What Is News? Part 1

Free press is often called the oxygen of a democracy. Without a well-informed citizenry, democracy cannot flourish. To serve this purpose, journalists must provide accurate, fair, and timely information, free from outside influence. The first in a series, What Is News?, explores the development of the media. News can be classified according to its impact on the population, its proximity to people’s homes, or its controversy or currency.


Unlike fiction, the media has an obligation to tell the truth. But journalists, like all other professionals, make mistakes. They hide important facts or offer incomplete information. These mistakes cause a wedge between the news and the truth. Providing insufficient information is worse than withholding it. Inadequate information is the same as falsehood, and the media cannot expect the public to understand all sides of the story. And the opposite is true of exaggerating a situation to make a point.


When it comes to fairness in news, perceptions vary widely. Many people perceive unfair coverage when they think certain stories are being overplayed, or that less prominent aspects of society are being under-represented. The truth is that the media is responsible for a great deal of this, and it is up to news organisations to find the right balance. While some people might find the news coverage to be unfair, many others will find it to be accurate.


Objectivity in news has a role to play, but it should not be the sole objective of a journalist. The first thing to understand is that the value of objectivity is not rooted in the desire for truth. Instead, objectivity is defined as “a commitment to facts and a critical view of the world.”


When considering the timeliness of news, timing is an important factor. News stories that are breaking or developing can be timed well to be of greater interest to audiences, since the media gatekeepers interrupt their usual television schedule to give them the news they need. Timeliness also considers seasonal events, commemorations, and holidays. Timeliness varies from one medium to another. This asymmetry in timeliness has practical consequences for news delivery.


Modernization and its effects on news consumption and quality are likely to have changed the way viewers consume and create news. Today, audiences can easily obtain images of news events, and the reporting industry’s own perceptions of quality may not always match those of users. The following articles discuss how modernization has influenced the way that people consume and create news. A brief review of recent research shows how the impact of news can help inform and enhance our daily lives.