What Is News?


News is the information which is printed or broadcast in newspapers, magazines, radio and television. It is a vital part of a democracy which depends on an informed citizenry. The public needs to be able to judge politicians, governments and companies on their actions. News provides the background for debate and discussion.

News articles should be factual and interesting. They should be brief enough to hold attention but not so short that the reader is left unsatisfied and disgruntled. They should also be written in such a way that the readers can understand the information and make their own conclusions about it.

The most common elements of news are:

Impact – how many people will be affected by it?

Proximity – does it affect local people?
Controversy – does it involve a topic which is widely discussed?
Importance – is it an event which will have long-term effects on the population?
Authenticity – does it relate to a significant issue?
Is it new or unusual?
Whether it is the discovery of a new species or a politician’s gaffe, if it is not something which has happened before it cannot be news.

It is not just human events that make news, natural disasters such as a flood, cyclone or bush fire can make the headlines. However, most of the time news is about people and what they do or what they have done.

What is considered newsworthy varies from society to society. For example, a fire which destroys a house in a wealthy suburb will be of less interest to the newspaper readers than one which burns a shop in a poor area.

Although there is a perception that all newspapers are biased, it is not really true. A good newspaper tries to balance a variety of viewpoints, but the selection of what is considered newsworthy will be determined by the editors and the journalists, not by market research or sales figures.

While some people argue that the purpose of news media is to entertain, it is important to remember that the purpose of journalism is to inform and educate. Entertainment can come from other areas – music and drama programs on the radio, for example, or cartoons and crosswords in newspapers.

A well-written news story should contain all the necessary facts, a description of what occurred and what effect it will have on people or animals. The article should be finished with a brief conclusion which restates the leading statement or indicates possible future developments to the subject.

The Associated Press (AP) is an international news agency which is owned by its member newspapers but not funded by any commercial entities. The BBC is funded by the British government and has a reputation for accuracy. A website such as AllSides offers crowd-sourced bias ratings for a wide range of news outlets, and will provide you with a list of sources that are most likely to be impartial. You can also use a news aggregator to collect a wide range of reports from different sources in one place so that you can compare the various perspectives on an event.