News is information about current and interesting events, obtained in a fast and accurate manner. It must be presented impartially in accordance with ethical rules. The aim of news is to keep people informed about what is happening in their immediate environment and in the world at large, and also to provide them with information they may not have otherwise acquired.
Journalists must make judgements every day about what is newsworthy. They must decide what is important, how it should be presented, who to interview and whether it should appear in their publications. In addition, they must be constantly aware of the competition from other news outlets and the Internet.
The classic definition of news is that it should be new, unusual, significant and about people. It is a subjective judgment, though, and different societies have their own ideas about what is newsworthy. A man catching the bus to work, for example, will not be newsworthy in one society but it will be in another where buses do not run regularly and people travel by foot.
In deciding what is newsworthy, journalists must consider the importance of the event and how it affects the lives of the people involved. They will also look at the event’s impact on other people, on society as a whole or on the economy, and how it could change in the future. If a person is famous or has a lot of money, they will often make the news and this can have an effect on people’s views about them. The same is true of celebrities who become ill, have affairs or fall from grace.
Other newsworthy items include weather forecasts, wars and conflicts in other countries, natural disasters such as floods or earthquakes, economic developments such as the opening of a new shop or factory and sports events such as matches and competitions. Those who are interested in music, dance and theatre will want to know what is happening in those areas; and the general public will be interested in what is going on in political life such as elections or coups d’état.
The journalist must be able to present the news in a way that is attractive and understandable. They must write quickly, concisely and picturesquely, using language that catches the attention of the reader. In the old days this was achieved by writing above the fold – on the first page of a newspaper where there was a crease – so that the most important stories were seen at the top before people had to start reading. This principle is still very much in use on the Web.
As well as a range of theories about what makes newsworthy, some studies have looked at the ways that people choose which stories to read, share and comment on on social media sites. In this digital age, it is also likely that audience recommendations and shares are influencing the selection of stories by journalists themselves (Tien Vu 2014; Welbers et al 2015). However, there is still room for further research into this area of news values.