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Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism University of Southern California

Who Cares?

ATVN is more than just a training center for student journalists. Producing has made me realize we truly are "USC's first source for news."

Our page views aren't just coming from proud parents and ATVN anchors who like to watch their own newscasts. People actually turn to ATVN for solid, factual information, especially when it comes to campus events, USC athletics, microlocal news and things that directly affect students on our campus.

Sometimes, other news stations and publications overlook things that could be newsworthy to a USC-based audience and offer no coverage whatsoever. More often, our news team simply publishes USC news stories before anyone else does, and follows up with updates faster. Considering our proximity to campus-related stories - and the access we have to university officials and experts in every possible field - this should be the norm.

We should have video footage of campus incidents that no other station has shot - after all, most of our reporters are a quick walk away from the scene of whatever is happening; no live truck sign-out or freeway traffic required. We should have exclusive interviews with faculty members and star athletes when significant hires, resignations, scandals or achievements hit the news. We should have the latest and most accurate updates when it comes to stories involving one of our own students.

Making sure our viewers pay attention to these stories that hit so close to home isn't tough. The real challenge is covering broader stories - ones that involve people and events in distant locations or demographics - in a way that resonates with our audience of primarily college-aged, LA-based students.

For example, generating traffic on a web article about the on-campus shooting last Halloween wasn't tough. But how do we cover the selection of a new pope in a way that interests our unique audience segment? Or possible nuclear threats from North Korea? 

There are various strategies our news team should keep in mind when it comes to these broader stories:

  • Offer a unique multimedia component that no other news outlet has, such as a Storify compilation, a creative slideshow, a timeline laying out related events, a section of the newscast featuring thought-provoking Tweets, etc.
  • Feature interviews showing student and faculty reaction - these can often be edited together, but should be shot and selected carefully to reflect as wide a range of opinions as possible (i.e. interviewing three students who all say they actively support gun control and Connecticut's new law, then including two of those in the newscast as "campus reaction" is neither interesting nor ethically sound).
  • Make the news interactive with Q&As, polls and quizzes, opportunities for "Your View" submissions, re-Tweets, etc. 
  • Explain precisely how seemingly distant stories can affect college students. This is especially effective when it comes to complicated political and economic stories. 
  • Reach out to experts (we have access to thousands of them through the handy-dandy USC Experts Directory) for tips and data related to the news story that are specific to our viewership. Rape scandal in the news? So what if it happened in Ohio and doesn't involve any USC students? Let's interview our own campus safety team for tips on partying safely and a refresher on how USC students can report sexual assault. National studies show Adderall abuse is on the rise? Let's ask USC officials how many campus incidents involving illicit Adderall possession or sales have been reported in recent months, then sit down with a medical expert to discuss the consequences of amphetamine abuse on young adults.

What makes something newsworthy comes down to the circumstances surrounding the story itself. What makes a newsworthy story valuable to the audience is the way it's covered - and the way that coverage is handled by producers.

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