Remodeling. Please pardon the heterogeneity and potsherds. < ; )
Over 400 articles
The nucleus congeals into the hook
At the very beginning of a story is the "hook." It may be a headline at the top of the column. People buy the entire newspaper or magazine to read that one story. Or it may be the blurb just before the commercial break that gets you to stay tuned, as in, "Why can eating celery help you live 10 years longer? Stay tuned to CRR News for these and other stories." People who tuned it at 8:10, are still hanging in there at 8:55 to hear that story. The hook not only gets to the heart of what a story is about, it gets to the heart of what has meaning and relevance to people - what they care about.
Why should anyone care? The beginning
Stories have meaning. They have importance in people's lives. A politician dying in Nebraska may carry the same interest level as someone changing her wallpaper in Idaho. The lead, "Senator Popoff of Nebraska died today of apoplexy," means absolutely nothing.
The beginning of a story gets audience attention by telling why they care. For example: "Will Our Environmental Rights Survive?"
"An era of environmental activism ended today as Senator Popoff of Nebraska was laid to rest. Senator Popoff spent his Senate term leading the fight for the right for all individual Americans to fish on all US waterways. Activists fear that new restrictions may be put in place without his indomitable presence in the legislature."
The beginning of the story instantly gets the attention of those who would care. Every person and event offers something that the audience cares about. To find the story, find why people would care.
What has meaning to people?
What do people care about and what has impact on those things?
1. Quality of life. Every person is different. What makes one person's life good is far from what makes another person's life good.
Do jobs make the difference? For some, career is king and some studies suggest that there is a high degree of contentment with jobs. Other studies suggest the opposite, that most people don't like their jobs. It may be that people are very content when the economy is sour and jobs are difficult to find, and grow discontent when the economy is doing well and jobs are plentiful. Jobs may form a major portion of people's identity, but the specific job is not what most people associate with quality of life, unless they hate their job.
Quality of life is very separate from jobs, education, and the mundane activities that most of us have to accomplish every day, such as transporting kids to activities. These things fall more in the category of means to an end. They promote quality of life, but they don't equate to life nearly as much as the things that they enable us to do. They are definitely important to us, but aren't typically our primary concern.
People want to feel alive and dynamic, and see this vitality blossom in things that they do with family and friends. This is the primary aspect of our quality of life. We connect with our family and friends (relationships) in leisure activities, comfort, purpose and accomplishments, and activities that we consider noble and worthwhile. These are seen differently by every individual, and are carried out in thousands of different ways. Life is about doing, not just existing and surviving.
2. Fundamentals. More common to each of us than our thousands of different perspectives and activities are the things that are more fundamental to everyone: Love, money, comfort, security, freedom of choice, housing, travel and transportation, food, recreation, adventure, spirituality and religion, hopes and dreams, and empathy with others. The more closely a story is related to one of these things, the more likely it is that we will care about it.
How then does a reporter evaluate news to put it in a form that people care about? By looking at what has impact on the preceding list of fundamentals. Does the event, or prospect of an event, have positive or negative impact on these things? If not, then it is irrelevant. If it does have impact, then we want to know.
By relating a story to needs that are more fundamental to everyone, it automatically gets interest, and each person will relate the story to his own perspective.
Next: The middle
Watch for more articles in this series.
Also see these previous articles:
Other distribution restrictions: None