What is news? News is what is new, interesting and true.
In 1965 Norwegian social scientists Johan Galtung and Mari Homboe Ruge analysed a collection of news stories in Norway to find out what factors they had in common. Their research was ground breaking and has since been the foundation of editors, in all areas of the media, to judge what their audience expects and wants to read or hear about. They identified the following list of news values: Threshold:
A big story which has an effect on a large number of people, the event or accident has to reach a certain size before being considered newsworthy. Frequency:
An event which occurs suddenly and fits in well with the news agenda, long term trends are not as likely to receive as much coverage unless they are synopsised. Negativity:
Bad news is more exciting than good news (“if it bleeds, it leads”) Unexpectedness:
If an event is unusual or out of the ordinary it will have a greater effect than something which is an everyday occurrence. As it’s been famously put “if a dog bites a man, that’s not news. But if a man bites a dog, that’s news!” Relevance:
The effect the story will have on a likely or potential audience. Frequency:
The time span needed for an event to unfold itself and require meaning. Negativity:
Bad news is more exciting than good news (“if it bleeds, it leads”)
If an event is unusual or out of the ordinary it will have a greater effect than something which is an everyday occurrence. As it’s been famously put “if a dog bites a man, that’s not news. But if a man bites a dog, that’s news!” Unambiguity:
A story that is described simply and straightforwardly makes for a better audio copy than a story that depends on first understanding the complex background in which the events take place. Meaningfulness:
Cultural relevance and social consonance or dissonance of an event. This relates to the sense of identification with the audience. Personalisation:
Stories that have the human interest factor are more attractive than those without. Élite peoples:
Stories about the rich and famous tend to get more coverage about those that are not. Élite nations:
Global powers such as the USA tend to receive more attention than less influential nations. Predictability:
Could the event have been foreseen and if appropriate been planned for? Continuity:
A story which is already in the news is a story that is made more accessible to the public due to previous reportage. It’s a new and further development in a sequence already established. Composition:
Prominence given to a news story depends not only on its own news values but also on those of competing stories. Is it particularly suitable to the demands of that medium or news outlet? Proximity:
This refers to how “close to home” a story is, the closer the story is to home the more prominence it is going to get over a story from abroad.
Although their work was a breakthrough, the list was prepared in 1956, making it more than four decades old and as it is now 2011, I feel a new set of revised and updated news values is appropriate for the 21st century, as news has changed its meaning along the way due to the economic climate, the internet and other factors. This is not to say Galtung and Ruge’s news values system is completely wrong, it is in fact the perfect stepping stone for the new and improved set. So what is wrong with Galtung and Ruge’s News Value method? First off their research was only carried out in Norway, with a narrow range of publications studied. In 1956 the newspapers were still quintessentially news publications, broadcast news was still relatively new and the internet did not exist. A few flaws in Galtung and Ruge’s system are as follows; Unambiguous “The less ambiguity the more an event will be noticed” this theories flaw is that it relies on the journalist to be able to take an intricate story, find the basis of it and then present it in a clear unambiguous style. This...
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