Friday, December 29, 2017

The Condition of News

The fifth day of Christmas - golden rings.  I am only on the fifth day and am ready to move on to concluding the year and considering the next one.  Our newspaper - the Globe and Mail is giving us their year-end reviews of a lot of things - how do they prioritize which ones to summarize at the end of the year?

They don't call these things priorities like governments do - governments are held accountable for what they consider important.  For news organizations, it is called "newsworthy" and "news values."   Wikipedia's definition:  "News values are not universal and can vary widely between different cultures. In Western practice, decisions on the selection and prioritization of news are made by editors on the basis of their experience and intuition, although analysis by J. Galtung and M. Ruge showed that several factors are consistently applied across a range of news organizations".
 The list of factors is very long - Wikipedia has 20 criteria.  It calls them "conditions for news".

Here are their top 5 Conditions for News:
  • Frequency: Events that occur suddenly and fit well with the news organization's schedule are more likely to be reported than those that occur gradually or at inconvenient times of day or night. Long-term trends are not likely to receive much coverage.
  • Familiarity: To do with people or places close to home.
  • Negativity: Bad news is more newsworthy than good news.
  • Unexpectedness: If an event is out of the ordinary it will have a greater effect than something that is an everyday occurrence.
  • Unambiguity: Events whose implications are clear make for better copy than those that are open to more than one interpretation, or where any understanding of the implications depends on first understanding the complex background in which the events take place.
My experience with newspapers and news organizations is that they have political views and priorities that they promote. When these come together with the conditions for news we can expect to see differences in what the top 10 news stories of 2017 are.  I checked out Google Trends for the top stories and find that New Year's resolution comes in 136th.  Let's see how it does as the countdown progresses.

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