www.whyville.net Feb 20, 2003 Weekly Issue

Times Writer

What is News?

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Before you read this, maybe you'd like to take a few minutes to think about what your definition of news is.

So, you've got your own idea of what news is? BabyPowdr here, ready to continue.... Editor's Note: As BabyPowdr says below, she got most of this article's information (and possibly ideas?) from a handout she got in class.?? Unfortunately, since she didn't send us the name of the handout, we can't tell what she wrote herself and what comes straight from the pamphlet.?? However, since what's in this article is very valuable to readers of the Times (and all other media, from TV to real world newspapers!), we're publishing it.?? If BabyPowdr would post in the BBS below the name of the pamphlet and its publication information, that would be excellent help.?? So -- read on!

If you asked a dozen professional news people what their definition of news was, you'd get a dozen different answers. The dictionary defines news as "recent events and happenings, especially those that are unusual or notable." Okay -- so if I cleaned my room up yesterday for the first time in three years, would fit this definition, but it would hardly make the morning paper or the newscast on television. Sure, it's unusual, and it's notable to my family, but the world just doesn't care. The world news is based on unusual happenings, from terrible tragedies to terrific triumphs. Really awful, or really great.

For you and me, the consumers of the news, news might be what is in the papers or on the TV at night, but the people who run the news, edit the papers and tell the stories are the ones deciding what news is or isn't. They choose partly by making educated guesses at what the public wants to know. For example, if a person eats a fish -- that is not news. If say, a fish eats a person, that IS news. If a fish eats a person in your town, it will certainly be news in your town. Especially if your town is like mine, built on the farmlands -- no water for hours and BAM this barracuda eats Farmer Joe from down the road. The news favors the unusual.

The want of journalists to report the unusual, a desire encouraged by the audience's attraction to the bizarre, explains why so much of the news is "bad news." News dwells on tragedy, accidents, crimes and generally negative human events. Since planes are so safe, people usually so careful and honest, buildings rarely burn to the ground, and criminals are only a small part of the population, these negative events are precisely what is unusual. Think about it this way -- a society where "good news" would be the unusual or out of the ordinary would be a sorry place to live.

But all that is unusual is not news (like me cleaning my room, for example), nor is all news unusual. There are other qualities that make stories newsworthy.

Timeliness -- News should be new. There is no such thing as old news; only history. Instant news has become a standard. This of course, is hard to do in a weekly digest.

Significance of the Event -- The news value demands the most personal judgment on the part of the news editor. News events must be in some way important to the audience.

Closeness to Audience -- News is usually within the proximity to the audience. Like a fire in, say, Siberia is probably not news in North America.

Importance of People Involved -- If it's someone well-known, it's news. Usually. Like if their house is robbed or burned down or they are in an accident, you're probably going to hear about it.

Human Interest -- News has to be interesting, some say entertaining, or the audience will not read or watch it. Some stories are included with the news because they are dramatic or have 'human interest' value. This value can make an otherwise minor story into real news. Like your neighbor's house burning down on a holiday like Christmas or Thanksgiving or something.

So that is news. News is pretty interesting to study -- LoL!

All of this information came off a handout we got in Media Studies the other day. I figured it'd be interesting enough to make a article out of. Seeing as I read that the Whyville Times staff wants more newsworthy articles, this can give you readers an idea on how to choose a "newsworthy" topic to write about for the paper. Hopefully you learned something.


Editor's Note: What makes good news? How do you know when to trust something you read or see on the news? Hey -- how do you know when to trust what you read in the Times?

I guess my question comes down to, do you really know who's telling you the news? And where do you go to find out what you want to know?

Please share your thoughts in the BBS below!


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