What are news values
The selection of news stories
- What makes a story newsworthy
- Galtung and Ruge’s list of news values
- Do journalists prefer bad news stories?
- News values as principles to be taught
- Immediacy and technology
- News values as ethical standards
- Threshold: The bigger impact the story has, the more people it affects, the more extreme the effect or the more money or resources it involves, the better its chances of hitting the news stands.
- Frequency: Events, such as motorway pile-ups, murders and plane crashes, which occur suddenly and fit well with the newspaper or news broadcast's schedule are more readily reported than those which occur gradually or at inconvenient times of day or night. Long-term trends are unlikely to receive much coverage.
- Negativity: Bad news is more exciting than good news. Stories about death, tragedy, bankruptcy, violence, damage, natural disasters, political upheaval or simply extreme weather conditions are always rated above positive stories such as royal weddings or celebrations. Bad news stories are more likely to be reported than good news because they are more likely to score high on other news values, such as threshold, unexpectedness, unambiguity and meaningfulness,
- Unexpectedness: If an event is out of the ordinary it will be more likely to make it into the news than an everyday occurrence would. As Charles A. Dana famously put it: ''"if a dog bites a man, that's not news. But if a man bites a dog, that's news!"''
- Unambiguity: Events which are easy to grasp make for better copy than those which are open to more than one interpretation, or where understanding of the implications depends on first understanding the complex background to the event.
- Personalisation: People are interested in people. News stories that centre on a particular person, and are presented from a human interest angle, are likely to make the front page, particularly if they involve a well-known person. Some people claim this news value has become distorted, and that news editors over-rate personality stories, especially those involving celebrities.
- Meaningfulness: This relates to cultural proximity and the extent to which the audience identifies with the topic. Stories about people who speak the same language, look the same, and share the same preoccupations as the audience receive more coverage than those involving people who do not.
- Reference to elite nations: Stories concerned with global powers receive more attention than those dealing with less influential nations. This also relates to cultural proximity. Those nations which are culturally closest to our own will receive most of the coverage.
- Reference to elite persons: The media pay attention to the rich, powerful, famous and infamous. Stories about important people get the most coverage. Hence, the American President gets more coverage than your local councillor.
- Consonance: Stories which match the media's expectations receive more coverage than those which contradict them. At first sight, this appears to contradict the notion of unexpectedness. However, consonance refers to the media's readiness to report an item, which they are more likely to do if they are prepared for it. Indeed, journalists often have a preconceived idea of the angle they want to report an event from, even before they get there.
- Continuity: A story which is already in the news gathers a kind of momentum – the running story. This is partly because news teams are already in place to report the story, and partly because previous reportage may have made the story more accessible to the public.
- Composition: Stories must compete with one another for space in the media. For instance, editors may seek to provide a balance of different types of coverage. If there is an excess of foreign news, for instance, the least important foreign story may have to make way for an inconsequential item of domestic news. In this way the prominence given to a story depends not only on its own news value but also on those of competing stories. This is a matter of the editors' judgement, more than anything else.
So what are the ingredients of a good story? What makes it interesting or newsworthy? Today's teachers say:
- Impact or broad appeal: events that affect many people – the more it affects the better the story. A proposed income tax increase, for instance, has impact, because it will affect a lot of people.
- Timeliness or immediacy: news gets out of date quickly; it's timely if it happened recently. What is deemed "recent" is related to the publication cycle of the news medium in which the information appears. On BBC News 24 events that happened during the past half hour are timely. In your monthly parish magazine events that took place over the past 30 days are timely.
- Prominence: stories involving well-known places, companies, groups or people, especially celebs. If you or I trip and fall in church, no one will take much interest, because we aren't well known. But if the Archbishop of Canterbury trips and falls during a service, that's a news story.
- Proximity or closeness to home: events occurring in the newspaper circulation area or the broadcast area are likely to be of most interest. 2,000 job losses in Taiwan won't get a mention. 20 redundancies in Cambridge may well make the front page of the local paper. The success of your summer fête will be an essential story for your parish magazine.
- Conflict: stories about people or organisations at odds with each other. Information has conflict if it involves some kind of disagreement between two or more people. Conflict has drama.
- Bizarre or out-of-the-ordinary: what deviates sharply from what you would expect and experience of everyday life, unusual, strange or wacky.
- Currency or flavour of the month: events and situations that are currently in the news and being talked about.
- Human interest: people are interested in people, so personalise your story.
- About people’s everyday problems or interests: food, health, housing, schools, work, money problems.
• Impartiality and diversity of opinion
• Editorial integrity and independence
• Serving the public interest
• Balancing the right to report with respect for privacy
• Balancing the right to report with protection of the vulnerable
• Safeguarding children
• Being accountable to the audience
2 April 2012
- Mind your language
- What is newsworthy?
- Radio & TV interviews
- Writing a press release
- Designing a leaflet
- Spelling out words
- Local Media