News values are general guidelines or criteria which determine how much prominence a media outlet gives a news story. Media outlets include newspapers, magazines, radio, television, and the Internet. Journalists are looking out for news stories that attract a significant audience or readership. By applying a set of guidelines or criteria, they can identify what material will make the best stories. Each news value describes a different quality. News is what people want to hear or need to know.
But it is difficult to define largely because stories can be presented in a variety of ways. News can inform, educate or even entertain. So, it must be accurate, truthful and fair.
By contrast, soft news usually tries to entertain or advise. However, selecting news stories is a more complex and rigorous process than these concise definitions suggest. Information arrives in the newsroom minute by minute. It comes from a wide range of sources by way of press releases, phone calls, social media, meetings, research and so on.
A news broadcaster has only so many minutes. So, they must be selective, filter out information that lacks newsworthiness and retain stories that most interest their audience.
Thus, anyone wishing to get their story reported in the news media must understand the what ingredients are needed for a good newsworthy story. A knowledge of news values also helps public relations professionals to maximise media coverage of their events. Journalists are always on the look out for strong stories that are in the public interest. Their knowledge of news values will enable them to select stories that can boost their circulation or media ratings. The news agenda can vary from publisher to publisher.
It reflects the style, ethos and ideology of each media outlet. The news process is a two-way transaction, involving both the journalist and their audience. Newspaper circulation figures and media viewing ratings reveal the most popular stories.
Consumers make known the kind of the news that interests them most when they choose their broadcast channel or their newspaper.
However, this is a rough and ready measure. The research that has been undertaken so far concentrates on what the journalist perceives as news. However, the boundary between journalist and audience is rapidly blurring with the growth of citizen journalism and interactive media.
Immediate feedback gives journalists a better understanding of what their audience is looking for in a news story. A broadly agreed set of criteria or news values enables journalists to spot a newsworthy story. Rather than ticking off a checklist of criteria, seasoned journalists tend to judge newsworthiness on the basis of their experience and intuition. Even so, whichever approach they take the same news values underlie their choice.
What makes a story newsworthy?
Over the years, scholars and journalists alike have drawn up revised lists of appropriate news values. Such lists are endless. Some aim to describe news practices across many different cultures. Others are specific to one nation or place.
Do leads and headlines reflect the same news values as the full story? The opening paragraph or lead of a well-structured news report will usually summarise the whole story. To contain the gist of the story, a lead paragraph should answer all the basic questions : who, what, where, when, why and how.
But this may not necessarily be so with a headline. A good headline has several functions.
First, it enables readers or viewers to select news stories which interest them most. However, a headline must catch the eye and grab attention.
One way of achieving this is by withholding a part of the story, thereby arousing curiosity and stimulating interest. Since the arrival of the internet and search engines, there has been a shift towards search-based discovery. So, a headline must also take keywords into consideration. Despite this, readers need to understand what they can expect from your news story or article by scanning the headline. So, generally a headline should reflect the story.
The full text unpacks and relates the story in detail, starting with the most important facts. Read the whole story and you should be able to identify all its news values. All lists of news values have their roots in one particular piece of academic research.
Johan Galtung and Mari Holmboe Ruge framed a ground-breaking list of news values which identified newsworthy stories. They focused their research on newspaper reports of the Congo, Cyprus and Cuba crises.
By analysing reports in the Norwegian press, they spotted which values placed an event at the top of the news agenda. Thus, by devising a scoring system, they could rank the reports in order of their newsworthiness. Events with a high score on one or more news values were most likely to be prominent. Their findings have had a major impact on understanding which news stories generate most attention.
Today, most news organisations have evolved their own approach for setting news agendas. However, they still continue to draw heavily on this research.
Browse by Content Type
Almost all recent lists of news values refer to most of the criteria Galtung and Ruge originally identified. The scale or size of an event. An event must exceed a threshold before being recorded. Beyond that threshold, the more people a story affects, or the more money or resources it involves, the bigger its impact.
The greater its intensity and the more extreme its effect, the more likely it is news. For instance, the more gruesome the murder or the more casualties in an accident, the better its chances of hitting the news-stands.
Events that suddenly occur are most newsworthy. For instance, motorway pile-ups, murders and plane crashes. Events which unfold gradually, or at inconvenient times, are less likely to be reported. Long-term trends are also unlikely to receive much coverage.
Bad news is more exciting than good news.
Galtung and ruge pdf editor
Stories about death, tragedy and bankruptcy always rate higher than positive ones such as royal engagements or celebrations. So do stories about violence, damage, natural disasters, political upheaval or simply extreme weather conditions.
These stories may also score higher on other news values, particularly threshold, unexpectedness, unambiguity and meaningfulness. Journalists are likely to select an event that is out of the ordinary rather than an everyday occurrence.
Events that are easy to grasp are more likely to become news. The more clearly an event can be understood, the greater its news value. Stories with a complex background and depend on specialist knowledge tend to be ignored. People are interested in people. News stories presented from a human-interest angle and centre on a particular person are more likely to be newsworthy.
News tends to present events as the actions of named people rather than the result of social forces. Any well-attended marathon will attract news coverage. But the story of someone with a disability completing a marathon will attract even more interest. This relates to cultural proximity, the extent to which the audience identifies with the topic.
Stories about people who speak the same language, look the same, and share the same concerns as the audience receive more coverage than those involving people who do not. For instance, news from the United States, which shares the same language and similar values, is seen as more relevant to the United Kingdom.
Stories concerned with global powers receive more attention than those dealing with less influential nations. Those nations which are culturally closest to our own will also receive preferential coverage.
What constitutes an elite nation may vary from country to country. However, there may be more widespread agreement about which nations are most able to exert their influence on a global scale. For instance, America and China. Stories about important people get more coverage. The media pay attention to the rich, powerful, famous and infamous.
Galtung and Ruge’s model of news values
Editors prefer people whose deeds are seen as having more influence on their audience rather than others. Hence, the American President gets better coverage in a national newspaper.
Your local councillor is more likely to hit the headlines in the local paper. Journalists are more likely to cover an event for which they are prepared. Indeed, they often have a preconceived idea of the angle to take even before they get there. This mental pre-image in turn increases its chance of becoming news.
At first sight, this appears to negate the notion of unexpectedness.
A story which is already in the news gathers a kind of momentum.