Chapter four. A ‘know’ for news. Introduction – the aims of this lecture are to help you understand:. Definitions of news How to recognise news How to report news Standard news values The who, what, when, where, how, and why of news How and why some media are changing.
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Chapter four A ‘know’ for news
Introduction – the aims of this lecture are to help you understand: • Definitions of news • How to recognise news • How to report news • Standard news values • The who, what, when, where, how, and why of news • How and why some media are changing
News, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder • ‘the first rough draft of history’ (Bradlee in Hough 1984: 60) • ‘anything that makes a reader say “gee, whiz!”’ (William Randolph Hearst) • ‘anything you can find out today that you didn’t know before’ (Catledge) • ‘anything that will make people talk’ (Dana)
A good definition of news • US journalism educator Melvin Mencher says there are two general guidelines when trying to define news: • ‘News is information about a break from the normal flow of events, an interruption in the expected’ • ‘News is information people need to make sound decisions about their lives’ (Mencher 1997: 58)
Another way of thinking about news • John B Bogart, city editor of The New York Sun, provided a classic description of news a century ago when he said: ‘When a dog bites a man, that is not news because it happens so often. But if a man bites a dog, it’s news.’
Kipling's ‘Six strong serving men’ • In 1902 British journalist, poet and author Rudyard Kipling explained ‘news’ in the following terms when he wrote: • I keep six honest serving-men, • (They taught me all I knew); • Their names are What and Why and When • And How and Where and Who. • I send them over land and sea, • I send them east and west … (in Kipling 1986: 291)
News values • Impact – events that are likely to affect many people. But be aware that something that has a big impact in one community may not have much news value in another • Conflict – events that reflect clashes between people or institutions (one of the strongest news values)
News values • Timeliness – events that are immediate and recent (news value almost always diminishes over time) • Proximity – events geographically or emotionally close to the reader, viewer or listener
News values • Prominence – events involving well-known people or institutions and organisations • Currency – events and situations that are being talked about, sometimes known as water cooler stories because they spark office gossip
News values • Human interest – the people factor People want to know about other people • The unusual – events that deviate sharply from the expected and the experiences of everyday life (one of the strongest news values)
A word of warning about unusual stories • How unusual, is too unusual? • Is someone pulling your leg? • Try to double check unusual information, preferably with a credible source or authority • Watch your language – is something really the ‘biggest’, ‘oldest’, ‘first’, ‘last’, ‘unique’, ‘only’, or ‘heaviest’?
News can never be perfect • It is important to understand that by its nature it is virtually impossible for news to be perfectly presented • As Tiffen says: “Covering the news is an infinite, impossible task. News is therefore an exercise in imperfection, the product of a series of compromises” (Tiffen: 28)
The ‘softening’ of news • Newspapers around the world are fighting to compete with online news • Many newspapers now regularly scoop themselves online • Some papers have responded by cutting news content and boosting soft lifestyle features • There are indications that readers do not want bigger papers with more pages
What do readers want? • Research for News Limited shows that: • the top editorial topic for men (83 per cent) and women (81 per cent) was the environment • the front page was the most read section, followed by general news and world news for both genders • next was sport (for men) and inserted magazines (for women) • about one-in-three readers (35 per cent) read most of the copy in editorial items
Reactive and proactive news • Reactive news tends to focus on breaking stories – accidents, wars, acts of terrorism • Proactive news stems from investigative reports, exposés, exclusive interviews, and unique photographs or vision • Reactive news is best suited to radio and the web • Proactive news is suited to newspapers
A few last words on news • ‘It is a newspaper’s duty to print the news, and raise hell’ (Wilbur F. Storey, Editor, Chicago Times) • ‘Unhappiness with the media is nothing new; the messenger has always caught hell for bringing bad news’ (J Herbert Altschull, journalist)