Andrea Rondeau column: How do we decide what makes the news?

There’s a lot of what some might term “squishy” gut feelings involved.

So how do we decide what’s news and what isn’t? What are we going to print and what are we not? What are the reporters going to cover?

I wish I could give you a set of hard and fast rules, but that’s just not how the news works. There’s a lot of what some might term “squishy” gut feelings involved.

There are a few things that are obvious. For example, fires, murders, missing people and fatal car crashes are news. Animal abuse is something that catches our readers’ attention. So too are decisions made by our local governments that are going to have a big impact on the community, so tax increases (or reductions — though I’m not sure I’ve ever covered one of those), big developments, bad smells and elections.

Money from senior levels of government coming into the community for various projects is another obvious choice.

Most upcoming events will warrant a mention, if not an entire story.

And then there are the things that fall outside of all of those categories, or only tangentially touch upon them. And when it comes to those, the frustrating (for people who want the world to be black and white) and true answer is that often as the editor, and as journalists, we know it when we hear it. Sometimes it’s someone caught in a bureaucratic knot so bizarre it makes me jaw drop open. Sometimes it’s an item that’s so touching it brings a tear to the eye — it can be either good or tragic, or a little bit of both. An example of that last, for me, would be the story we did a couple of years ago now about a Cowichan Valley man named Ernie who talked to us about choosing doctor assisted death, alongside his beloved wife.

Sometimes someone or something has reached an amazing milestone. Maybe there’s a new and promising technology. Perhaps someone has risen to prominence in their field.

Of course, some things take precedence (see the above breaking news categories), so there are times when we’re interested in your idea or item, but we just can’t get to it right this minute.

It needs to be interesting, and should evoke some kind of emotion. It has to catch my attention.

Generally speaking, I always figure that if I’m not interested in it, and can’t imagine who would be interested in it, it’s not worth our time, which seems to be at more of a premium all the time.

And sometimes a person is just talking and it lights up a part of my brain.

Because really I’m left with that same, somewhat unsatisfying answer: I know it when I hear it.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

North Cowichan Mayor Al Siebring says the City Langford has lessons to share on how to deal with social issues. (File photo)
Langford could teach North Cowichan ways to deal with social issues: Siebring

Island city has only eight homeless people, according to last count

Potential designs for 85 Station St. were presented last month to the City of Duncan by the Portland-based architecture and planning firm Communitecture. (Courtesy of Communitecture)
City of Duncan considers applying for grant for Station Street project

New provincial program offers grants of up to $1 million

The bus is free to ride on Oct. 24 so voters can get to the polls to cast their ballots in the provincial election. (Sarah Simpson/Citizen)
Free transit on Election Day in Cowichan

all day and on all regular routes

Painters Jim Tulip, Doug Mackenzie and Gary Henslowe were painting the exterior of the Duncan Butcher Shop and Apple Press printing shop, located between the Trans Canada Highway and Whistler Street, on Oct. 8 as part of neighbourhood painting project. (Robert Barron/Citizen)
Duncan’s Whistler Street sees a fresh lick of paint in opioid battle

Group wants to help clean up community, one street at a time

Dinner shows in the Playbill Dining Room are keeping the Chemainus Theatre going during the pandemic. (Photo by Don Bodger)
Dinner events satisfying for the Chemainus Theatre and patrons

Small groups enjoy entertainment and the food in the Playbill Dining Room

FILE – People wait in line at a COVID-19 testing facility in Burnaby, B.C., on Thursday, August 13, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
167 new COVID-19 cases, 1 death recorded as B.C. enters 2nd wave

Three new healthcare outbreaks also announced

Rio Tinto Alcan’s aluminum smelter at Kitimat competes against producers in the Middle East and Russia that have no carbon tax. (Rio Tinto)
B.C. carbon tax highest in Canada, export industries unprotected

B.C. NDP, B.C. Liberals say they’re looking at exemptions

(Pixabay)
Vancouver teacher suspended after swearing, touching students and complimenting underwear

McCabe touched students, including rubbing their backs and necks, touching their hair and hugging them

Sails down, masks up for Ron and Sherry Pryde, who completed a 119 day journey that was supposed to be 70 days. (Zoe Ducklow)
Coast Guard towed rudderless sailors to Port Hardy hours before a powerful storm

Rudderless for a month, the couple zigzagged most the way home with “a few donuts and lazy-eights”

A glimpse of some of the 480 (approx) cars written off as a result of the acid spills along the Trail highway in 2018. Photo: Trail Times
2 years after huge highway acid spill, Kootenay Ford dealer’s frustration grows with ICBC

Trail AM Ford owner Dan Ashman says he just wants fair compensation from ICBC

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Mail-in ballot from Elections BC (Katya Slepian/Black Press Media)
At least 26% of eligible voters have already cast their ballot, Elections BC says

Voters can cast a ballot until 8 p.m PST on Election Day

A 2018 decision to fly a rainbow flag ended up costing the City of Langley $62,000 in legal fees (Langley Advance Times file)
Human rights win in rainbow flag fight cost B.C. city $62,000

“Lengthy and involved” process provoked by complaint

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is seen during a news conference Tuesday October 20, 2020 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Trudeau and his family decide against trick-or-treating this year due to COVID

Adhering to local health authorities, Trudeau urges Canadians to do their part in following those guidelines

Most Read