News is what people read about in newspapers, see on TV news programs and listen to on the radio. It is also what they hear about on the Internet. People are interested in what is happening around them and the things that are important to their lives. News is about events and issues that are significant to society, and is usually current.
In order to be considered news, an event must be unusual, interesting and significant. It is the job of journalists to decide what makes newsworthy and then to report it to the public. The decision-makers are called gatekeepers and, depending upon the medium they work in (print, broadcasting, cable news or Internet), they may be referred to as editors, news directors, news managers or even just the bosses. They sift through recommendations from reporters and assistant editors to make the final decisions about what will be included in each day’s newspaper, TV news broadcast or news website posting.
Several characteristics are essential to a good news story: timeliness, drama and consequence. Timeliness is the factor that determines whether a story is ‘newsworthy’, and this means that the event must have happened recently or is currently occurring. A man waking up, eating breakfast and getting on the bus to go to work does not qualify as news because it is not unusual, nor is it particularly dramatic or important.
Drama is an essential feature of a news story and can be created by conflict, tragedy or other overtones. For example, a rescue of baby tigers from a circus could be newsworthy because it would create emotion in the reader. Consequence is another factor that must be present, and this refers to the impact that an event will have on society. For example, a coup d’etat in a neighbouring country might have a major effect on the economy of your own country and therefore is newsworthy.
A good headline is also an important factor that must be taken into account, because it is what grabs the attention of the reader and draws him in to read or watch the news. The wording must be short and clear. Complex words and jargon should be avoided, because they can confuse the reader.
A news article should be written in an inverted pyramid style, which means that the most important information is placed at the top of the page. It should be followed by a paragraph with less important facts and a brief final paragraph that includes an editor’s note. Journalists always check their work before it is published to ensure that there are no errors and that the story is balanced. They also make sure that they have access to both sides of a story before reporting it. This is known as the principle of fairness. The goal is to inform and educate the reader, not to promote a political or personal agenda. It is for these reasons that a free press is so important to the survival of a democracy.