What Is News?

News is the material published in newspapers, magazines and broadcasts about events of importance to the public. It may be either positive or negative, and should inform, educate and entertain audiences.

It is important to remember that news must serve the information needs of the audience, and should be accurate, impartial and timely. It should also be well written, and provide in-depth coverage of the key issues.

A good news article is based on first-hand sources, if possible, and should include quotations from people involved in the story. It should also contain a wide range of background information to add depth and perspective. This might be in the form of interviews with experts, studies and reports. It should be sourced carefully and credited, and should not contain the author’s opinions.

The content of news is determined by a variety of factors including the type of event, its impact and significance, its timing and whether it involves celebrities or politicians. The impact of these factors is augmented by the political, economic and cultural context in which the event occurs.

Crime: any crime, from car theft to murder, can be newsworthy if it is unusual, or if the victim is vulnerable, rich or famous. Stories about the way in which money is made or lost are also of interest, especially when they are large sums, or involve corruption, forgery and robbery.

Stories about the way in which people live their lives are also of interest, and this includes celebrity stories and the ways in which people are healthy or sick. The effects of climate change are another important issue which is frequently reported in the news.

The importance of a topic is also determined by its ‘magnitude’ – how significant it is, or how big an impact it could have. A story about a major disaster or catastrophe will attract more attention than a local incident.

A good headline is also newsworthy if it catches the public’s attention and is likely to increase readership. A catchy phrase or a dramatic image can help to grab the attention of readers.

The fact that a single story might tick several of these boxes illustrates that it is impossible to draw up a comprehensive taxonomy of news values. Future research might usefully consider how these values operate in different combinations across different contexts. In particular, it would be worthwhile examining how news values are affected by the increasing role of audiences in selecting and disseminating news on social media platforms (Tien Vu 2014; Welbers et al 2015). It is also important to note that there is evidence that a desire to have stories widely shared on social media affects journalists’ selection decisions, as demonstrated by the findings of Hermida et al (2015).

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