The value of news judgement

Examples, assignments for high school journalists

By William Love, Sandpoint High School

EDITOR’S NOTE: The University of Idaho’s School of Journalism and Mass Media (JAMM) held its annual high school journalism workshop June 24-27. Here are some thoughts I went over in the session “What is news?”

Stories that appear in the news can usually be categorized into different values that make an event or person newsworthy. Editors and reporters use these values to consider if an event or story is newsworthy and then to determine its importance.

These values include Timeliness, Proximity, Impact / Consequence, Interest, Conflict / Controversy, Sensationalism, Prominence and Novelty (Shoemaker et al.).

High school journalists and editors use the same values to determine what is or isn’t newsworthy. These can be difficult decisions for media students, however, due to long publication cycles, limited resources and, maybe most important, a developing understanding of how these values are applied, especially considering the different forms of media.

Here is an example of an issue I see with timeliness for my newspaper staff.

STUDENT: “Let’s devote a page to prom for the issue coming out after it happens. It will come out one week after prom, so that’s timely.”

ADVISER: “With prom still six weeks away, the prom page should really be in next week’s is- sue. Think about how helpful the information can be for students before prom versus what you will provide them afterward.”


  • When and where is prom?
  • What is the theme? Why that?
  • How much does it cost for students? To put on?
  • Promposal ideas?
  • Why are students not going?
  • Where should you eat? Buy a dress? Rent a tux? Get a limo? Etc.
  • What will students do after the prom?
  • There is an opportunity for advertising revenue 🙂


  • Jacob and Madi were king and queen.
  • The music sucked.
  • Post prom ruled and/or was busted. (Probably not a story)
  • Photo collage!
  • No advertising revenue 🙁

MULTIMEDIA: What does timeliness mean in the digital age for high school journalists? How can the students use their other digital platforms to cover prom-related stories in a timely manner? Here are some possibilities.

Twitter: Countdown to prom?
YouTube: Clips of good promposals?
Pinterest: Board for prom ideas?
Instagram: Hashtag for photos from prom?
Snapchat: Video during the prom?
Website: A story about the king and queen?

Teachers, do you have some examples of issues that you deal with when it comes to news judgement with student journalists you work with? Please share them in the comments below.


Here are some assignments I do with my younger journalism students to help with news judgement and promote media literacy.

Media Literacy Notebook

At the beginning of each class, my younger journalism students have 5 minutes to answer a media literacy question. Most of the questions are why-is-this-topic-newsworthy and topical to the week. We then spend about 5 minutes discussing their responses. Here is an example question:

> Do you think Bruce Jenner’s transition into Caitlin Jenner has real news value? Explain why, or why not.

Rank the Newspaper Stories

Around the time a Cedar Post comes out, I take the topics from the issue and ask students to rank them based on their news values. (Sometimes I do this before the paper comes, sometimes after.)Students can rank them any way they want, but they have to use reasoning. Here are some recent topics.

> Prom guide
> Student art show at local gallery
> Announcement of valedictorian & salutatorian
> Should students have to say the pledge?
> Students who will travel overseas for the summer
> Life skills P.E. class

Are there any news judgement assignments that have worked well in your class that you would like to share?