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Communicating news information

Defining News
What is news?
 Hard to define … relates to:
● Something new, unexpected, immediate,
exciting, important and interesting
● Something that can affect readers
Yes, but these are relative concepts!
What is considered newsworthy?
 There are no rules, but some principles apply:
Timing of event
Extraordinary quality of event
Magnitude of consequences for individuals in the
Relation to some celeb’s life
Pathos, drama
Seasonal events (e.g., end-of-the-school-year
Events following news that has generated interest
 Recent events, or events in the making, are
most likely to lead the news
 What is news today may not be news
A bank raid can be big news today. But it will probably
not be important enough to mention tomorrow, unless
there are major new developments
 An event occurring close to home will be
newsworthy to local people
e.g. news of heavy traffic on major coastal highways
 Even major stories of international relevance
are given, when possible, a local angle
e.g. news of plane crashes, earthquakes, etc.,
reported if one or more of the victims were local, or
used to be local
Compare different paper headlines on any given day
Newspaper front page headlines on
the same day
San Jose Mercury News
Nov. 29, 2012
Calgary Herald
Nov. 29, 2012
The Sydney Morning Herald
Nov. 29, 2012
Anticipated storm
turns into a sprinkle
Poverty takes a
human toll
Letter contradicts PM
U.S. may step up its
role in Syria
Premier under fire
over contract
Not guilty of murder
– after 65 years
Rail plan: $175
million for 215
Front-row seat on
suffering shows how
charity helps
Jackson Landing
A new urban utopia
Events are considered newsworthy when:
 They are extraordinary
e.g. unpredictable events like natural disasters,
accidents, or crimes
 They affect a lot of people
e.g. global warming issues have become big news in
recent years because environmental changes affect the
entire planet
 Stories about individuals well known to the
audience, like politicians, entertainers and
athletes, are considered newsworthy, by
virtue of the individuals’ status
• e.g. the particular outfit worn by celeb Will Smith at
Tom Cruise’s wedding may be of interest to some
of the readership. The outfit of a non-celeb at the
same wedding is not news
 Add vividness and realism to the story
 Increase the story impact
 Contribute to dramatizing a story,
presenting an angle, creating a protagonist
Good pictures:
tell the story
capture emotions
get faces
focus on people
avoid inanimate objects
Pathos, drama
 Tragic and dramatic events, like deaths or
misfortunes, commonly elicit feelings of pity,
sorrow, sympathy and compassion, and draw
the reader’s attention
● The child left alone when his parents die in a car crash
● The man who kills his wife and her lover
● Animals that have been brutally shot
Seasonal and trendy topics
Also newsworthy are topics that are:
Of general interest
e.g. national elections, the death of a prime minister
e.g. traffic before big holidays, end-of-school-year
exams, new trends during the summer season
Truly extraordinary
e.g. the discovery of an ancient treasure, the fattest
man on earth
Objectivity in news
 Journalism code of ethics defined by the
principles of truthfulness, accuracy,
objectivity, impartiality and fairness in news
But can journalists be truly fair and balanced?
 Objectivity is conditioned by:
● Language
● Audience
● Technology
 Objectivity is not a science: it is the result of
stylistic choices
● Language is a social construct and cannot be
 Lexical and grammatical choices reflect ideology
and personal preferences
 The interpretation of the message depends on
the individual
 Journalists select, order and interpret
‘news’ on the basis of their perception of
the audience’s values and preferences
 Determines not only how stories are
covered, but what stories are covered
● News selected on the basis of available videos
or images
 Alteration (through cropping or digital
manipulation) of material may distort news
presentation …
● thus suggesting a particular approach to the
Hard news and soft news
Hard news: recent events reported with a factual
● e.g., crimes, wars, disasters, politics or economics
Breaking news: unexpected events that need to
be covered as quickly as possible
● e.g., plane crashes, major earthquakes, catastrophes
Soft news (also called features): news that aims
to entertain or advise
● e.g., focus on ‘human interest’: arts, entertainment,
sports, lifestyles and celebrities
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