News Basics WHAT is news? Dianne Smith, CJE Alief Hastings HS Houston, TX
What is news? News is difficult to define because it has many variables
News may be opinion, especially that of a prominent person or an authority on a particular subject.
News is not necessarily a report of a recent event, as stated in most dictionaries.
Two factors necessary to news, interest and importance, are not always synonymous.
Hard News and Soft News Journalists today often refer to “hard” news and “soft” news.
Hard news: • is important to large numbers of people
is timely • usually about events in government, politics, foreign affairs, education, labor, religion, courts, etc.
Soft news: • usually less important because it entertains, although it may also inform
often less timely than hard news • includes human interest and feature stories which may relate to hard news
appeals more to emotions than to the intellect or the desire to be informed
Hard news, despite its importance, usually attracts fewer readers because it may not be as interesting as soft news or may be more difficult to understand.
Readers may not understand its significance. Reporters must be careful to include information to help the reader understand what the story means.
Many stories are a combination of hard and soft news, and may present some of the information in sidebars and infographics.
Three factors: • Facts • Interest • Readers • are essential to news.
The following triangle shows the idea that the basis of all news is FACT. The job of the reporter is to make facts interesting to a particular group of readers.
Interest Readers Fact
News must be factual. • News is based on actual occurrences, situations, thoughts and ideas. • Yet not all facts are news.
News must be interesting. • But not all facts are interesting. • Different facts will be interesting to different readers.
News has qualities that distinguish it from nearly all other forms of writing.
I. It must be accurate.
Factual accuracy • Every statement • every name • every date • every age • every address • every quote
Accuracy of General Impression The general impression--the way the details are put together and what type of emphasis is put on the details--should be accurate. Reporters should not distort the importance of a fact by giving it too much attention.
Accuracy is difficult to achieve because • there are so many facts that go into a story
reporters must work fast to meet deadlines • many people are involved in producing the finished story: the reporter, copy reader, editors, typists, etc.
Reporters must work hard to achieve accuracy. They must check, double-check and re-check every fact.
Reporters must question their sources carefully. • Informants sometimes misinform, although rarely on purpose.
School reporters sometimes don’t ask the right questions to get the information they need for a story. • Reporters should “talk out” stories with assignment editors to make sure they understand questions that need to be asked.
II. It is balanced.
Balance in a news story is a matter of emphasis and completeness. Reporters must give each fact its proper emphasis, putting it into its proper relationship to every other fact and establishing its relative importance to the main idea or focus of the story.
News is considered balanced and complete when all significant details are included and have proper relationship to each other. The purpose of balance is to give the reader a fair understanding of the event, not a detailed account of every fact.
III. It is objective.
News is a factual report, not a report of how the reporter thought something should have been.
Objectivity is difficult to achieve because a reporter’s own opinions and feelings can easily interfere with factual presentation in stories.
IV. It is concise and clear.
Hard news stories almost always follow the inverted pyramid and are written concisely and clearly so that the meaning is clear to an average reader.
Inverted Pyramid Most important facts Next most important Next most important Next
V. It is recent.
Timeliness is of major importance in this era of fast communication. Other factors being equal, a news editor will choose one story over another because of its timeliness.
Immediacy or timeliness • Most essential element of news
Proximity • Readers are more interested in an event geographically near them than in one far removed