News is information about an event which is important or significant to a community, society or nation. It is a vital part of life which helps to maintain a sense of identity and belonging. News can be delivered in a range of forms including newspapers, radio and television. The news can be factual or fictional, but it should be accurate and current. The aim of news is to inform, educate and entertain readers, listeners or viewers. Entertainment can be provided through music, drama and comedy on radio and TV or through cartoons and crossword puzzles in newspapers.
It is often thought that the classic definition of news – ‘dog bites man’ – is not valid as it does not take into account that all societies will have their own cultural norms which will determine whether something is considered newsworthy or not. For example, it is unlikely that a dog bites man in a society where dogs are eaten – although this would not stop it being newsworthy if the dog was an unusual breed or had been trained as a guard dog for a rich person.
A model of news making describes how stories are selected and presented. This model includes factors such as whether a story is about people, if it involves violence or scandal, if it is a local story or not, and if it is a topic of interest. It also takes into account the effect that a story will have on the reader and the public’s mood. These factors help to explain why certain events become newsworthy while others are pushed aside.
The type of information that makes good news varies from society to society, but some examples include:
Prominent men and women – what they do and how they look, especially when they get into trouble, lose their wealth or fall from grace.
Natural disasters – earthquakes, floods, volcanic eruptions or bush fires – are often newsworthy. Similarly, wars or political unrest are of major interest to many people.
In-depth news – stories that research a small subject in more detail and often require interviews with individuals. For example, a news article on a house fire might include interviews with the victims of the fire as well as details of the incident.
Social media has changed the way that news is disseminated and shared. It is now possible for audiences to influence the selection and dissemination of stories through the recommendations and’shares’ that they make. This is a challenge to the traditional model of news selection and presents an opportunity for further research into the way that the selection of news affects the lives of people.