Why Unique Stories are a Necessity Not a Luxury

By Doug Drew 

One of the biggest complaints in research from viewers is that all the news is the same. Same stories day in and day out, and each station seems to have pretty much the same content. There are some stories that are “must-cover,” but each newscast, every day, has to have some unique content. If you dont go “beyond the news of the day,” then viewers will grow weary of tuning in. You must set the expectation that every single newscast will have something viewers haven’t seen before.

Here are the stories that were on the front page of the Wall Street Journal on March 15th:

  • China talks tough to U.S.
  • Taliban attacks heat up in advance of allied offensive in Afghanistan
  • Price gap puts spice in sugar-quota fight
  • Loan squeeze thwarts small business revival
  • Arab fast food restaurant opens on California Marine base

Which story grabs your attention? The one I was immediately drawn to was about the fast food restaurant that opened at Camp Pendleton because US soldiers were craving food that they ate while stationed in Iraq.

Here are the stories that were on the front page of the New York Times on March 15th:

  • Contractors tied to effort to track and kill militants
  • China uses rules on global trade to its advantage
  • Drug slaying in Mexico rock U.S. Consulate
  • Repair costs daunting as water lines crumble
  • Millions being spent to sway Democrats on Health Bill Evans
  • Schools hiring coaches for recess to stop bullying and behavior problems

Which of those stories interests you? The first story I read was about the recess coaches. I was already familiar with all the other stories, so I sought out a story that was new to me, one that I hadnt heard or seen before.

Here are the stories that were on the front page of the Wall Street Journal on March 23rd:

  • Google defies China on web
  • Pakistan makes bid for closer ties with U.S.
  • Parties joust over next steps on health
  • Defense industry pursues gold in “Smart Power” deals
  • In California, the Banana museum has lost its appeal

Once again, I was familiar with most of those stories, so the one that I was interested in was the Banana museum. Who knew?

The lesson to be learned here is that you cant just have the news of the day. Each day, each newscast must have content that is unique and unexpected. Everyone has the news of the day. Its the content that is unique to your newscast that differentiates you from the competition.

The USA Today is a master at finding these interesting stories, and has no problem putting a ton of them on the front page to grab your attention.

Wednesday of this week, here were the stories mentioned on the front page of the USA Today:

  • Driving 40 in a 35? Forget the cushion police use to give you. To fill budget gaps police agencies are not being as lenient.
  • It’s an app world and people are becoming app-aholics
  • Prom is up in the air for lesbian teen
  • Sandra Bullock copes with betrayal
  • Robin Williams life after heart surgery
  • Uconn stomps into Final Four
  • States act to revise judicial selection

Finding unique content is not just the News Director’s job. Too many morning meetings are nothing more than a list of the days events read by an assignment editor. It’s the responsibility of everyone in the news department, to come up with new and interesting content. That includes anchor, reporters, editors, writers, producers, associate producers, photographers and even the interns.

The most interesting newscasts come from newsrooms where everyone is pitching in to find stories that go beyond the “news of the day.”

Doug Drew is a morning news specialist with 602 Communications. He can be reached at ddrew@602communications.com