The World According to Americans
“Journalists speak of „the news‟ as if events select themselves…[T]hey speak as if which is the most significant news story, and which news angles are most salient, are divinely inspired. Yet of the millions of events which occur every day in the world, only a tiny proportion ever become visible as „potential news stories‟, and of this proportion, only a small fraction are actually produced as the day‟s news in the news media” (Hall, 1981: 234). JP News Map
Definition of news remains elusive. Specific definitions are routinely contested. Approaches to define news range from the structural to
the critical perspectives.
There are scholars who say it is; made or manufactured (Tuchman, Cohen and Young) Those who say it is discovered (Schudson) Those who say it is decided upon (Gans) Those who say it is selected (Epstein) Aim here is to engage with the concept especially as it relates to international journalism
No defn; focus now on the fundamental principles underlining news- news values and news criteria as constitutive of news. Background Van Ginneken argues that it would be useful not to ask what is news but rather what is not news. Draws attention to argument of selective articulation of
what is noteworthy and what is inconspicuous in the world around us.
We live in a „common sense world‟ which is taken for granted-it is the disruption of this world that becomes news.
News media however brings to our attention some features but not others depending on stability or disruption of this „common sense world‟ Walter Lippman likened the media to a searchlightilluminates some parts but not others For instance, some people/tragedies are more important
to the global media than others
Even with victims of a tragedy, we empathise with some but not others. This reveals the fact that news is not value neutral; it is ideologically constructed.
Rule is 10,000 deaths on another continent = 1000 deaths in another country = 100 deaths in a remote village/town = 10 in the capital = 1 celebrity This example provides a useful frame of reference. But there are other factors that intervene and can interfere with the equation such as class, nationality, wealth, profession, race and now increasingly, religion. Conservative estimates put the death toll from wars at
882 per day around the world, but today you will disproportionately read of US/UK casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan In much of the developing world, twice a week more children die than victims of the Hiroshima bomb. But this is reported not as tragic, but as a chronic situation, if at all
This background leads us to more specific studies on what actually constitutes news or what are the news values. Most famous study carried out by Johan Galtung and Mari Holmboe Ruge(1965). Study was seminal in understanding the structure of foreign news. Analysed how major crises in the Third World were reported in Norway. Did a content analysis of how DRC, Cuba and Cyprus crises of the 1960s were reported in Norway. Identified the following news values Time-span: time needed for an event to unfold and acquire meaning- must be short and fall within publication frequency of the medium-usually one day. An event unfolding over months not particularly newsworthy. .
Case studies on news values
Scale and intensity of event: there is usually a threshold the event will have to pass before it‟s recorded Clarity: the less ambiguous, the more event will be noticed. Event must be clear Meaningfulness: has two aspects- cultural proximityculturally similar- culturally distant passed. Relevancemust make meaning to audience. Consonance: Someone has either predicted event will happen or wants it to happen- „balkanisation‟ of Iraq. Here, news is actually old Unexpectedness: either in oddity or novelty. The more unexpected the more likely it will be news....