The Audience: What it Needs vs. What it Wants

That weighing process – Important versus Interesting – is all about trying to serve an audience…should a news organization only give the people what they want – photos of Miley Cyrus Twerking,  or should it tell them they bloody well need some cod liver oil, so siddown, shaddap and read this 4,000-word article about missile throw weights in the former Balkan Republics.

This is where some of the characteristics that we discussed earlier in this lesson come together: News Drivers, Editorial Judgement, and Presentation of a story.

Take a look at this famous tabloid headline:


It is, as one headline writer said, the kind of story you wait for your whole career. It was a legitimate story, but the Post’s headline writers whittled it down to the most livid essentials.

When we talk about editorial judgment including not just story selection, but also presentation, this gives clues as to the audience sought by the Post on that day.


What type of audiences are served by these two different magazines?


Is this pandering , or is it public service, or is it good business?

Editors and producers add value to information and news by how much space or time they give to a story, and by its prominence. Beware of a simplistic dismissal of those who are audience-driven.

Often a magazine like People can bring many more people to a serious health story, for instance, because as people browse the celebrity news, they will stop and read an important story.