Insights, tools and research to advance journalism

What makes a good story?

A good story is about something the audience decides is interesting or important. A great story often does both by using storytelling to make important news interesting.

The public is exceptionally diverse. Though people may share certain characteristics or beliefs, they have an untold variety of concerns and interests.

So anything can be news. But not everything is newsworthy. Journalism is a process in which a reporter uses verification and storytelling to make a subject newsworthy.

At its most basic level, news is a function of distribution -– news organizations (or members of the public) create stories to pass on a piece of information to readers, viewers, or listeners.

A good story, however, does more than inform or amplify. It adds value to the topic.

The Elements of Journalism, in fact, describes journalism as “storytelling with a purpose.”

Creating a good story means finding and verifying important or interesting information and then presenting it in a way that engages the audience. Good stories are part of what make journalism different, and more valuable, than other content in the media universe.

Research proves two things about good stories:

Treatment trumps topic. How a story is told is more important to the audience than its topic, what it is about. The best story is a well-told tale about something the reader feels is relevant or significant.

The best stories are more complete and more comprehensive. They contain more verified information from more sources with more viewpoints and expertise. They exhibit more enterprise, more reportorial effort.


This guide, like many of the others in API’s Journalism Essentials section, is largely based on the research and teachings of the Committee of Concerned Journalists — a consortium of reporters, editors, producers, publishers, owners and academics that for 10 years facilitated a discussion among thousands of journalists about what they did, how they did it, and why it was important. The author, Walter Dean, was CCJ training director and API Executive Director Tom Rosenstiel formerly co-chaired the committee.

Need to Know newsletter

The smart way to start your day

Each morning we scour the web for fresh useful insights in our Need to Know newsletter. Sign up below.

Featured topics

Go deeper on…

Dive deep on everything we produce about these key topics.

Strategy Studies

The best practices for innovation within news organizations

This Strategy Study presents examples and insights about journalism innovation, offering actionable advice and methods to move your journalism and business forward.