What is news? News is difficult to define because it has many variables
News must be factual, yet not all facts are news. News may be opinion, especially that of a prominent person or an authority on a particular subject. News is primarily about people, what they say and do. News is not necessarily a report of a recent event, as stated in most dictionaries. What is news for one school or community may not be news for another.
What is news today may not be news tomorrow. What is news for one person may not be news for another person. Two factors necessary to news, interest and importance, are not always synonymous.
Hard News versus Soft News Journalists today often refer to hard news and soft news.
Hard news : is important to large numbers of people is timely: usually about events in government, politics, foreign affairs, education, labor, religion, courts, etc.
Soft news : usually less important because it entertains, although it may also inform. often less timely than hard news includes human interest and feature stories which may relate to hard news appeals more to emotions than to the intellect or the desire to be informed
Hard news, despite its importance, usually attracts fewer readers because it may not be as interesting as soft news or may be more difficult to understand. Readers may not understand its significance. Reporters must be careful to include information to help the reader understand what the story means.
Many stories are a combination of hard and soft news, and may present some of the information in sidebars and infographics.
Three factors: Facts Interest Readers are essential to news.
The following triangle shows the idea that the basis of all news is FACT. The job of the reporter is to make facts interesting to a particular group of readers.
News must be factual. News is based on actual occurrences, situations, thoughts and ideas. Yet not all facts are news. News must be interesting. But not all facts are interesting. Different facts will be interesting to different readers.
News has qualities that distinguish it from nearly all other forms of writing: 1.It must be accurate 2.It is balanced
Factual accuracy Every statement every name every date every age every address every quote
It is balanced - News is considered balanced and complete when all significant details are included and have proper relationship to each other. The purpose of balance is to give the reader a fair understanding of the event, not a detailed account of every fact.
It is objective. News is a factual report, not a report of how the reporter thought something should have been.
A reporter must report news as impartially and honestly as possible. Objectivity is difficult to achieve because a reporters own opinions and feelings can easily interfere with factual presentation in stories.
It is concise and clear. Hard news stories almost always follow the inverted pyramid and are written concisely and clearly so that the meaning is clear to an average reader.
Inverted Pyramid Most important facts Next most important Next
It is recent. Timeliness is of major importance in this era of fast communication. Other factors being equal, a news editor will choose one story over another because of its timeliness.
The Following News elements help to make facts interesting to people.
Immediacy or timeliness Most essential element of news Reporters emphasize most recent or newest angle of story. Proximity Readers are more interested in an event geographically near them than in one far removed Reporters emphasize the local angle whenever possible
Consequence A story that affects every reader will have more consequence than one that affects only a few. Prominence Names make news. Include as many as possible. The more prominent a particular name, place, event or situation, the more interest the story will have. Drama adds color and vitality to a story.
The more dramatic a story, the more appealing it is to the readers. Mystery, suspense, comedy, the unusual, the bizarre are chief elements of drama. Oddity/ Unusualness The greater the degree of unusualness in a story, the greater its news value. Firsts, lasts, and onlys have been staples of newspapers since the 19th century.
Conflict appears frequently in news stories. Inherent in sports stories, war news, crime news, violence, domestic disputes, government bodies. can be physical or mental. (Ideas can be in conflict). Sex news element present in stories of romance, marriage, divorce and other relationships. Emotions, instincts Readers enjoy stories that appeal to their emotions.
Impact How will a particular event affect the readers?
A number of factors modify the importance of news elements in actual practice: The policy of a news publication may increase or decrease the importance of a story. The class of readers may determine what is news for a publication The amount of space available may determine if a particular story is told briefly or in detail Timing may alter the value of a news story. All news is in competition with the news available at the moment.
Conclusion: As we begin our exploration of the genre of journalism, keep in mind these core fundamentals of this form of writing. They can apply to all the various forms of journalism we will examine.