News is information about current events, obtained at every moment and everywhere, in a fast and accurate manner. It is also an impartial presentation of facts, avoiding personal bias. This information is published through print media – newspapers, magazines, radio and television, as well as online – to inform and educate its readers, listeners and viewers.
The main job of news is to alert people to what is important. But it can also entertain – through music and drama programs on radio, crosswords and cartoons in newspapers and so on. And it can enlighten – through articles about science, art and history, as well as books on these subjects.
It is generally accepted that good news stories have at least five of the following characteristics: They should be new, unusual, interesting, significant and about people. This list is not exhaustive, of course: a coup d’etat in a neighbouring country may be very significant but it might not be quite as interesting as a fire in your own house.
What makes a good story may vary with the culture of each society: a hurricane, a volcanic eruption or a famine may be exciting to one population but not so much to another. It is therefore important to understand the significance of the event to determine whether it is newsworthy.
Objectivity and fairness are essential qualities of the news media, because they ensure that the news is reported without bias or favouritism. To achieve this, the news media should have access to all sides of a story. It is important to note, however, that the concept of objectivity does not imply neutrality: even a newspaper with the best intentions can still be biased.
A good lead, or headline, is essential for a successful news story. It should introduce the main points of the story and contain the “five Ws and H” (who, what, where, when and why). It should be written in such a way as to make it clear and concise; the body of the news article then adds more detail.
The weather is of interest to most people, especially when it changes or affects their daily lives. It is also newsworthy when it causes an emergency or when the forecast is wrong. People are also interested in food and drink, including famines, shortages or gluts, and in agriculture and the price of food in the market. Similarly, they are interested in stories about music, theatre, cinema and carving, who is doing what where, who has won an award and who is ill or injured. People are also interested in controversies: they like to hear about arguments, charges and counter charges. Prominent people are interesting to read about, particularly if they are involved in scandals or fall from grace. Finally, all societies are interested in sex – although they do not always like to discuss it openly.