What is News?

Posted by Emily Carl

How does a journalist decide what is news? When does the information streaming every day become newsworthy? Recently, the media has been reporting on the recent engagement of Kate Middleton and Prince William. Magazine covers and news webpages have been showcasing the engagement. Pictures and video of the two announcing their engagement have been broadcast across major news networks. Even critiques and judgements of Kate’s outfit circulated across news outlets. Some even commented that she could be the next fashion icon like Michelle Obama. Among major news stories such as the Indonesian volcano blast, Cambodian stampede, and the outrage over the new Ugandan newspaper, the engagement seems un-newsworthy, almost unnecessary. Within days after the engagement, souvenirs are being sold with Kate and Williams’ faces imprinted. With the news being flooded with their engagement, journalists are expected to report on what is in demand. This allows the journalist to stay relevant among rival or oppositional news media.

But how does a trend like this start? The news is often dark and potentially saddening. Reports of death and destruction take up most of the evening news stories. People don’t want to hear of this every day. They want something to occupy their news coverage between the negative news reports. So journalists must decide whether information is worthy enough of being reported as news. Most often, the so-called soft news will be reported to appease the viewers.

Every day, people become popular through social media such as Twitter and Youtube. Viral videos and “celebritweets” are fast becoming news. People want to escape reality, and the news outlets are making it easier for people to do that.

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4 responses to “What is News?

  1. I think that a journalist will always find a struggle when reporting what is newsworthy and what “sells.” Obviously an engagement is not newsworthy, but if the public wants to know about it, then it’s our job to cover the story with precision. It might seem shallow and it probably is, but we have an obligation to our readers. Especially if you are a member of an entertainment magazine or newspaper.

    • I agree with what you say. Obviously engagements aren’t newsworthy, but readers love to hear about famous people and their lives–which is why so many news outlets covered this story. I don’t know if it’s important to cover a couple’s engagement, but it will definitely grab people’s attention if it’s these specific people. I think a publication has to have a good balance of reporting on things that need to be reported and just feeding reader’s wants of reports. If a publication has a good balance of these two, it’ll be more credible than just writing about the wants of readers.

  2. Ah, the ol’ give-readers-what-they-want vs. give-’em-what-they-need debate. It’s always a struggle to balance that.

    I’ll play devil’s advocate: Why isn’t the engagement news? William is heir to the British throne, in line behind his grandmother, Queen Elizabeth, 84, and his father, Prince Charles. William’s son or daughter would succeed him. His marriage and, presumably, children seem noteworthy in light of that. Though largely a ceremonial post, the monarchy does wield clout, both in the Commonwealth and beyond.

    In comparison to the engagement of Prince Charles and Lady Diana, this coverage feels positively restrained. That was a circus.

  3. Depending on the reader, this event could be considered news-worthy. Magazine’s such as “People” and “Us” make bank on stories like this: Big names and big events. Even through this engagement may be a cusion between hard news stories, I still consider it news.

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