Connecting people and ideas through improvisation

What really makes something “news?”

(cc) Ines Njers on Flickr

(cc) Ines Njers on Flickr

Recently I’ve been pondering what makes something “news.” It seems simple, but when I asked people for their own definitions almost nobody agreed. Does it have to be recent? Does it have to be life changing? Does it have to be strictly facts? News is very subjective in its definition.

It’s also very subjective in its impact. For example, finding out you’re pregnant is big news to the people involved, but not news to 99.99% of the world. News can be personal or global.

I began noodling on all the different responses people gave me, and how to tell if something is really “news” or just “information.” What I came up with are different attributes of news, and a bit of a range within each attribute. The idea is anything you find to be “news” should have some combination of these, and different news may have different attributes.

This is still a rough draft, but I’d love any feedback. Does something in here describe just about anything you would consider news? Are there any attributes missing? Are the ranges clear?

And I know this topic has been cracked in other ways, by other people and institutions, but I’m doing this as my own exercise in deconstructing and learning about the topic. So I heartily welcome your personal thoughts, but am not interested in any links/references to other material.

I’m also totally uninterested in a discussion of the different news outlets you use (or hate) by name. This is about the concept of news itself.

Disclaimers out of the way, here is the list I came up with:

Impact

  • World view – It changes how I view the world on a global/national level.
  • Overall life – Changes how I live my life.
  • Short term plans – I’ll act on the information sometime soon.
  • Immediate – I need to act on this right away!

Importance

  • Breaking – Critical and worth interrupting me to learn about.
  • General – I could go a short time without learning.
  • Of interest  - I could learn about it anytime.

Factual

  • Completely fact based – No perspective or commentary.
  • Some perspective – Perspective or context that helps enhance the news item.
  • Opinion and viewpoint – Analysis and summary from respected individuals.

Source

  • Peer reviewed journals – Factual and objectively vetted.
  • Traditional media – Formally trained journalist in TV/newspapers/etc., either local or national/global.
  • Independent media – Self-trained reporters/bloggers.
  • Social networks – Hearing it from people you are friends with or connected with in life or online.
  • Self-discovery – Learning about it yourself.

Timeliness

  • Just happened – Occurred within minutes.
  • Recent – Occurred within hours.
  • New to me – Occurred a while ago, but I only just found out.

Location

  • Global – Happened somewhere else in the world.
  • National – Happened within my country.
  • Community – Happened within my city/tribe/group.
  • Personal – Happened just to me and possibly immediate company.

What do you think?

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