News is information about something important that has happened or will happen. It includes things that affect people in general or particular groups. It includes politics, sports, religion and the economy as well as natural disasters such as floods and earthquakes. It can also include accidents, fires and war. It is also about people – what they do, how they die and what they think.
A classic definition of news is “dog bites man” – but this doesn’t really work, as what makes the news is not necessarily what happens, but rather how it is judged to be significant. A good news story is new, unusual, interesting, significant and about people.
The last of these criteria is perhaps the most subjective and elusive, because what is significant in one society may not be so in another. For example, a sex scandal in a western culture is newsworthy, but it would not be so in a traditional culture where such behaviour was more normal.
How journalists decide which stories to write is a complex process, influenced by many different factors. These include the importance of the event, its proximity to home, whether it involves conflict, controversy or public debate, its impact and how many people are involved in it. There are also practical considerations, such as the time available to research a story and the ability to get hold of those involved.
In addition, a lot of news is now reproduced by the media from other sources. This may be because there is not enough original news to fill the newspaper, or because it is cheaper and quicker than writing and editing from scratch. This practice, however, does reduce the quality of the news that is published.
A free press is often described as the oxygen of democracy – but it can only survive if it provides its audience with an accurate and comprehensive source of information. The best way to do this is by identifying and reporting the events that are important to its readers. It is then up to them to decide what to do with that information.
As a journalist, you must present your story clearly so that the reader can understand it, picturesquely so that they will enjoy it and, above all, accurately so that they will be guided by it. This means that you must write concisely so that your article is not too long, and that you use short, direct sentences. You must also be careful not to include your own opinions, but concentrate on presenting facts in the most accurate and attractive way possible. This is why it is important to follow the inverted pyramid format, giving the most critical information at the beginning and then allowing the reader to draw their own conclusions. This helps to keep your audience interested right to the end of your article. It also makes the story more memorable.