The Rapidian Home

Defining your article by newsworthiness and content

Underwriting support from:
Relate to the reader by making sure you are framing your subject matter the right way.

Relate to the reader by making sure you are framing your subject matter the right way.

From Rapidian staff*: When submitting stories for the Rapidian, they must be categorized into one of three groups--News, Local Life and Opinion. The differences between these three groups may seem minimal but there are actually defining traits to each one. Backing a story up with outside sources and direct quotes or paraphrased material can help form a news or local life story. Eliminating personal pronouns and framing someone else's viewpoint instead of your own can move an opinion piece into the local life realm. Relying on your own experience is critical to an opinion piece, but facts and material from an outside source can be incorporated to strengthen the story's impact.
No matter the type of story, it must find a connection with the reader by way of newsworthiness. There are seven main qualities of newsworthiness:

  1. Prominence - Someone with a well-known name attracts more interest than someone who is unknown.
  2. Magnitude - The larger the size, the more people involved, the greater the piece, the bigger the news.
  3. Proximity - The nearer it happens, the more likely to affect the reader, the more the reader cares.
  4. Uniqueness - A singular or rare incident outshines the usual.
  5. Timeliness - The time of the issue is now, the recent past or coming up.
  6. Significance - Full of meaning or promising meaningful results.
  7. Human Interest - Touching readers' feelings, emotions or sense of humor, or arousing empathy.

Of the seven newsworthy qualities, proximity is one all will share in a broad sense, since all Rapidian stories have a connection to the City of Grand Rapids. Breaking the proximity aspect down into each bureau is the only question here. Determining which of the other six qualities the issue you are reporting on has will help you find which category your story fits into best.

News: The viewpoint of the writer should not come through in this type of story. Use quotes from first-hand witnesses or those who are directly affected by the issue. Quote material from critical documents like meeting transcripts, official statements or other written material. News stories are typically timely in nature and aren't relevant more than a few days after an event occurs unless the framing of the story (the angle) is drastically different from a simple hard news piece. It’s not unusual for a news story to be significantly shorter than a local life or opinion piece

Local Life: Local life pieces typically have a large human interest aspect to them. The writer's viewpoint shouldn't be relied on for this type of story either. Whether this is a story about a single person or entity or an issue that affects a large group, quotes help drive a Local Life piece. Show, don't tell your story to the reader. Does a local resident have an interesting life story? Their words do more for the reader than the writer's. Has a group of citizens been gathering to solve a community problem? How are they reacting to the problem and what are their solutions? Each person probably has a unique quote to lend. Information from characters on the fringe of the story (neighbors, family members, community leaders, experts, government officials, etc.) can lend credibility and viewpoint to the story as well.

Opinion: For an opinion piece, the writer takes an issue and explores each side of it with his/her own critical thought. While a reporter may have a clear stance on one side of this issue, it’s still his/her duty to present the other options. An opinion piece that only presents one side of the story is similar to a table with one leg and the reader will see this for a shoddy argument. Facts and quoted material shouldn’t be left out of an opinion piece altogether but they aren’t always necessary. A good opinion piece presents readers with their own options to weigh regarding the issue.

*Each week, a member of the Rapidian staff will publish a piece relating to goings-on at The Rapidian, developments in the world of citizen journalism and tips for making the most of the site.

The Rapidian, a program of the 501(c)3 nonprofit Community Media Center, relies on the community’s support to help cover the cost of training reporters and publishing content.

We need your help.

If each of our readers and content creators who values this community platform help support its creation and maintenance, The Rapidian can continue to educate and facilitate a conversation around issues for years to come.

Please support The Rapidian and make a contribution today.

Comments, like all content, are held to The Rapidian standards of civility and open identity as outlined in our Terms of Use and Values Statement. We reserve the right to remove any content that does not hold to these standards.


Thanks to you guys for posting this. I know it's something I need to work on when submitting my own stories.

 good encouragment for focusing your effort for us new reporters, as well as a good sign of what to expect for potential new contributers