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Fourth Estate Lecture Topic 2 2014: What is news?


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This week's COM00481 Fourth Estate lecture seeks to define news and looks at news values and how they play a significant role in what actually is published and broadcast. We brief discuss news versus opinion, the 5Ws and the H, and meet the inverted pyramid for the first time.

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Fourth Estate Lecture Topic 2 2014: What is news?

  1. 1. The Fourth Estate: News Journalism Topic 2
  2. 2. What is news?  Mencher in News Reporting and Writing (p. 71) gives us two definitions:  News is information people need to make sound decisions about their lives  News is information about a break from the normal flow of events, an interruption in the expected
  3. 3. NEWS VALUES Impact Timeliness Proximity Prominence Conflict Currency The Unusual
  4. 4. IMPACT  'synonymous with newsworthiness' says Conley and Lamble (p85)  Has breadth and depth:  Either LOTS of people impacted somewhat or  SOME people impacted heavily.  Impact varies from group to group
  5. 5. Interest rate rises & falls Broad impact Deep impact  MANY people to varying  SOME people impacted degrees  Affects all households with mortgages heavily  Examples:  Pensioners and households on lower incomes  Households with very large mortgages and only medium incomes
  6. 6. Deep and tragic impact  Car crashes into childcare centre, causes fire  Critically injures several children  Only a FEW people impacted but impact is heavy and tragic Image source: The Australian
  7. 7. TIMELINESS When  Also relates to the news value of 'currency'.  Journalists risk being scooped by others on the same story  Anniversaries of major news events and recurring events – opportunities for a related story  Online news media challenged traditional media’s news cycle Image source: The Age
  8. 8. PROXIMITY ‘Where did the event happen?’  But also more importantly for a newspaper's readers - how did it affect local people, and for international stories Australians?  Media constantly localise international / national events by looking for local (ie Australian) connection  Not just a geographic bias - but a cultural and often ethnic one  Cultural and national biases in news values still prevalent, and reflect Australia’s connections and alliances with UK, NZ and the US.
  9. 9. Proximity versus Prominence One dead celebrity Many dead ‘nobodies’ CNN wrote in Feb an article on the imbalance on reporting famous and ordinary people: /heroin-investigations/
  10. 10. PROMINENCE  'Names make news'  Celebrity dominates many areas of news reporting  Position and power also qualify for prominence.  Prominence has different values in different communities, whether geographic or special interest.  Social media puts the celebrity further into public spotlight.
  11. 11. Prominence (and authority) has different values for different communities Surfing champ Steph Gilmour Sex Discrimination Commissioner
  12. 12. CONFLICT  Attracts readers and therefore journos and editors love to write about conflict.  From war to brawls to neighbourhood disputes to differences of opinion – all are conflict-related  Crime, politics, sport, business - all have elements of conflict  Report conflict accurately and in a fair and balanced manner.  Conflict should be put in its proper context  Media should not inflame racial/tribal tensions should not be inflamed or exploited – eg Alan Jones and the Cronulla Riots. “Pussy Riot attacked with whips by Cossack militia at Sochi Olympics“ URL: cossack-milita-sochi-winter-olympics Image sourced: The Guardian
  13. 13. CURRENCY  Linked to timeliness  Tied to lifecycle of a news event or perceived trends.  When story ceases to provide new information or public tires of the story, it has lost ‘currency’  May be seasonal like the Bushfire season, the football season,  Or tied to an-going event: Philip Seymour Hoffmans’ death and coroner's reports, court trials, anniversaries.
  14. 14. THE UNUSUAL Man Bites Dog Get your facts correct!!! Image source: Gawker
  15. 15. News Values  Generally accepted list but constantly debated  Journalists’ ‘news sense’ tends to become internalised  Application is flexible and depends upon:  Perceived audiences  Place, day, time of publication  Newsworthiness ultimately hangs on the sense of disorder. (Hartley)  Journalists tend to favour conflict, prominence and unusual values
  16. 16. How do editors determine what gets a run in their paper?  News flow exceeds editorial space (Sally White)  Advertising volumes and the shrinking 'news hole' (Sally White)  Stories which will get readers clicking on it run  Financial interests of the newspaper itself
  18. 18. HARD NEWS VERSUS SOFT NEWS Soft news  human interest story,  the how-to and self- development or  lifestyle features,  the entertainment yarn. Hard news
  19. 19. HARD NEWS VERSUS SOFT NEWS Soft news Hard news  human interest story,  Front pages & early news pages  the how-to and self-  Top stories on news website development or  lifestyle features,  the entertainment yarn. homepage  fair and balanced,  accurate and brief  account of issues or events.
  20. 20. Opinions – whose are they Editorial Opinion/Commentary  In opinion section, or  Opinions of ‘the newspaper’  ment/smheditorial/whatever-theresult-in-wa-senate-pollfarce-must-end-20140220333w8.html  Position that the newspaper supports, supported by evidence identified as analysis  usually penned by experts or senior editorial staff because of their extensive knowledge on a topic.  GOOD commentary is supported by argument and evidence
  21. 21. News writing conventions  5Ws and the H  Inverted pyramid
  22. 22. News writing conventions  5Ws and the H  WHO  WHAT  WHEN  WHERE  WHY  And HOW  Inverted pyramid
  23. 23. News writing conventions  5Ws and the H  WHO  WHAT  WHEN  WHERE  WHY  And HOW  Inverted pyramid  Most important to least important
  24. 24. News writing conventions  5Ws and the H  WHO  WHAT  WHEN  WHERE  WHY  Inverted pyramid  Most important to least important,  with a summary lead/intro.  And HOW
  25. 25. Inverted pyramid Most important Least important
  26. 26. (accessed 28 February 2010)
  27. 27. Summary  News is that which is happening now, has just happened     or will happen; Journalists rely upon set of ‘news values’ in deciding what stories to cover; Application of news values is contested by journos + editors Hard news – a fair and balanced, accurate and brief account of issues or events. Conventions of news writing include the 5Ws + H, plus inverted pyramid