What Is News?

News is information about current events. It may be provided in various media, such as newspapers, magazines, radio, television and the Internet. News may be presented objectively or in a biased manner. The intent is to inform and educate, but it can also be entertaining.

News was once delivered by word of mouth, then through postal systems and later via telegraph and wireless communication. Today, the world’s major news agencies are multinational and have multiplatform presences. In addition, aggregators such as Google News allow readers to select what type of news they want to receive.

The classic definition of news is that it tells about events that are unusual or surprising. However, this is not a universal definition. A man waking up, eating breakfast and going to work on the bus, while unusual, is not really newsworthy. What is surprising and unusual, varies from society to society.

Some scholars have proposed a number of criteria for what makes news. These include the following:

Exclusivity: Stories generated by, or available first to, a news organisation, such as interviews, letters and investigations.

Bad news: Stories with particularly negative overtones such as death, injury and defeat.

Conflict: Stories concerning arguments, splits and conflicts (such as controversies, strikes, fights and warfare).

Human interest: Stories about famous people (their lives, careers and personal tragedies and triumphs) and about the private lives of ordinary people.

Technology: New developments and advances in technology such as computers, satellites and the Internet.

Health: All societies are interested in health – what causes diseases, hospitals and clinics, and how to improve one’s own health through diet, exercise and drugs.

Entertainment: Stories about sex, sport and other leisure activities.

The societal context and the political environment in which an event occurs may influence what is considered to be newsworthy. For example, a political scandal or economic crisis is more likely to be reported than an accident or sporting achievement.

In the case of a political scandal, it is often the case that a government official will make a statement to clarify or deny the event’s significance. This is likely to be considered newsworthy by the majority of societies, especially if the official is high profile and has authority within the community.

It is important for journalists to be aware of the factors that influence what becomes newsworthy, and to apply these to their own decision-making when selecting stories for publication. It is equally important for them to avoid introducing their own opinions into news stories, and to use quotes from reliable sources that can be sourced and verified. The ultimate goal is to provide readers with a balanced view of the news, rather than a biased and unbalanced one. This requires a mixture of research and critical thinking, as well as an internal moral compass to guide the decision making process. The best way to achieve this is by following good quality news outlets and avoiding those that focus on negativity and fear.

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