Media focuses on newsworthiness, relevance

By Rasmieyh Abdelnabi

Not having enough to report is not a problem for area news agencies. As a matter of fact it’s quite the opposite.

“There is a lot of stuff in DeKalb County, it’s a newsy little place,” said John Kelleher, managing editor of the Daily Chronicle.

The Daily Chronicle is a daily newspaper which serves DeKalb County. There is an emphasis on local news but sometimes a significant state or national story takes precedence.

WNIJ News Director Susan Stephens said the same is the case for radio stations. Stephens covers state and local stories and takes a more in-depth approach on divisive and complicated issues.

“We try to serve our region as best we can by looking more deeply at issues that affect everyone, and then we like entertaining them a little too,” she said.

It’s a challenge to find stories that will appeal to residents across Freeport, DeKalb, Rockford and LaSalle County, Stephens said.

Timing is another challenge at WNIJ because there are typically only three people in the newsroom, so when a lot of news is happening, the manpower simply isn’t there.

For television news, there are similar challenges and then a few extra ones.

Allen May, instructor and general manager of Northern Television Center, worked at television news agencies for 21 years as an anchor and reporter. May teaches broadcast journalism classes in television production where his students learn everything from photography to directing to anchoring through a series of classes.

Time constraints are one of television’s biggest obstacles. Since NTC is a part of the university, and it doesn’t have the live-news capability of professional agencies, an event like a fire at 3 a.m. cannot be covered, May said.

When choosing a story, in all mediums of journalism, newsworthiness and relevance is determined first.

“Is it trivial or relevant in a news sense? Just because it is information doesn’t necessarily make it news,” May said.

Television news agencies need to sniff out more visual stories than newspapers and radio stations. Television news agency needs to be someplace when it happens to capture the image, May said.

Covering a story is only the first step in television news. Typically the story spends more time in production and getting incorporated into the newscast than what time is spent actually gathering the news.

Another issue with television news is although visuals can be put on the air, finding the facts and figuring out the content is harder.

“Some stories are more television in orientation because of the visual requirement.” In his experience, events like fires were covered because someone could get to it, and if they couldn’t, that could be the end of the story.

Responding to criticism that journalists have political agendas when selecting stories to run, May said that beyond the lack of empirical evidence supporting that assumption, there are practical conditions for running some stories over others.

Some stories cannot be covered because a reporter can’t get to the scene of the story. Time constraints are another condition. “TV is a medium of immediacy,” May said. It’s a day-to-day issue – sometimes the visuals have to run without the raw facts for the sake of getting it out first.