The Style of News

All journalists rely on the established set of news judgments to help them evaluate elements of the news, but these values can take on a different hierarchy when translated by the medium of delivery. And the hierarchy can change as the medium matures or other media develop as competition.

The primary difference between the print and broadcast mediums lies in the visual capabilities of television and this difference affects the structure, context, and content of the news. The visual capabilities of television news allow it to take on a personal nature. The intimacy of the broadcast medium is enhanced by the images of anchors and reporters. Unless print journalists appear on television they remain faceless to the public. They exist merely as names on flat pieces of paper so a relationship with their readers is improbable. On the other hand, "A television journalist, especially an anchor, has rare and continuing access to people" (Donovan and Scherer 294). Viewers become familiar with the newscasters' faces that explode onto their television screens day after day. They develop a relationship with these individuals, which in turn builds trust between the audience and the news being delivered to them. Since the news has to be read aloud, it should sound like something a normal person would say in conversation (Lanson and Stephens 421). As a result the tone of broadcast news tends to be more casual than the text of a newspaper.

The personal nature of television news is also evident in the structure of the broadcast. Viewers learn to associate particular types of stories with an assigned reporter. For example, Bob Ryan does weather and George Michael does sports on Washington, DC's Channel 4. This associational process helps segregate the news into genres. In print journalism, current news is consolidated into an archive of information that is divided by labeled sections such as Metro and Business. While both mediums organize news by similar genres, newspaper's structure is a bit more rigid. Television can juxtapose different genres, but the paper sections of the newspaper are divided by their construction. In either case, the news is dictated by journalists and remains static.

The first element in any news story is the lead. The lead hangs on a peg or orientation point, which serves as a hook to draw in the audience and make the story more relevant to them. In traditional print journalism the peg is composed of the most "newsworthy" fact. But in a television broadcast the visual element is essential to the story's construction. The lead tends to be structured around the most compelling photographs or video. Newspapers' limited space does not allow for many visuals, the majority of space is required for text. Thus, these two mediums may require slightly different angles for the same story.

While newspapers are limited by space restrictions, in television time is of the essence. The audience wants to hear from the people who are directly affected by the news. Obtaining information from primary sources helps the general public place the news into context. In print journalism "quotes usually provide the spice and sometimes some of the substance of the news" (Lanson and Stephens 95). Television news also utilizes quotes but in the form of sound bites or short video segments. These sound bites are used to show the story. Since the visual element is essential and time is limited, narrative is minimal and only used to complement the visuals.

Timeliness remains an important value in both mediums, but television has the visual advantage. Whether or not a broadcast is done in real time the audience can be transported through time and space to the scene of the news. A newspaper can only reproduce an image through the text and sometimes still photographs. In addition, once a newspaper is printed it cannot be updated until the next edition. Television news can be broadcast several times during the day and emergency updates can be aired when deemed necessary by producers.

While it seems that news has found its niche in both print and broadcast media and made the best use of the advantages available in each, the development of online journalism presents a new challenge.

What is News? News Values
Online News The Evolution Process