News: Information That is New?

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Grab a pen and paper. Got it? Okay. Now, go ask 15 different journalists this question: what is news?

As you have discovered, the 15 different journalists gave you 15 different definitions. We now have a dilemma. What is news? One way of defining news is to list out its characteristics. These are the values that journalists use when they select which stories to report. These include the following:

Timeliness: A tornado that happened last night is more newsworthy than the one that happened 3 months ago.

Proximity: A fire that occured in your town in which three people are injured, is more likely to make it in the paper than a fire that occured 400 miles away.

Consequence: A $70 billion tax cut is more newsworthy than a $3,000 one.

Rarity: An albino child being born is news.

Human Interest: Events that touch our hearts, often make the news.

Charles Dana, editor of the The New York Sun in the late 1800s defined news as "anything that will make people talk." Journalist Walter Lippmann defined news as a "picture of reality on which men can act."

There are many definitions as to what "news" is. It's hard to just pick one and stick with it because the news is different for everybody. But one thing that doesn't change the definition of news is the characteristics and reasons why you tell, write and present the stories you report.
Photo Credit: Creative Commons


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