What Is News?
News is a category of information that tells us about events, discoveries or developments. It may be about something that happens locally, regionally, nationally or internationally. It is often reported by newspapers, radio and television or on the internet. It can also be presented by magazines, books or other types of media. It can be controversial or uplifting in tone and subject matter. Whether it is serious or lighthearted, it can help people understand the world around them and their place in it.
The definition of what is considered news varies with the audience and with time. For example, the death of a well-known individual can have much larger news value than an ordinary accident. An ordinary event can become newsworthy if it is very unusual, surprising or distressing. It can also become newsworthy if it affects many people or is very close to home. Other factors that influence the newsworthiness of an event are its impact, controversy, proximity and currency.
A newspaper or news magazine typically has a specific demographic it aims to reach. This is sometimes obvious, such as a local newspaper reporting on a fire in a residential area, where the target demographic is residents of that community. But it can also be less clear. For example, an article on a new scientific discovery that will improve the health of patients might be written primarily for doctors and scientists but might also be of interest to lay readers.
Choosing which news to publish is the main responsibility of journalists. Some writers argue that marketing research helps journalists deliver the kind of news their audiences demand, but journalism critic Jack Fuller points out that “Marketing informs what a journalist gives to the public; it does not determine what is important enough to be told.”
In order for a story to be considered newsworthy, it must meet five criteria: it must be new, interesting, significant, substantial or timely. The old saying that “if it bleeds, it leads” is still true, but there are other things to consider as well:
If it is a celebrity story or an entertainment event, it must have some sort of public appeal. This can be measured by its relevance, how widely it is distributed or whether it is a follow-up story. The public appeal of a story is determined largely by its potential to generate emotional responses in the audience and to elicit strong opinions from them.
An in-depth piece of news takes a single subject and investigates it heavily to give the reader more knowledge about that topic. These stories are usually more factual than other news pieces and can be objective in tone, although they might not be neutral or completely free of bias. The BBC, for example, is a news source that is widely respected for its objectivity. Its funding comes from the British government, rather than from corporate sponsors, and the news it broadcasts is viewed as trustworthy and accurate by millions of people worldwide.