UNDERSTANDING NEWS

Dr. Drissia CHOUIT

Moulay Ismail University

 

News Literacy

Reading 4.1.

News Values

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Adapted from:

Potter, Beborah. Handbook of Independent Journalism.U.S. Department of State: Bureau of International Information Programs, 2006.

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WHAT IS 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.” It is also defined as "information about recent and important events" and "the quality of being sufficiently interesting to be reported in news bulletins".

 

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. In fact, journalists decide what news to cover based on many of the following “news values”.

 

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. 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.

 

Relevance

Generally speaking, news is information that is of broad interest to the intended audience, so what is big news in Paris may not be news at all in Washington.

 

Impact

Are many people affected or just a few? Contamination in the water system that serves your town’s 20,000 people has 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 impact too, because the audience is likely to have a strong emotional response to the story.

 

Proximity

Did something happen close to home, or did it involve people from here? A plane crash in Chad will make headlines in N’Djamena, but it is unlikely to be front-page news in Chile unless the plane was carrying Chilean passengers.

 

Controversy

Are people in disagreement about this? It’s human nature to be interested in stories that involve conflict, tension, or public debate. People like to take sides, and see whose position will prevail.

 

Prominence

Is a well-known person involved? Ordinary activities or mishaps can become news if they involve a prominent person like a prime minister or a film star.

 

Currency

Are people here talking about this? A government meeting about bus safety might not draw much attention, unless it happens to be scheduled soon after a terrible bus accident. An incident at a football match may be in the news for several days because it is the main topic of conversation in town.

 

Oddity

Is what happened unusual? As the saying goes, “If a dog bites a man, that is not news. But if a man bites a dog, it’s news!” The extraordinary and the unexpected appeal to our natural human curiosity.

 

Intended Audience

What makes news also depends on the makeup of the intended audience, not just where they live but who they are. Different groups of people have different lifestyles and concerns, which make them interested in different types of news. A radio news program targeted at younger listeners might include stories about music or sports stars that would not be featured in a business newspaper aimed at older, wealthier readers. A weekly magazine that covers medical news would report on the testing of an experimental drug because the doctors who read the publication presumably would be interested. But unless the drug is believed to cure a well-known disease, most general-interest local newspapers would ignore the story; the exception might be the newspaper in the community where the research is being conducted.

 

News Organization Agenda

News organizations see their work as a public service, so news is made up of information that people need to know in order to go about their daily lives and to be productive citizens in a democracy. But most news organizations are also businesses that have to make a profit to survive, so the news also includes items that will draw an audience: stories people may want to know about just because they are interesting. But it is fairly common for news organizations to divide stories into two basic categories: hard news and soft news, also called features.

 

Types of News

Hard news is essentially the news of the day. It is what you see on the front page of the newspaper or the top of the Web page, and what you hear at the start of a broadcast news report. For example, war, politics, business, and crime are frequent hard news topics. A strike announced today by the city’s bus drivers that leaves thousands of commuters unable to get to work is hard news. It’s timely, controversial, and has a wide impact close to home. The community needs the information right away because it affects people’s daily lives.

 

By contrast, a story about a world-famous athlete who grew up in an orphanage would fit the definition of soft news. It is a human-interest story involving a prominent person and it is an unusual story that people likely would discuss with their friends. But there is no compelling reason why it has to be published or broadcast on any particular day. By definition, that makes it a feature story. Many newspapers and online-news sites have separate feature sections for stories about lifestyles, home and family, the arts, and entertainment. Larger newspapers even may have weekly sections for specific kinds of features on food, health, education, and so forth.

 

19/12/2013

 

 

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Salah AIT-ALI | Réponse 15.11.2018 16.06

Very interesting Madam..
Thanks a million for this great effort you did and you are still doing with us..

Naima | Réponse 18.05.2018 23.51

Your student
Thank you so much.

your student | Réponse 02.01.2014 15.56

thank you so much

your student | Réponse 02.01.2014 15.45

hi my great teacher firstly I want to thanks u for ur effort and I have question about the exam Is it possible to give you the same definitions which u give us

Dr. CHOUIT 02.01.2014 15.52

YES.

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Commentaires

31.12 | 15:40

This refers to Alternative Media that critique not only powerful forces, but also mainstream media; they are called the watchdogs of the watchdogs.

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29.12 | 15:03

Hello Madame , Could you please explain what do we mean by the watchdog of the watchdog ? Thanks in advance

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27.12 | 18:59

The media are successful in telling us what to think about refers to the Agenda-Setting Theory of the Press and to News Values. You should also address the implications of News Agenda Settings.

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27.12 | 18:52

1. You should explain the second element of the statement "what to think about": News Agenda Setting based on News Values.
2. You should explain the first element of the statement: The media are not successful in telling us "what to think."

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