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Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism University of Southern California

Relevancy Matters

This week we had yet again another slow news week. Now, when I mistakenly said that last week - Harrison Ford decided to go ahead and crash his plane on the Penmar Golf Course in Santa Monica. This week, however, we really did not have any big stories to cover and no breaking news occurred. We also didn't have any reporters as everyone was "sick" with what I like to call Spring Fever as it was the last day before spring break. I was not lead producer this week but I believe it was a very easy decision for Elisabeth to choose what story we were going to lead the show with. Obviously, we were going to lead with our only package and the most important story of the day on the closing of the Exide battery plant. 

Now, this decision is usually not so easy. If you have breaking news in the afternoon and can get enough good content, then this is usually goign to be your lead story. We made this decision on Tuesday when I was the EP shadow to lead the show with the breaking news about the Blurred Lines trial verdict. Like Harrison Ford, it was breaking news. It was extremely important because Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams were forced to pay $7.3 million dollars to Marvin Gaye's family and most importantly it was relevant to our audience. In my opinion, the number one factor of a lead story is - is this story relevant to my audience? An example of this comes from a few weeks ago yet again when I was the EP shadow. It was Election Day in California so our lead producer was gungho on leading the show with Election Day coverage. While this story was important to have in the show, I personally did not think that it should have led our show especailly when we had a more compelling story. 

The lead story is the first thing your audience will see. You tease the story at the beginning of the show and sometimes you even have a cold open with video or a soundbite from the story. This coverage needs to be newsworthy, good quality but as I've said most importantly relevant to your audience. Why should I care? Who does this affect? What is the impact of this story on me as a viewer? These are all questions that every lead producer needs to consider when figuring out how to start the show. If a story is visually compelling, then this could be a reason to start the show if the story is newsworthy. Does the story have a controversial or excellent sound bite that would keep the viewer on his or her seat waiting to hear the rest? Then, this story could potentially lead the show. You nave a 30-minute show to produce but if you want to keep the audience then the first three minutes of the show better be your best stuff. 

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