In the wake of heavy criticism from certain recent stories which are perceived to have gone under-reported, the following style guide is proposed to help journalists decide which stories are worthy of coverage.
Reporters should ask themselves the following questions, and if the answer to 8 or more is "Yes" then it may be considered a potentially newsworthy and thus referred to higher-ups in the organization who can best decide how individual journalists should be spending their time.
The ten questions to determine newsworthiness:
1) Is the report being broadcast by other serious outlets?
(Note: Serious in this case denotes someone who is not affiliated with tabloid journalism, so-called "blogporting" on the Intertubes, or Fox News.)
2) Is the source of sound mind?
(Note: If allegations detail issues regarding a sitting President of the United States who is running for re-election, this can be assumed to be 'Yes,' because crazy people would never pit themselves against the President.)
3) Has allegation been confirmed true by a source close to the accused, such as a friend, staffer, or family member?
(Note: If you don't know, feel free to call up the campaign or family member and ask. It's a proven fact that the more emotionally close the contact is, the more likely their answer will be 100% truthful and not at all designed to protect the accused.)
4) Does this story help Michelle Obama's children in some way?
(Note: The answer to this must be "Yes.")
5) Is story within accepted framework of desired characterization of the person charged?
(Note: Stories must further media presentation of particular public figures as buffoonish or saintly, without exception.)
6) Did the story come from a stringer, or get confirmed by one?
(Note: Stringers are extra-reliable, particularly in the Middle East, because they know that their word is the only provenance of their stories.)
7) Can a suitable photo be found to accompany the story? It not, can one be manufactured to fit the story?
(Note: Contact graphic arts department if need be.)
8) Will the entire story be easily summed up in a snappy headline that can be written at a third-grade level, preferably referencing the pain of high gas prices on ordinary American families just struggling to get by?
(Example: "Ordinary American families struggle to deal with high gas prices as ______.")
9) Is the story of purely prurient interest?
(Note: Sex scandals involving religious leaders or "values candidates" are always prurient. Any gay sex scandals are super-prurient and should be in forty-two-point font.)
10) If scandalous and damaging to one political party or group, can heretofore unexamined allegations against someone in the other party be tangentially referenced to produce a trickle-down scandal effect and thus diminish both groups equally, as mandated in the Journalist's Oath to First, Appear Neutral?
(Note: If 'Yes' unexamined allegation must be put to the other 9 questions to see if it is in fact the lead story. Be sure to submit unexamined allegation to editors for consideration. If tangential secondary allegation is lead story, current allegation will be forgotten.)
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Monday, August 11, 2008