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News And News Values Media Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Media
Wordcount: 2343 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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Mass media is traditionally considered to be a window through which an average consumer sees the world. The print media enjoys an enviable position in this regard as it is the oldest amongst the mass media in terms of evolution. The newspaper, as the name suggests is the harbinger of news and the first lead stories, by extension is the logical placement for the most important news of the day. The decision regarding which story is the most important is the result of both covert and overt thought processes. More often than not it is the news value of a particular event that slots it into the number one position but perceptions as regards news values can differ. This difference in perception could be due to newspaper policy, ownership patterns etc.

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News and News Values

The word news is derived from the Latin word ‘Nova’. It can also be traced into Sanskrit as ‘Nav’, meaning new. It is tough to define news in any one way. Everyone can have his or her own definition of news. Many aspects of news form are clearly related to the pursuit of objectivity in the sense of factualness (Tuchman, 1978). The language of news is linear, elaborating on event report along a single dimension with added information, illustration, quotation and discussion.

According to the Glasgow Media Group (1980) The language of news seems to be in a form , which would allow of a fairly simple test of its truth or falsity. It has the appearance of being entirely constantive (prepositional and capable of being shown to be true or false) and not per formative. If one analyses the news form, an event has to be rendered into ‘a story about the event’ and in the process of doing so, involves a negotiation between two opposed modes- that of performative, which is also the interpretative and the fabulative(storytelling) mode, and that of constantive, which is also demonstrative and factual mode.

There is little doubt however, of the factual nature of news. As Smith puts it, ‘the whole idea of news is that it is beyond the plurality of viewpoints (1973). In his view, without an attribution of credibility by the audience, news could not be distinguished from entertainment or propaganda. This is the reason why Gans(1979) seemingly reasonable plea for ‘multiperspectival news ‘ is unlikely to receive universal acclaim and why the secular trend in news development has been away from ideological towards neutrality.

Historians have pieced together that the same basic news values have held constant through time. “Humans have exchanged a similar mix of news… throughout history and across cultures,” historian Mitchell Stephens has written. How do we explain the mystery of this consistency? The answer, historians and sociologists have concluded, is that news satisfies a basic human impulse. People have an intrinsic need- an instinct – to know what is occurring beyond their direct experience. Being aware of events we cannot see for ourselves engenders a sense of security, control, and confidence. One writer has called it “a hunger for human awareness.”

When the flow of news is obstructed, “darkness falls,” and anxiety grows. The world, in effect, becomes too quiet. We feel alone. John McCain, the U.S. senator from Arizona, writes that in his five and a half years as a prisoner of war in Hanoi, what he missed most was not comfort, food, freedom, or even his family and friends. “The thing I missed most was information – free uncensored, undistorted, abundant information.” We can call it the Awareness Instinct.

Prominent journalists have given their own definitions of news. Some of these definitions are listed below:

Stanley Walker (New York Herald Tribune) – “News is more unpredictable than the wind. Sometimes it is the repetition with new characters of tales as old as the pyramids and again it may be almost outside the common experience.”

Joseph Pulitzer (St. Louis Post Dispatch and New York World)-“Original, distinctive, romantic, thrilling, unique, curious, quaint, humorous, odd and apt to be talked about.”

Charles A. Dana (Editor, New York Sun)-“Anything that will make the people talk.”

Arthur McEwan (Editor, San Francisco Examiner) – “Anything that makes the reader say,’ Gee! Whiz!”

John Chancellor (Correspondent, NBC News)- “News is a chronicle of conflict and change.”

M.Lyle Spencer- “News is any event, idea or opinion that is timely, that interests or affects a large number of people in a community, and that is capable of being understood by them.”

Turner Calledge-“News is anything you did not know yesterday.”

Willard Bleyer- “Anything timely that interests a number of persons and best news is that which has the greatest interest for the greatest number.”

Chilton Bush-“News is usually stimulating information from ordinary human beings derive satisfaction and stimulation.”

William L. Rewers – “News is the timely report of events, facts or opinions that interest a significant number of people.”

The best short definition that anyone has written is that by late Prof. Willard G. Bleyer, in his textbook (Newspaper writing and Editing, page 30, Houghton Mifflin Co., Boston, 1932) – “News is anything timely that interests a number of persons, and the best news is that which has the greatest interest for the greatest number.”

Anything suggests that the newspaper is not limited like other publications to one field of interest, such as science and history- any topic may be news under the right circumstances. Timely suggests that it is new, not previously known, an event of today, or late yesterday, or the latest angle to some earlier discussion. Interest is the most important word in the definition. The verb interest emphasizes that the reader is casual and voluntary. Number suggests that the reader is of all kinds, the newspaper is published for the classes, its scope attempts to be universal.

In today’s age of technology, the same news is available to all newspapers .Difference, however lies in the prominence and at times the slant given to it by the paper. That tells much about the newspaper. The policy of the paper decides such intricacies. Competition from other media as well has done much to change the face of our newspapers today. Newspapers are becoming more visual by using more colour, dynamic layouts and other techniques. This change also points towards the changing attitude of the audience. A crisper, more interesting presentation is what they look for. To continue to have a satisfied reader the newspaper transforms itself along these lines. This is a phenomenon which has occurred in the print world. How much it has affected a particular newspaper remains to be detected.

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News Values

News values are described as themes that have been shown to strike a chord with media audience. The story with maximum news values gets the position of number one lead. News values provide the criteria in the routine practice of journalism, which enables journalists, editors and newsmen to decide routinely and regularly which stories are newsworthy and which is not. These are the qualities of news, which determine the selection of news from the myriad events that occur in the environment, and these are also the qualities that maintain reader interest in the news. Some of them are:

Timeliness- News must be timely. This is a news value, which is of utmost importance to the reader. News is a perishable commodity. Any information, which arrives, even an hour late ceases to be the news. It can turn into information if it is not timely and information is not necessarily news. News is only news for a day, after which it turns into information, history or event or the truth. Truth itself may or may not be news as the truth we know today may not be the truth tomorrow.

The concept of being first with the news is not a new concept. Newspapermen have always worked hard to be the first with news. This principle is evident in all news items, except middles, Human Interest stories, and perceptive stories. Besides, the tough competition amongst the newspapers makes sure that a reporter does not delay in getting the news or if any other publication prints it first it would have become history.

Proximity- We understand news only in terms of our environment and experience. Readers read the news report in terms of their own interest and in relation to their immediate environment. The closer the place is geographically to the readers, the more the value of the news item. If all things are kept common, then interest decreases as the distance increases. Principle of proximity is important and widely evident in the local newspapers. A typical news consumer is interested in familiar faces and familiar places. This news value has two aspects:

Local news of national importance

The local news, which happens in the immediate neighbourhood, within a community, is of maximum interest to the reader. This has direct implication on the reader, may affect his lifestyle, health, and his day-to-day living. For instance if a cricket match is held in Mohali stadium, it will be telecast all over the world, while remaining a local event albeit with national or maybe international importance . In this case, proximity principle works.

National news of local importance

Sometimes the events may happen far away , but have a direct relation with local area, so proximity principle applies nonetheless. For example; if a local girl wins the Miss World Contest, the implication of the news event, although not held locally has direct relevance to the local population. Another aspect of proximity is that some event held locally may have tremendous local importance. This type of news report is published in the local supplement of the newspaper.

Prominence- News about people or events that are widely known. All that is already famous, or newsworthy is given due attention by the media. For example- Coverage of Olympics, speech delivered by the Prime Minister etc.

Maintenance of Status Quo- The media regularly gives importance to the person or event that is already important and is already news. This is called maintaining status quo. Even common happenings with important people are given coverage because of the prominent position enjoyed by the person in the society. The readers are always interested in reading about every big and small detail in the life of famous people. For example; Sonia Gandhi’s favourite food. Although the event or idea itself is not newsworthy but certainly carries the news value of prominence.

Status Conferral- Newspapers have the capacity to make a person famous overnight. Any unusual or remarkable feat by an ordinary person can be given coverage in the media making the person important or prominent. Important things happening with common people, makes them important people at least for a period of time. This function of media is called Status Conferral function. For instance: CBSE topper of the year. The young boy who is a commoner one- day suddenly gains importance the next day due to his remarkable feat. The media confers a status of importance on him and makes him prominent.

Consequence- Sometimes the news is not as important as the results or the effects of that news. All events that happen after the news report are important. This type of news reports lead to a variety of follow-ups in the form of interpretative stories, features, columns and so on. This kind of story just cannot be given once and forgotten. It needs to be followed up regularly and consequences noted. For example: The news story about lack of infrastructure and basic facilities in the local hospital may have serious implications.

Human interest- Refers to that which touches the common man and affects his emotions and feelings. Human Interest stories are off shoots of a news report. Any news report can contain within itself a human- interest story. This is a featurised piece of writing which provides some respite in the newspaper from the serious, sometimes morose news stories.

Rarity- Anything unusual, odd or uncommon. It is common in journalistic parlance to say ,’if dog bites man it is not news but if man bites dog it is news.’ Anything out of ordinary has an element of human interest and is therefore considered newsworthy. E.g. News of flood, news of capture of Saddam Hussein etc.

Magnitude- How much, how many, how big, how fast. Everything else being equal, a million is bigger news than a thousand. A plane crash that kills 205 is bigger news than that kills five.

Significance- Whether the event promises or threatens to change the course of history. An event’s significance is determined by how many persons it will affect, to what extent and for how long.

Each news story has different news values. It depends upon the newspaper as to which news to be placed as the first lead. Sometimes a news story with very little news values appear as the first lead and a news story with tremendous news values and importance are not placed as the first lead. But generally the trend is placing news with greater news values as the number one lead. The frequency with which a certain kind of story or subject appears shows how newspapers react to it. Besides this there are certain stories bound to make headlines. For instance, record breaking temperature and thickening fog in the month of January, strike by CTU buses etc, Mohali ODI etc. Even here a newspaper can choose how much to talk about these topics. This will again reflect its stand on major issues.


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