Hard or soft news – you tell me

Photo by Flickr user Eva Rinaldi
Photo by Flickr user Eva Rinaldi

As I research community newsrooms, I plan to note the kind of stories are being produced.

Struggling with shrinking resources and budgets, I’m sure many publishers think it would be grand to think that a citizen journalist might sit down and cover a town council meeting – but is this really the case?

My gut tells me that the community would far rather review a new local burger joint than produce 750 words on a transportation committee meeting.

But that’s just my gut. I have no numbers to back this up.

And I want these numbers.

Put simply, I plan to measure (as well as you can measure journalistic productivity) these categories of content into hard or soft news.

So, as I prepare to interview these community newsrooms, I want to establish categories for the content they’re creating. As these are all online initiatives, community newsroom contributions naturally include all multimedia contributions, including text, photos, video, data visualizations, etc.

One category is not more important than the other – a traditional newsroom covers soft and hard news equally, with equal attention paid to each by readers (at the Ottawa Citizen there is a popular ‘Upbeat’ section that is filled with only positive/soft news stories).

Without further ado, here’s how I will attempt to divide content…


  • Breaking news
  • political (at municipal/provincial/state/federal levels) stories
  • Crime stories
  • Scoops
  • Local sports
  • Event coverage* (including art shows, church bazaars, etc.)


  • Theatre/film/concert reviews
  • Restaurant reviews
  • Opinion/Editorial
  • Profiles/Obituaries

Opinion is a toughie – Most Opinion pieces at traditional news organizations are well researched and thoughtful (note: I said most). I’m categorizing Opinion/Editorial in community news content as soft because many/most cases of online commentary tend to lean toward rants.

Of course, there are exceptions to the rule.

* Event coverage is really something I’m struggling with. If the goal is to measure reportage, a good event story could have all the basics of a strong news story. However,  I suspect it may straddle the two spheres, as event coverage can be soft.

Don’t agree with these parameters for research? Feel free to share your thoughts – now is the time to move things around.

3 thoughts on “Hard or soft news – you tell me

  1. I agree to disagree that a hard news for some could be soft news for others, depending on one’s notions and beliefs! I also feel media is more hyperbolic on some ill conceived dogmas of vociferous presentations apart from being repetitive ! Stories get coloured as per editors’ self analogy rather than going by collective mass views and then drawing any line between facts n fiction or truth v/s concoction! Even while you categorise but the chances these days are hard become soft or vice versa in course of time but mostly as per narratives of channels covering them! In India v get confused on stories put forth by our PVT media and finally judge seriousness by what CNN OR BBC OR AL ZAZEERA IS PRESENTING! So two categories remain but we can not draw distinct LINE!

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