Closed, but for how long?


If you’ve been following the weather lately, you may have heard about the huge snowfall in the pacific northwest. I had the bad luck of scheduling a short vacation for that very period, which made the travel challenging, to say the least.

While I was sitting at the airport in Chicago and waiting for my outbound flight, I checked a local news website in the destination city. The headline was rather ominous –“Airport Closed” — and the text of the story didn’t say much more than that. Great, I figured, I’m going to have to reschedule. But when I checked the airport’s official website, I learned that the closure was only temporary. They were working on de-icing the runway, and sure enough, we ended up leaving nearly on time.

What’s wrong with this picture? The local news source published a cut and dry statement that the airport was closed, without any context of why it was closed and how long the closure would last. Without that information, the reader is forced to assume the worst: that the airport is closed for the entire day, maybe longer.

In situations like this — where you’re reporting on a major story that directly impacts some portion of your readers — the right approach is to put yourself in the readers’ shoes. Ask yourself what you’d want to know if you saw the proposed headline, and then make sure the headline or the story itself answers those pressing questions. By providing this information upfront, you’ll avoid causing undue panic and stress for readers. At the same time, you’ll be increasing the overall depth and quality of your reporting, which ultimately draws in new readers and fosters greater loyalty among the readers you already have.