The Nature of News


News is a term applied to the transmission of new information and ideas in various media. These include newspapers, magazines, radio, television, the Internet and other electronic forms of communication. The transmission of new information and ideas has been an essential component in the development of societies since ancient times. Democracies, especially established or emerging, depend on a free press to keep their citizens informed and to sustain popular support for the government.

The nature of news has evolved over time, reflecting changes in society and technological advancements. For example, before radio and television, the news was conveyed by word of mouth, but nowadays it is transmitted instantaneously and worldwide. The Internet has also changed the news landscape by allowing anyone with a computer and an Internet connection to produce and distribute their own news, often without the need for traditional journalists.

A news story is generally about something that has happened or will happen soon, although some may focus on an historical event. The earliest written news articles focused on current events, such as wars, weather, politics and crime, and were usually reported in the local newspaper. Today’s news stories can have a global reach thanks to the Internet and 24-hour news stations.

In determining what is newsworthy, there are six general criteria used by reporters: impact, proximity, prominence, conflict and surprise. The more of these criteria a story meets, the more likely it will be picked up by a reporter. Impact involves the number of people affected by a particular event. Proximity refers to the relative closeness of an event to the reader or listener; for example, a story about an earthquake in the middle of the night in Kansas City would appeal to most readers more than one occurring on the other side of the world.

A story’s prominence is its status as an interesting or important event. This can be based on its significance, its magnitude or the fact that it is an unusual or exceptional circumstance. Conflict is often a key element in any news article and can be based on the presence of an argument, disagreement, resentment or dispute. Surprise is often a deciding factor in whether something is newsworthy. A sense of the unexpected or unanticipated is a common element in many news stories, especially when it involves the death of someone famous or some other highly publicised and emotive situation. In addition, the element of celebrity is frequently used to draw readers or viewers. The final criterion, currency, involves the speed with which a news item is likely to attract attention and generate discussion. This can be related to the prominence, impact or controversy of a story, but also to its’recyclability’ and the possibility of it being repeated in the future. Journalists may also use marketing research to guide their decision making, but this is usually only as a starting point. Most scholarly explanations of newsworthiness incorporate some degree of judgment.