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In the Newsroom: 4 Types of News Stories

Imagine you’re at work when the phone rings. You pick up the phone, only to be greeted by a local reporter. They start asking questions about recent events at one of your schools. It’s clear they want answers, but it’s less clear why.

In our experience, a reporter’s questions always stem from one of four different types of news stories. Learning what they are can help you clearly get your point across with confidence—and help you avoid becoming a bigger part of the story yourself.

1. The spot news story

Simply put, what we call a spot news story covers a recent event in a public school or district. Education reporters learn what’s happening in their local districts by reading news releases and sitting in on board meetings.

Let’s say a generous donor is funding improvements to your middle school’s athletic facilities. You share the news on your district’s website and social media. A local reporter comes across this story and decides to run it in next week’s newspaper.

2. The profile piece

Profile pieces are positive news stories that put a spotlight on notable events or people in your school district. Reporters typically hear about a district’s accomplishments through news releases. In some cases, a district staff member might directly reach out to the reporter.

Imagine your high school’s varsity softball team just won the state championship. The principal is so proud of the students that they call the local newspaper so they can write a profile piece about the team.

3. The localized piece

Localized pieces address how national stories are relevant to the local school community. This is done by supplementing the national story with local commentary and information. Reporters hear about these stories through big nationwide outlets like the Associated Press.

For example, safety has become a growing concern in public schools. Reporters are often attuned to crises happening in other school districts. A local reporter might reach out for a statement on how your district is mitigating safety risks for students and staff.

4. The “oh $#!&” story

As our unofficial name suggests, this type of news story is always negative. Reporters will cover hearsay without conducting proper research, often taking what little information they have out of context. The sources are usually tips from upset community members or national media outlets.

For instance, a reporter might get an email from a parent claiming your district has done nothing to address bullying in the schools. Reporters will often run with this narrative without asking district leaders for a statement.

Reporters always approach district leaders with one of these news stories in mind. Understanding these four types of news stories will better position you to respond appropriately and protect the reputation of your district.

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