Keeping Stories Alive: Up or Out!

Do we get it?  Just how quickly news gets distributed by multiple sources across multiple platforms?  Yes, we know it but do we get it?  Get just how fast a story—or at least its initial headline—gets old?

Not many get it; otherwise, we’d see much different behavior.

•  A story from a network morning show would not run in a 4 p.m. newscast.
•  A station’s news app would not have its first 10 stories be two hours or more old.
•  A prime tease topical would not use the same headline from early news to sell a story.
•  A late newscast would not have pacer stories that were merely a carry-over from early news.
•  A morning newscast would not repeat secondary stories within a half hour of each other.
•  A station would not act like they were premiering a “viral video” when it has 2 million views.

Enough with the “nots.” We were all taught it’s better to state things in the affirmative, so here goes:

Everyone developing, reporting, and producing news or marketing for news—on any platform—needs a new and acute sensitivity to when a story is running out of gas.

Everyone must know it can happen faster than ever before—mostly because of digital media.  But also because of the proliferation of network, cable, and local news.

It’s not enough to say something’s a “good story”—so we’ll just keep running it.  A story needs nurturing to keep it alive. Or, it needs to go away.  Up-or-out should be the prevailing editorial mindset as the day progresses—and more newscasts air, more topicals get produced, and more digital media gets posted.

This overarching theme has one giant downfall—DUMPING A BIG STORY TOO EARLY.  In other words, a decision is that a big story is getting too old, so we’ll downplay it, or get rid of it, instead of THINKING OF CRITICAL WAYS TO ADVANCE IT.

Advancement, digging deeper, investigative angles on big stories is the essential role of the 2015 journalist—and may determine the fate of 6 and 10/11 pm live newscasts.  Moving stories forward and finding out details no one else has discovered is what allows Pete Williams, Martha Raddatz, and Brian Ross to garner big pay checks and network newscasts to survive in a world of news ubiquity.  They push stories beyond the headlines—and stories stay alive.

Who is your equivalent reporter on a local level?  Who in your organization is contributing to the dialogue about where a story is in its LIFESPAN?  Who will patrol for stories that are quickly growing old, not being advanced, and headed toward that moment when we should say UP-OR-OUT?

Put this issue on the critical list.  All the “nots” on the list are things I’ve witnessed just in the past week. Avoid making the list—and your news brand will be better for it.