To know if you would read this article, would no-doubt depend on your interests. In light of this, media outlets – and unfortunately, advertisers – specify their media to categorised interests. However, why then do particular news stories have a greater audience than others? What makes a majority consume news about Kate Middleton over the Higgs Boson Collider?
Moreover, what makes news, news?
Norwegians Johan Galtung and Mari Ruge went some way towards answering this when they published their paper on “The structure of foreign news” in the Journal of International Peace Research in 1965. Through their study of events making it into the news, they created a set of news values to which govern the publication of an event. The factors making up their news values continue to be cited as “prerequisites” of news selection.
However, this was only the beginning towards setting news values in modern-day UK media. As academics with a background in journalism, Tony Harcup and Deirdre O’Neill set to analyse three UK newspaper publications in 2010, to revise Galtung and Ruge and create a contemporary set of news values.
Harcup and O’Neill hence analysed circulation market leaders, the Daily Telegraph, the Sun, and the Daily Mail. The aim was to examine all news, rather than Galtung and Ruge’s focus on foreign news, and analyse the content of the page lead – that is, the most prominent story.
Informed by their sampling of the UK press, by a review of the relevant literature, and by their own practice as journalists, readers and academics, Harcup and O’Neill tentatively proposed the following list of news values. Although there are exceptions to every rule, they have found that news stories must generally satisfy one or more of the following requirements to be selected:
1. THE POWER ELITE. Stories concerning powerful individuals, organisations or institutions.
2. CELEBRITY. Stories concerning people who are already famous.
3. ENTERTAINMENT. Stories concerning sex, show-business, human interest, animals, an unfolding drama, or offering opportunities for humorous treatment, entertaining photographs or witty headlines.
4. SURPRISE. Stories that have an element of surprise and/or contrast.
5. BAD NEWS. Stories with particularly negative overtones, such as conflict or tragedy.
6. GOOD NEWS. Stories with particularly positive overtones such as res- cues and cures.
7. MAGNITUDE. Stories that are perceived as sufficiently significant either in the numbers of people involved or in potential impact.
8. RELEVANCE. Stories about issues, groups and nations perceived to be relevant to the audience.
9. FOLLOW-UP. Stories about subjects already in the news.
10. NEWSPAPER AGENDA. Stories that set or fit the news organisation’s own agenda.
Harcup and O’Niel’s study was seen as a proposed contemporary set of news values, and as a contribution to the process of making news values more transparent and our understanding of them more up to date. However, we can still apply their list to real-terms.
For example, their set of news values goes to some extent in explaining why an article about celebrity Kim Kardashian’s “new hairstylist” was seen over “Nominations Set to Close for 2013 Doherty Science Awards” – thanks to Power Elite, Celebrity, Entertainment, and to a stretch, Magnitude being wound-up in Kardashian’s hair.
Also to put Harcup and O’Neill’s study to application, the recent news story of “Miranda Kerr Models New Qantas Uniform” was said on ABC News Breakfast as being, “the ultimate news-story”. It had patriotism, celebrity, relevance, entertainment, good news, business, and culture and arts. Not all categorised by Harcup and O’Neill, but it is easy to see how a news story (or event, rather) can have a major media consumption over others.
Published in Blirt Magazine