Editors are constantly stuck in the same predicament: should we focus more on news which is important, or should we focus more on news which our readers find interesting?
Unfortunately, far too often these two criteria of a news story are not synonymous.
A very important news story might break about the university’s Vice Chancellor resigning due to a fall in the institution’s position in the league tables. But what happens if in the same week a student breaks the world record for fastest time to drink a pint of beer in order to raise money in memory for a local charity? -Which should be your front page lead?
I’m sure many of you have found yourselves in a similar situation, and the truth is there is no right answer to this question, it depends on the direction you wish to take your publication.
However, whichever story you chose to feature more prominently does not change the fact that it is important to cover both stories.
One of the lessons that I never really fully learnt until after I finished my time as editor of my university newspaper was to get the right mix of ‘light’ and ‘shade.’
If you focus too much of the hard-hitting important ‘shade’ stories you risk isolating students who might find your publication too dull and boring. But focus too much on the ‘light’ stories and you risk people not taking your publication seriously.
The exact balance of ‘light’ and ‘shade’ you chose is completely down to you, different publications chose different levels of each depending on their target audience. For example: the Telegraph and the Guardian chose to put more of an emphasis on the important (often more political) stories on their front page, while the Sun and the Mirror are more likely to put an emphasis on human interest stories.
National publications can get the balance wrong as well.
The Independent was my favourite print publication before it went online only in 2016. I loved the impact of their front pages and the way they were not afraid to tackle heavy political topics.
However, their lack of balance with ‘lighter’ news left them with a readership smaller than some regional newspapers. Essentially, in my opinion, they went bust because they failed to find the right balance.
It’s important as a student publication that you appeal to all your potential readers and that means making sure you find the right balance. Find it and you’re on your way to a very successful year as a student publication.
At the Student Publication Association, we love to read stories on a range of topics and every week we try to reflect that range in our Splash Sundays article.
If you’ve written a story you’re particularly proud of, then make sure you let us know so we can share it across our pages and showcase your work!