Thursday, May 10, 2012

Lecture nine: News Values

I didn't actually attend this lecture, so this blog is from the perspective of simply reading the Power Point presentation.

News values relate to the degree of importance & time allocated to a story - which in turn determines the amount of attention the audience gives to any particular news piece. Thousands of millions of 'events' happen around the world every day; it is up to journalists and media institutions to decide which of these make their way into the 'news'.

Arthur Evelyn Waugh summed up the news by stating,
"News is what a chap who doesn't care much about anything wants to read. 
And it's only news until he's read it. After that it's dead."

To me, this statement relates to the way in which news must relate, not to the most intelligent, interested and/or informed members of society; but to the majority. The 'intelligentsia' will often go looking for their own, alternative sources of information, whilst mainstream news organisations (such as Fox News) maintain the values, and as such mannerisms and methods of communication, of the common public.
Whether this devalues news itself is up for personal discretion.

News values essentially equates to 'newsworthiness' - what is going to map a good story; what people are interested in; at the end of the day, news values determine whether the general public will buy heir morning newspaper, or turn on the evening news.

The four main news values are:

Impact - 
How the audience are going to react. If a news story has low impact, people will be bored and therefore won't pay attention/tune in/pay attention to similar news items in the future. If a story has high impact, the audience will focus on the story, educate themselves & be more likely to consume news again in the future.

(High impact stories are not always the most relevant or important stories, in my opinion. Journalists need to keep this in mind, as their personal interests and preferences may not be in keeping with the news values of the organisations they are working for.)

Audience Identification - 
The audience must be able to relate to, or identify with the news in some way otherwise they aren't going to have any interest in it. This is why stories that can evoke empathy or emotion within the responders are often the highest impact stories and therefore receive the largest amounts of media coverage on the biggest networks.

"News is anything that's interesting." - Kurt Loder, US journalist

Pragmatics - 
Pragmatics relate to the ethics of a particular story, as well as the 'facticity', current relevance, etc.

& Source Influence - 
Source influence, as far as I can tell (the Power Point was less than detailed but I will look into it further at a later date & post on it if I think it's necessary) seems to relate to bias, and the ways in which sources and their personal/professional standpoints influence the news itself. An example of this is the relationship between Journalists and PR people; often pieces of Journalism are simply regurgitated from Press Releases sent to the desks of particular news groups and publications (see "Churnalism", which I will write on later in the week) - thus the source influence would lie strongly in the hands of the PR company which sent the release. Similarly, when writing a story on, for example, motorcycle gang-based violence, if one only talked to sources within a rival gang, the source influence would be biased towards that particular group of people.

This, to me, just emphasises the importance of gathering as many sources as possible in order to create fair, high quality journalism.

It is important to remember that news values vary not only across cultures and countries; but also different news publications, often within the same country or city.
Journalists must learn and adapt to a new set of news values with each news company they work for.

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