One of the first questions a news editor asks when hearing a story idea is, “Is it news?”
Generally speaking, if the story is about something ordinary, for instance, “Dog bites man,” the answer is often no. If it’s uncommon, “Man bites dog,” then the story is one step closer to clearing the hurdle of newsworthiness.
Being newsworthy is no longer enough for a story to become news. As newspapers reduce staff and television networks place greater priority on visual storytelling, editors who make decisions have decided substance is secondary to curiosity.
That’s why you’ve seen countless stories about Lance Armstrong, Manti T’eo, and Kim Kardashian, but very few stories about the potential discovery of a vaccine to prevent Alzheimer’s disease or a Harvard professor’s plan to bring Neanderthal “cave men” back to life.
I was pleased, however, to recently read two stories about three amazing people. I wasn’t seeking these stories; I stumbled across them, one right after the other. Both taught me there is still plenty of good news in the world, and seeking it out delivers a reward.
The first story involves Ivan Fernandez Anaya, a long-distance runner from Spain. During a December race, he was in second place behind Olympic medalist Abel Mutai. Mutai would have easily won, except he thought the race was over and mistakenly stopped about 30 feet short of the finish line.
Anaya saw what happened and had a choice to make. He could run past Mutai and claim victory, but he knew he didn’t deserve to win the race. Instead, he did the right thing. He ran alongside Mutai and told him to keep running.
Actually, “told” is too strong a word. Because Anaya and Mutai speak different languages, Anaya used gestures to indicate that Mutai should run more and quickly before another racer passed them by.
Mutai won the race, with Anaya at his side.
When he’s in a raft or cart being pulled by Conner, his game face is a smile.
In Tennessee, two racers of a different sort run all their races side by side and they wouldn’t have it any other way. Conner and Cayden Long are brothers. Conner is 9 years old and Cayden is 7. They compete in kids’ triathlons.
During each race, Conner and Cayden swim 100 yards, bike three miles and run a half-mile. Actually, that’s not true. Conner does each those things while pulling Cayden every stroke, pedal and step of the way.
Conner does that because Cayden can’t. Cayden has hypertonic cerebral palsy, meaning he can’t walk or talk on his own. What he can do is compete and smile. When he’s in a raft or cart being pulled by Conner, his game face is a smile.
Athletes such as Anaya, Conner and Cayden are inspirations that could help us become better people, if only we knew more of their stories. What they are doing is news because it is inspiring. In a world where many people find it a struggle to get through a day, they provide an example that we can all be more.
If that’s not enough to make their accomplishments newsworthy, I’m not sure what is.