Concept of News

Study Preview What is news and who makes the determination that something is newsworthy? There’s an old saying in journalism that news is what somebody somewhere wants to suppress, and all the rest is advertising. Essentially, news is information that is novel, somewhat unusual, interesting, and significant. Those writing and producing the news are typically the ones who determine what in the world is newsworthy and what is not, but it is consumers who really make this decision—either by their choices of what information they consume and what information they choose to ignore. The concept of news has changed in recent years, facilitated in a large part by cable television that has elevated news from a one-hour show to a “24/7” enterprise, but the basic elements of news have remained the same.

Learning Objectives By the end of this module you will be able to:

  1. 6.1.1 Define the concept of news
  2. 6.1.2 Outline the factors that contribute to newsworthiness

6.1.1 News as Change 1. Objective: Define the concept of news

Defining what constitutes news is a rather nebulous process, in large part because news itself is rather nebulous. News is not only something new (novel), out of the ordinary (unusual), newsworthy (interesting), and important (significant), news stories also signify change in some manner—some new occurrence that is newsworthy. News as change is most often reflected in the title of a news story, which often includes a verb—the vehicle in a language to denote change.

A review of the top news stories of 2015 reflects the concept of “news as change” (emphasis added):

  1. Charlie Hebdo Attacked in Paris
  2. Germanwings Flight 9525 Crashes in the French Alps
  3. Tropical Cyclone Pam Hits Vanuatu
  4. Ireland Legalizes Same-Sex Marriage

6.1.2 Newsworthiness 1. Objective: Outline the factors that contribute to newsworthiness

Not all change can fit into the limited time in a newscast or the limited space in a newspaper or on a web page. Nor does all change warrant audience time online. So what change makes the news? Journalists apply the concept of newsworthiness to rank change, with only those stories that rank the highest on the newsworthiness scale making it into the newspaper, online, or on television.

Applying a newsworthiness test to a series of events that might be reported requires judgment and no two people will assign all priorities in the same way. A lot of factors go into determining newsworthiness: proximity to audience, prominence of people involved, timeliness, and the impact on society. But there is no clinical formula for newsworthiness. A subjective element flowing from journalists’ values to the sense of the world and the sense of audience is at the heart of what is reported and how it’s reported.

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