Coverage of annual events can pose a challenge

November 29, 2018

With the holiday season upon us, it prompts a question that many newspaper editors deal with on a regular basis:

What’s the best way to deal with recurring events in terms of coverage?

Holidays are a good example of the dilemma faced by journalists. Thanksgiving happens each year. Black Friday now is an annual occurrence. Obviously, so is Christmas and New Year’s Day.

Almost every major holiday can be part of this discussion. So can more local or regional events that take place each year.

So, too, are the anniversaries of significant events — the 45th anniversary of the end of this year or the 37th anniversary of the start of this conflict.

One of the key factors in determining how much coverage to give to a particular event is if it’s something new.

If the word “inaugural” can be used to describe an event, it’s to its advantage.

(By the way, “first annual” is not a substitute for “inaugural.” “First annual” is an oxymoron that should be avoided.)

So, Christmas — when it rolls around each year — is not new. But, obviously, it’s not something to be ignored, so newspapers each year look for new ideas on how to write about Christmas. In this case, the massive observance of and participation in the celebration of Christmas outweighs its lack of newness.

The decision isn’t as easy or obvious when it comes to other annual events.

How much coverage, for example, should a newspaper provide for a local event that is happening for the 12th time and isn’t planning anything different than what took place the previous years? Part of the answer may come in how big a draw the local event is. A large attendance can help dictate how much coverage is provided.

But what about, for example, the yearly anniversaries of a significant event in history? A lot depends on circumstances.

The Daily News doesn’t make a point of doing a new story each year when Columbus Day rolls around. But if I were working in Columbus, Ohio, or Columbus, Neb., I might.

The Daily News also hasn’t felt obligated to provide special coverage of, say, the 42nd anniversary of a military battle.

But if it were the 25th, 50th or 100th anniversary, that would be a different story.

Presidents Day doesn’t generate special coverage in the Daily News, but if Norfolk were the birthplace of a past president, that probably would change.

Memorial Day typically does generate annual coverage, but Labor Day not as much. In recent years, Veterans Day has regularly been featured in the Daily News.

There’s no scientific formula to determine the “right” amount of coverage for annual events and milestones. Too many factors can come into play in making those decisions.

But I hope what I’ve written here in this space helps readers understand that simply because an event takes place each year doesn’t automatically make the event newsworthy.

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