What is News?

"...news is history in its first and best form, its vivid and fascinating form, and...history is the pale and tranquil reflection of it."
-- Mark Twain's Autobiography

As this quote indicates, Twain, who was often featured in newspapers, recognized the power of news and its influence on our culture.

News is the conglomeration of new facts and events that impact our lives. Most people rely on journalists to provide them with this up-to-date information about the world, making it the journalists' responsibility to determine what is news. Then the media must help the audience master the data, "master it intellectually and emotionally by putting it in a context, a mosaic that help[s] make it seem somewhat less gratuitous and unpredictable, somewhat less frightening" (Fuller 120).

Since a news story is buried within a mass of facts, there are a great many points that can be made. It is up to journalists to dictate the focus of the story and determine which facts should be emphasized. Some media critics argue that the media deliver the news that the audience demands in market research. But Jack Fuller, president and publisher of the Chicago Tribune, claims while "marketing helps journalists get the message across successfully; it does not determine what message to give" (121). Instead journalists prescribe to a set of judgment guidelines that help shape the definition of news. But this refinement process is not completely objective.

Although journalists strive to be fair, they are influenced by an internal system of values and beliefs. These prejudices, while tempered by the news values stressed by their profession, are still evident in news stories. There is a great deal of "cultural understanding that is taken for granted in news stories--some of it universally shared...but some of it dependent on familiarity with historical experiences specific to or interpreted in specific ways by our culture or certain groups within it" (Manoff and Schudson 7). Thus, the value of a news story is embedded within a system of cultural beliefs internalized by the journalist and the story's angle is dictated by a combination of these beliefs and quasi-objective news judgments. The news reinforces a "common understanding" about what is important, how to absorb it, and what to do with it (8).

News Values The Style of News
Online News The Evolution Process