News is anything that is new or unusual and which catches people’s attention. It can be seen on TV, printed in a newspaper or posted on the internet. Unlike entertainment and literary fiction, a news article should be impartial and based on factual events. However, it is not completely objective as the journalist must be guided by a set of internalised beliefs and values which are used to evaluate what makes good news.
Some of these values are universal across societies, such as the desire to hear about other countries’ cultures, but others are specific to each culture. For example, a young boy going to school in one society may not be newsworthy but would be in another. Also, the value of a news item is dependent on how much impact it will have. A coup d’etat in the next country over, for example, will have greater impact than a murder in your own city.
The news story is also influenced by the amount of detail which is given and the extent to which the story is personal or subjective. For example, a reporter will choose whether to use a direct quote from a witness and which of their initials they will use when identifying that person. They will also decide whether to include a photo or photograph caption.
A well written news article will cover a wide range of topics and appeal to a broad cross section of the population. It will also be well researched and presented with an appropriate level of accuracy. It should be easy to read with short paragraphs and clear, concise language. It will avoid unnecessary jargon and if a word can be replaced with a more general term then it should be.
There are five criteria which a news story must meet to be considered as “good”. They are: novelty, impact, proximity, controversy and significance. A story which is new, interesting, significant and involves a celebrity will be of particular interest to readers.
News is often referred to as the oxygen of democracy. In order for a democracy to function, its citizens must be informed and this can only be done by a free press which is independent of political influence.
It is not a coincidence that the world’s most successful democracies are those which have developed extensive and independent media. The media are often criticised for bias and sensationalism but this should not be confused with the fact that they have to report on all aspects of life. If something happens which is of major importance then it will be reported on first in the headlines or on the front page of a newspaper or at the start of a news broadcast. Ordinary, everyday things which happen all the time do not make the news. A man waking up, eating breakfast and catching the bus to work, for example, does not make news but if he is 90 years old and still catching the bus every day then that does become newsworthy.