The news topic that attracts the most eyeballs

The topic people most want to read about in their newspaper, hear about on the radio or see on their television news is … other people.

Don’t believe me? Let’s say the front page of your newspaper today includes three stories. One story is about the latest argument in Congress. Another story is about a new hospital that just opened. The third story is about a widow who, due to a mistake by the Post Office, just received 25 love letters her late husband had mailed her from Europe in the 1940s while he was an Army soldier in World War II. Which story would you read first?

Most people on this planet would be drawn to the third story about the widow? Why? I have no idea. But I do know that stories about people and their lives are the most attractive to readers, viewers and listeners. So my question to you is: now that you know what the majority of people are most interested in learning about, how can you use this information to improve your news writing?

The answer is: incorporate a “people” element into your writing whenever possible. Let me give you an example.

A senior executive was appointed to a prestigious advisory committee for a federal agency. This type of story would generally merit strictly a “People On the Move” type of news brief.

But I injected a “people” element into the news release by pointing out that this particular person grew up in a local, working class family; had started his career right out of high school by working in the mailroom; had remained with the same company for decades; and that this appointment represented the pinnacle of his long record of success.

Instead of a one- or two-sentence brief, the daily paper wound up running a half-page story on the appointment, illustrated by a huge photo of the executive.

If you’re working on a news release, figure out if there is a person you can include in the story. If it’s a story about a new homeless shelter, focus your lead on someone who will live in the shelter. If it’s a story about a new medical procedure or invention, find someone who will benefit from it. If it’s a story about a new law, find someone who will potentially be affected by the legislation.

You get my drift. Dig a little. Find the people side of your story and then incorporate it into your news writing. Any good newspaper columnist does this. You can, too.

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