What is Newsworthy?
Students, faculty, staff and administrators at the University of West Florida represent a variety of diverse backgrounds and areas of expertise, with countless potential stories to be told. Media outlets, however, have limited space in their publications or time during their broadcasts, so it is important to know which stories gain visibility for the University.
Institutional Communications strives to identify newsworthy stories that will appeal to a variety of media outlets. Press releases share newsworthy stories with a large number of media outlets, but not every story requires or warrants a press release.
Institutional Communications works with multiple media outlets on a daily basis and understands their interests and preferences. When Institutional Communications pitches stories to media outlets directly via phone or email, it may result in improved coverage in comparison to a press release.
The stories that stand out above others and are likely to capture the interest of the University's target audiences should have at least three news pegs. All stories must be timely and have an impact on the audience. The third news pegs will carry the story. The following qualities are examples of what will make your story idea newsworthy.
A story’s potential news appeal depends heavily on when it’s pitched. For event coverage, it’s important to distribute news early enough to garner interest from potential attendees and media, but not so early that it will be forgotten before the event occurs. Other stories may be timely because they link to statewide, national or international news during a specific time of year.
- EXAMPLE: As Black History Month approached in February 2016, UWF hosted nationally-known speaker Dr. Freeman Hrabowski III, a university president and advisor to President Barack Obama.
UWF to host U.S. presidential advisor as Black History Month speaker
- EXAMPLE: In this column, a UWF economist compared the impact of the holiday shopping season and the tourism boost during the summer. The column was published on the Tuesday during Thanksgiving week when the holiday shopping season was about to hit a peak.
Economics column: Tourists give retailers a summer boost, but holiday season still the busiest
Impact the Audience
Each audience has its own interests, and they want to know how the news impacts them. Finding stories that are relevant to the University community and local community is a high priority. It is helpful to ask “does this matter” and “to whom.” If it will greatly impact the local community, region or state, it will likely be of interest to the media.
- EXAMPLE: UWF adopted a tobacco-free campus policy in 2016. To some members of the campus community, this news had a big impact on their daily lives.
UWF to adopt Tobacco-Free Campus Policy in August
- EXAMPLE: Some stories are relevant to multiple audiences. This story appealed to readers following national news about cyberattacks and worried about what local leaders can do to protect them. It also appealed to high school students and their parents looking for a summer activity.
UWF to host Pathways to Cyber summer camp for high school students July 18-22
Readers identify strongly with stories that highlight other people. The main focus of a story might be to announce a new academic program, but readers will be interested in how the program impacts current and future students. Focusing on the people behind the action will appeal to readers’ emotions and garner more interest from the media.
- EXAMPLE: This feature highlights a singular student, her projects and experience, allowing the reader to take a focused interest in the student and what her endeavors mean for others.
UWF student addresses environmental issues through NASA DEVELOP project
- EXAMPLE: This feature tells the story of three students from the UWF College of Business and the experiences they gained through summer internships. By focusing on the individuals, the story demonstrates the impact of a university education.
UWF business students make global impact through internships
Certain topics are of interest to large audiences around the country or world. Finding ways to become a part of those larger conversations - to localize them - can help a story become newsworthy.
- EXAMPLE: Diversity on college campuses continues to be a topic of intense interest. In this story, a national organization recognized UWF for its commitment to diversity and inclusion.
UWF receives national honor for excellence in diversity
- EXAMPLE: A scholarly discussion of ISIS will draw interest from the community and media outlets, especially during a time when terrorist attacks are often in the headlines. UWF can elevate its profile by hosting events like these that highlight professors who research topics like national security.
UWF professors to discuss radicalism, ISIS and national security as part of Experience UWF Downtown Lecture Series
If something is new or unusual, that adds to its potential news appeal. Unique stories with elements that are happening for the first time or the first time in a long time will more likely receive attention.
- EXAMPLE: Advanced technology used in a classroom or lab can create unique learning opportunities for students. In this story, students from the UWF Usha Kundu, MD College of Health benefit from access to synthetic cadavers.
UWF Usha Kundu, MD College of Health adds synthetic cadavers to state-of-the-art lab
- EXAMPLE: UWF received the largest gift by a living donor in University history in January 2016. This gift created the first named college at UWF and resulted in a rare and unique story.
UWF receives historic $5 million gift, largest by living donor in University history
If the “who” or “what” of the story is a well-known person, organization or place, that alone can help a story become newsworthy. Readers and the media will recognize significant names and want to know more.
- EXAMPLE: The University hosted a lecture in February 2016 with the lead prosecutor in the Ted Bundy case. The case was covered by national news outlets and inspired multiple depictions in pop culture, and the history of national attention helped increase interest in the lecture.
UWF to host lecture with lead prosecutor of Ted Bundy case
- EXAMPLE: Musicians connected with UWF perform at a variety of venues, but few venues have the name recognition of Carnegie Hall.
UWF music professor to perform at Carnegie Hall
Most stories are not compelling by themselves; they require context to stand out and garner attention. Providing context through data, charts, graphs and photos can elevate a story’s quality.
- EXAMPLE: The UWF archaeology program announced the discovery of a 16th century Spanish shipwreck in Pensacola Bay in October 2016. This story was accompanied by multiple photos of the artifacts, an underwater video of the archaeology team at work and a website dedicated to the team's research related to Tristán de Luna y Arellano.
UWF archaeology program discovers third shipwreck from Luna fleet
- EXAMPLE: Researchers from the UWF Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice released their second study about the use of police body-worn cameras. This story quoted multiple statistics from the research and linked to the complete versions of the original and follow-up studies.
Study: Public sees benefit in police use of body-worn cameras