Journalism: What is News?
There seems to be so much happening in life that we all want to know about. Every day, there is a jumble of events, falling over each and affecting our normal living. And journalists struggle through this chaos, trying to ensure the public receives time news. They keep creating sorted out and neatly packaged news for the benefit of the public. Hence, people hear the same story on the radio, the television, the newspaper, and even online channels. The world needs such stories because we depend on information for developing.
And when the news starts coming in, the most important stories appear in the news bulletin. For the newspaper, it will be the story holding the cover page. And looking at the way headlines are framed, the reader of the viewer will be easily attracted to read more. The lesser news appears in the middle of the coverage, and they are often given less importance.
But the question is, how do journalists decide which stories should feature in the bulletin? Or still, which stories are worth appearing in the presentation as news? How do they determine the newsworthiness of a story? And how do they give some stories priority over the others? Well, these are judgments that anybody can do. In fact, we all face these situations in our daily lives. It can, therefore, be easy to tell what is more important in life. Consider the following:
- A girl through primary school to the university level.
- A 30-year-old man gets married to a 25 years old lady, and a 50-year-old marring a 15 year-year-old.
- A car knocks dead a chicken or a child
Each of these stories qualifies to be news. However, some carry more weight than others. Only a journalist can tell which story will make more sense on the cover, and which ones feature in the supporting sections. As a journalism student, it is essential to understand the concept of effective reporting. And that leads us to discuss news in detail.
What is news?
News can be defined as an unpublished tale of human activity that offers information, education, or interest to the reader. Hence, the first requirement of a news story is that it should not appear in any publication. No one has heard about or shared the information. The news comes to the reader for the first times time a hot cake straight from the over. Therefore, anything that appears in a previous print does not stand as a news item. Then there is the element of human activity. This means the news story should touch on human experiences. It does not have to talk directly about people, but it affects social activities. Also, news must draw some interest to the reader; it can be physical or emotional. In other words, news seeks to evoke a reaction from the audience. And the last but not least prerequisite for news is that it must some impact, knowledge-wise, on the audience.
The most important factor to note is that news has to be current and carry educational value. It must have some value to the reader or listener. At the same time, it should be presented with respect to the audience’s specific field. This is to say; news has to be geo-specific, as close to the audience as possible. They may receive other information about other areas, but that will have little to no relevance to their current state. Hence, news has to focus on the tides of human aspirations and what is happening in their immediate environment.
Actual news has to be concise and accurate. And this is why professional journalists always seek to verify their sources before publishing a story. News is an account of events or some action happening in a specific era. It is written easily and comprehensively, mostly from the reader's point of view; hence it should meet the need of the target audience. And then, news should provoke some reaction in the reader. It qualifies to be news because it tells a story that no one else has told, and it is for the readers/viewer/listener.
Criteria for news
There is a criterion that journalists use to determine the newsworthiness of a story. It answers the following questions:
Is it new?
If the events unfolding in the story happening a long time ago, then it is not news? For instance, the assignation of J.F Kennedy was a tragic event. But it cannot be reported in tomorrow's newspapers. This is why news story writers try as much as possible to use the present tense. If the story is happening right now, then it qualifies as a news feature.
It is unusual
Many things are happening all around us. But they are now new. A person waking up every day, making breakfast, going to work, and coming back in the evening is normal. A story of a dog biting a man cannot be news in any situation, but a man biting a dog is news. Therefore, there are some events that we don’t see every day, that qualify as news.
Is it significant?
As stated above, a good news story must have value to the audience. If a type of bug has been living and feeding on bushes changes its menu to human crops, such becomes news because it affects the people directly. Note, however, that what is significant in one society may not be so in another.
Is it about the people?
In our definition of news, we talked about people. It is human activities that create a story; hence news should be automatically about people. Even though it can be made of non-human sources, chances are it touches human lives to make it news. For instance, a cyclone, a bush fire, or a drought are natural occurrences that impact human activities.
We all live in a world where strange things are happening every day. Even though some of them are related to previous happenings, they all make big headlines, depending on their impact. The factors that make a story strong of weak include, closeness and personal implications. And these events are all around us, happening through conflicts, disasters and tragedies, progress and development, crime, underdog, faith, health, weather, and many other areas. A journalist must dog them out and inform society.
Author: James Hamilton