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Definition of News


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Definition of News

News is our business. We work closely with our clients to uncover real news – separating "snooze" from "news" to uncover the story that matters – and work closely with the media to understand their needs. We don't believe that issuing a press release is the only way to generate media coverage or that a press release automatically means a company has news. (There are certainly valid reasons to issue press releases without expecting media coverage, however.) We've included some of our favorite quotes about news here and an article that explains PR: "What is PR?"

The News section contains appropriate current information about Birnbach Communications, its clients – but certainly not every press release we've written and distributed or bylined article we've written and placed.

We also provide perspective on the news, as well as our perspective on business and the world in general, on our blog, PRBackTalk and in our TrendReport section, which includes our views on current media trends and how they may impact our clients.

Reporter Quotes

We talk to the media on a daily basis. And have learned over the years that it's important to understand how reporters define news. This helps us work closely with our clients to uncover real news – separating "snooze" from "news" to uncover the story that matters – that appeal to reporters, meet the needs of their editors and provide relevant content for their readers.

Based on our conversations and research, here are some interesting definitions.

"Well, they teach you in the first week of journalism school that news is change. It's a hard thing to define. For us, it's a really big change. Big changes at big companies. Industry trends. Global economic trends. We tend to think big because we have an international audience and pretty much have to. We're not interested in "turn of the screw” kind of events. We're interested when the screw snaps in half."

— Jim Kerstetter, Business Week

"The short definition for us is anything that impacts a great number of people, can be calculated as a great deal of money, has big-name people in it, or just otherwise shows a dramatic improvement that can be quantified. For example, we don't do much with acquisitions unless the buyer pays more than $1 billion. In technology, if some-body tells me he has the best software but there's no way to measure that objectively, we would be inclined to skip over that fact until his revenues or profits indicated he was the best. There's 50 alliances a day on the newswires that we ignore. Unless some impact can be quantified, we skip it."

— Don Clark, West Coast Bureau Chief, Wall St. Journal

"A couple things I look for:

  • RIPPLES. Is the event/announcement coming from a very large company – a Microsoft or a General Electric? Companies such as these tend to serve as models for other firms, large and small, so anything they do may have a ripple effect. This is especially true if there's a broad impact on consumers.
  • TRENDS. If the event/announcement is coming from a small company (my beat), are there other examples of other small companies doing the same thing? Can I string them together into a trend story?
  • HUMANITY. Is it just plain interesting? Does it offer a lesson to others? I write lots of feature profiles of entrepreneurs (there's one today inside the Money section) focusing on the emotions that drive people to start and run businesses. People are always drawn to stories about other people.
  • EXCLUSIVES. Assuming it means any of the above, a clincher might be: Am I being offered the news first before any other media outlets?
  • DIVERSITY. Women and minorities comprise a huge number of entrepreneurs and start-ups. I'm always looking for stories that reflect this fact."

— Jim Hopkins, Entrepreneurs Reporter, USA Today

"At, we are often focused on news that might move a stock, or have some affect on a company's bottomline. That news could be a significant product announcement that will change or challenge the industry, an earnings announcement, a shift in company management, an important joint agreement with another company, and other similar topics. We also look for industry trends and issues-of-the-moment, such as the power crisis and the declining economic environment. We encourage PR people and company executives to be able to discuss the important points of a particular announcement in a way that the mass public can understand. If the company has difficulty explaining a news release, then we will have difficulty relaying the news in an accurate fashion to our readers."

— Janet Haney, former reporter,

"Journalists must make the significant interesting... finding the right mix of serious and the less serious... Journalism is storytelling with a purpose. That purpose is to provide people with information they need to understand the world … (making) it meaningful, relevant, and engaging… Not just providing information, but providing it in such a way that people will be inclined to listen."

— Bill Kovach, Tom Rosenstiel, The Elements of Journalism

"A good, well thought-out pitch can get in the paper. We’re interested in tech stories of common interest, not esoteric, industry specific issues that software programmers might discuss around the water cooler. We are looking at developing technology and – equally important – how it affects people's lives. What we are trying to get to is a feel of what are the long-term businesses. What is the Internet going to become? The story has gotten more complex... Pay some attention to the types of material we publish on day-to-day basis."

— Richard Meislin, Technology Editor, The New York Times

"News is what happens in the presence of an editor, and big news is what happens in the presence of an editor’s spouse…The blurring of news, entertainment, advertising, and marketing means that drawing the lines is more important than ever…In putting our work together we are conscious of our need to build an audience. That means our work has to be both valuable to people and interesting…

In 'The Front Page,' the managing editor is tossing stories of the front page. Earthquake in China? Who cares if a million are dead? The League of Nations? Spike it! The rooster story? 'No. Leave the rooster story alone – that’s human interest.' That, of course, is the entire point. Journalists strive to present a version of the human saga every day."

— Michael Oreskes, Managing Editor, The New York Times, from “News: A Bit Hard to Define,” Harvard Int. Journal of Press/Politics, Summer 2000

"The one function that TV news performs very well is that when there is no news, we give it to you with the same emphasis as if there were."

— David Brinkley, former NBC anchor and ABC political correspondent, as quoted in the Boston Globe

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