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Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism University of Southern California

Relevancy: The Name of the Game


Often in the news, stories do not only last a day. When huge news items affect a great number of people, coverage can last for many weeks. Our job as journalists is to keep the news fresh to ensure that our audience tunes in day after day and learns something novel each time the program comes on.

Take war coverage, for instance. When the United States is involved in an ongoing war in the Middle East, or when a nation is on the verge of a revolution, the story is going to be big for quite some time. There are a few ways in which to keep audiences interested for days on end.

First, always use new footage. Chances are, a story that has no new footage since the previous broadcast is old news. There is no point in showing viewers what they have already seen, and if a story is big enough, there will be a steady stream of new updates and videos circulating. 

Second, approach the topic from a new angle every day. One of the biggest pieces we have followed over the last couple of weeks is Typhoon Haiyan, which devastated the Philippines. After day one, however, the story was no longer that a typhoon made landfall in Asia, for the storm had ended shortly thereafter. Yet every day, the newsroom was able to come up with another Haiyan story as a result of new information coming in that led to angles we had not explored. One day, ATVN found gripping clips of people in the Philippines who were in tears, speaking about the people they knew who had died and what it was like to be separated and then reunited with loved ones. Those sound bites were new even a week after the storm hit and were able to turn an ongoing story into a heartwrenching, never-before-seen piece. 

Third, always remember to move the story forward and look to the future. The best coverage on the Affordable Care Act is one that questions how the Act is going to affect Americans down the road, a story that could perhaps use sound bites from people that have already begun to feel its implications. Being told for the third time that the website has been having glitches does not pique the interest of our viewers.

In a world where Twitter and other sites allow people to get information as soon as it breaks, relevancy is the name of the game.

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