Handbook of Independent Journalism (1): What Is a News?

THE answer to the question “What is news?” may seem obvious. News is what is new; it’s what’s happening. Look it up in the dictionary, and you’ll find news described as “a report of recent events or previously unknown information.”

But most of the things that happen in the world every day don’t find their way into the newspaper or onto the air in a newscast.

So what makes a story newsworthy enough to be published or broadcast? The real answer is, it depends on a variety of factors.

Generally speaking, the news is information that is of broad interest to the intended audience, so what’s big news in Buenos Aires may not be news at all in Baku.

Journalists decide what news to cover based on many of the following “news values”.

Timeliness
Did something happen recently or did we just learn about it? If so, that could make it newsworthy. The meaning of “recently” varies depending on the medium, of course.

For a weekly news magazine, anything that happened since the previous edition the week before may be considered timely.

For a 24-hour cable news channel, the timeliest news may be “breaking news,” or something that is happening this very minute and can be covered by a reporter live at the scene.

Impact
Are many people affected or just a few? Contamination in the water system that serves your town’s 20,000 people has an impact because it affects your audience directly.

A report that 10 children were killed from drinking polluted water at a summer camp in a distant city has an impact too because the audience is likely to have a strong emotional response to the story.

The fact that a worker cut a utility line is not big news unless it happens to cause a blackout across the city that lasts for several hours.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *