Editor’s note: On the occasion of the 7th anniversary of the Filipino Star News, we are discussing here how editors determine what news stories should be printed.
What kind of news stories and articles should a newspaper publish? Should a newspaper publish stories that readers want to read or should it publish stories that readers must read?
These two questions have been the topic of a long-running debate among editors. Those who believe that a newspaper should cater to what the readers want to read argue that a newspaper is a product. Like any merchandise, what the consumers want should be the No. 1 editorial criterion in determining what reports should be printed.
Those who believe that a newspaper should publish what readers must read argue that a newspaper is more than a mere product because the press is the fourth state in a democratic system. As such, a newspaper has a crusader or fiscalizer’s role.
The first argument – a newspaper is a consumer product – focuses mainly on the business aspect of a newspaper. In other words, it must make money for the owners. Tabloid publishers follow this line of thinking.
Because it should be profitable, a tabloid newspaper must publish stuff that catches at a glance the attention of the readers. This is done by writing “earth-shaking headlines” in big fonts and tantalizing photos on the front page.
In the Philippines, there are a dozen tabloids, and many of them publish on the front page lewd photos which sometimes leave nothing to the imagination. Many of their sensationalized stories are about rape cases and gossips about actors and actresses.
Many readers of tabloids are jeepney, taxicab, bus and pedicab drivers and sidewalk vendors. The biggest of these tabloids has a daily circulation of 800,000 copies. (This is high compared to the circulation of a regular broadsheet newspaper like the Manila Bulletin which has a daily circulation of 250,000 copies).
The publisher of this tabloid once revealed that he was raking in at least 80,000 pesos every day or 560,000 pesos in one week. In less than a year, he was a millionaire.
On the other hand, the owners of Philippine broadsheet newspapers can barely survive. Only two or three of these dailies are making money with the Philippine Star as most profitable.
These newspapers publish stories about public issues and information about politics, livelihood, agriculture, health, business, industry, entertainment and sports. The stories are straight news.
The editors determine the banner stories based on potential readership. Thus, a report on a salary raise for public school teachers is chosen as the banner headline. Most public school teachers numbering millions would read this kind of news because it directly concerns them.
To our readers, we pose this question: What kind of news do you want to read?