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Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism University of Southern California

The Meaning Behind Big Stories

Big stories mean looking at the big picture. It’s not just about the breaking news, but it’s also about the meaning and connections behind it. I learned this by helping to produce two of the biggest stories so far this semester: the Oregon college shooting and the USC football coach being fired. 

It seems that my Monday producing team has a pattern with how we cover big stories. Our first step in coverage is to tweet out the basic facts. We then give updates and general information in the 1 PM show, which forces us to put our heads together to create new and unique content for the 6 PM show. The 6 PM is a time when we can truly flesh out the story and examine the true meaning behind the details. 

This pattern was very evident in yesterday’s coverage of Steve Sarkisian, the USC football coach, being fired. After tweeting the not-so-shocking news, we updated our audience in the 1 PM with the latest information about Sarkisian’s downward spiral. In our later show, we branched out to not only include these basic facts, but also to include a bigger angle about alcoholism as a disease. This shed Sarkisian in a new light, and challenged our audience to look at the news from different perspectives. I believe this was very effective; we dove into a serious topic that affects many people on campus and throughout the world. 

We did a similar approach when news broke about the Oregon college shooting. Once we tweeted out the information and covered the general who, what, when, and where of the story, we thought outside of the box to create packages that related to the incident. Some of these stories included how prepared USC is if we were to have a shooting on campus and how only 30% of USC students are signed up for Trojan Alert, a messaging system that notifies students where there is an emergency on or around campus. We took a big story and looked for related stories that fit the overall message.  

Overall, I’ve learned that it’s important to look beyond the facts. There seems to be a web of connected story opportunities when big news breaks!

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