring up wire stores from the newsroom computer (shown on the left) and rewrite it, or copy segments directly into the news script being written (shown on the right).

script writing software

Computer programs in the newsroom programs are used to -

  • store a steady stream of news copy and video from wire services

  • provide key word search capabilities for wire copy, Internet sources, and archived stories

  • facilitate the writing of stories (note illustration above)

  • call up stillstore pages of graphics

  • create and call up CG (character generator) pages of electronic text

  • program the sequence of stories, video, and graphics (i.e., the complete newscast) on file servers

  • provide teleprompter outputs

  • instantly rearrange news stories and recalculate times to accommodate last minute changes -- even, if necessary, while the newscast is on the air

Some newsroom computer systems can be programmed to switch video and audio sources to correspond to programmed cues in the teleprompter text.  

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