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What Makes the Public Pay Attention


There seen to be five principal elements, which make the public, pay attention. These forces work together and against each other to provide the excitement and satisfaction we find in interesting news.


Information: The audience hungers for specific information. The more concrete and detailed the information, the more it will interest the public who delight in facts, statistics, and brief quotations. Precise descriptions satisfy the public’s curiosity and give the impression of authority and provide the publics appetite for specifics but media should also be responsible and make sure the specific are accurate and used in an appropriate context.


Significance: The audience wants to know the meaning of the information they receive and how it affects them.
They are particularly interested when media reveal surprising connections between pieces on information. These connections make the biggest impact when the public recognizes the significance of a connection they felt but had not articulated themselves.


People: Audiences want to see people, hear them talk; watch them in dramatic action and reaction with other people. They like to see anecdotes, the little scenes in which people reveal both themselves and the subject.
Audiences want to meet people with whom they can identify and often they become, for a few moments, the person on the news and so extend their experiences by living another life. Audiences also enjoy a strong sense of place and time; they like to see the people they hear about in their world: to be shown as well as told.


Order: Audiences enjoy writing, which has a firmly built structure and provides them with a sense of order.
Reading is satisfying because, as Frost said in poetry, it provides “a momentary stay against confusion.” Writing gives shape to experience. Readers want writing to have a resolution a sense of completion. Above all, an Audience’s questions must be anticipated and answered in a well made piece of writing.


Voice: People respond to the voice of the media, one individual speaking to another individual. Audiences pay attention to a voice that had authority, concern, and energy.


Taken from English Journal May 1979.