News is an important part of our lives, we all want to know what is going on in the world. A story is newsworthy if it is new, unusual, interesting and significant.
Local stories are of interest because people might know the people involved. However, a coup in another country might not be very newsworthy.
What makes something news?
There are many different things that make a story newsworthy. Some are obvious, such as Immediacy and Unusuality. Others are less obvious, such as Impact and Proximity. Immediacy is a key factor because people want to know what’s happening right now, or at least what has happened recently. They’re also interested in events that have significant impact, whether that be a political scandal that affects millions of people or a traffic accident that causes major disruptions. Proximity is another important factor, because people are more interested in events that happen near them than those that happen far away. For example, a local politician taking bribes is more newsworthy than a foreign one doing so.
Finally, there is the element of conflict. As humans, we’re naturally drawn to stories with conflict. The more dramatic the conflict, the more newsworthy it is. This can be as simple as a city council meeting where there’s violent disagreement over the budget, or as complicated as a philandering congressman sending inappropriate photos to his mistress.
The other news values, Composition and Co-option, relate to how a story fits with the rest of the content in a publication. This is an important consideration for editors, who must ensure that their publications are balanced and have a good mix of hard news stories and soft human interest ones. However, they also must consider the audience’s preferences when deciding what to print.
It must be about people.
It is generally agreed that the purpose of newspapers, magazines, radio and television is to inform and educate. It is also the opinion of many that news reports should entertain as well. Entertainment in the form of music and drama is available through broadcasting; crosswords, cartoons and other features are available in newspapers and magazines.
However, it is important to distinguish between real news and what might be considered a mere sideshow. A man’s waking up, eating breakfast and catching the bus to work does not make news. It only makes news if it is unusual or if it affects other people.
Similarly, an insect destroying crops may be news, but not if the same bug has eaten the same crops for centuries. A man’s opinion on the ordainment of women as priests is news, but not if his opinion has been held for generations.
The classic example is the news of Mao Tse-tung’s death. This was significant because of his role in world politics, but it would not have made news if it had been the opinion of a private individual. News media – particularly broadcasting – are expected to remain neutral and free from bias, although some opinions or personal points of view will be included in certain types of articles or programmes. The greatest felony in the news business is to be late with or miss breaking news. Speed and quantity often replace thoroughness and quality in the race to be first, creating a blizzard of information that leaves many questions unanswered.