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When is news news?

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by schiezainc, Jun 10, 2011.

  1. schiezainc

    schiezainc Well-Known Member

    Howdy all,

    So I was at a meeting for our state's press association today and we were discussing ideas for the state college's annual journalism day in October. We were brainstorming to try to find an interesting topic worthy of having a panel of experts talk about and the topic of social media came up.

    After some discussion, someone suggested we consider framing a panel around the idea of "When is news news?". I thought it was a great idea given the current state of the industry and given the "Gotta have it first" mentality a lot of news organizations are taking nowadays.

    So I'll pose the question to the board. When is news news?

    Quite simply, what in your opinion constitutes a news story nowadays?

    If Russell Crowe tweats his opposition to circumcision, is that news? If CNN reports a congresswoman is dead only to change their mind three times in the next 10 minutes, at what point is it news? If Little Jimmy is blogging on his Facebook on a topic of importance to the community, is he a real source?

    I think these are interesting questions and I hope we get a good little debate going here.

    Curious to see what you guys think.
  2. JonnyD

    JonnyD Member

    News is news from the moment you knew it, until it's not new.
  3. DanOregon

    DanOregon Well-Known Member

    I think the threshold has fallen so low it is almost like "the tree falls in a forest and nobody hears it" - it isn't news is almost the new standard.

    How many times does something happen or somebody thinks something might happen do we suddenly hear the speculation about how that something that might happen might impact something else? And what will that mean?
  4. schiezainc

    schiezainc Well-Known Member

    I wonder about this and wonder if it's changing the way traditional journalists work. How much vetting do you do nowadays of your sources before you rush to beat your competition and have it first?

    For a big story like the Giffords shooting, I wonder how it would have been handled in the past when people cared more about getting it right vs. getting it first.
  5. azom

    azom Member

    One of the focuses I put into my class is the difference between news and information. Certainly there's some fine gray lines in that distinction, but it helps give a starting point to a discussion, in that information is not always news.
  6. I Should Coco

    I Should Coco Well-Known Member

    Great thread idea. I'd like to think that "news" is recently unearthed information that will affect readers' lives. That word "affect" covers everything from a laugh about the latest celebrity's misdeeds to thoughts about the future of our country.

    Here's a wire story I used tonight at my shop as an example: Sarah Palin's emails from 2007-2008 are finally released (in paper format!):


    So, why is this story news? A couple of reasons why I thought so:

    1. A sizable chunk of the voting public still believes Sarah Palin is a serious contender for the GOP presidential nomination. These e-mails give insight into her leadership abilities as governor of Alaska.

    2. These emails were requested by the AP and other news agencies nearly three years ago. Why did it take so long to provide them, and why in paper format (boxes containing 24,000 pages!). Very strange in the electronic age.

    I guess I'm less interested in the medium/format in which news is being presented. I suppose texting and Twitter have contributed to the demise of investigative/in depth stories, but I'd say the economic devastation of newspaper staffs has more to do with that disturbing trend.
  7. dkphxf

    dkphxf Member

    Well, if you ask 75% of the board members here, it's when you can use this headline: "Local coach pleased with star quarterback's season" or this one "Podunk College happy to play in conference tournament." But what do I know? I'm just a young guy, which means I haven't learned their almighty secrets. That was tongue in cheek, of course.

    I'd say news is news when you feel a situation warrants writing about. Some stories are worth two inches, some are worth 12 and some are worth 22. You've got to do your best to figure out what those are. Perhaps the biggest questions to ask are, Would I read this and How much does my audience care?
  8. zebracoy

    zebracoy Guest

    On my way into the office at some point about two weeks ago, I was witness to a car accident where one of the drivers tried to make a green light, failed, and T-boned someone in an SUV taking a left-hand turn. I hate to admit I didn't stop, but only because it was a crowded intersection near a gas station and I thought there were (theoretically) plenty of witnesses that didn't have somewhere to be.

    When I got to the office, though, I was casually chatting with one of our news-side folks, who immediately wanted to know all the information - where it happened, how many people were involved, etc. When I told him I didn't know the answer to most questions, he got upset. "Why didn't you get this information?" he asked. I told him that it wasn't newsworthy - it was two people involved in a fairly low-speed crash where nobody should have gotten hurt, and everything will take care of itself.

    I don't know if it's the whole mentality of needing stuff instantly to flush out the web site, or it's the competition with all kinds of hyper-local outlets or whatever, but there are just way too many instances of making something out of nothing. Is it noteworthy? Probably, yeah. There was probably a bit of trouble at that intersection for an hour or two. But would it have merited more than a few inches in the local briefs 10 years ago, when there was no push for all this stuff? I highly doubt it.
  9. dkphxf

    dkphxf Member

    This is why I argue it's not the internet that's killing journalism, but rather the 24/7 newscycle. The internet is an amazing addition to journalism. Editors trying to fill the website because of some perceived need to "feed the best"? Not so much.
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