News is any information about significant events in society that is broadcast or published. It can be written or spoken and may take the form of a story, a bulletin or an article. Generally, people consume News through newspapers, magazines, radio and television. The purpose of News is to inform and educate, not necessarily to entertain. Entertainment comes from other sources – music and drama on the radio, crosswords and cartoons in newspapers – but the job of News is to present important information clearly so that readers or listeners can understand it, picturesquely so they can appreciate it and, above all, accurately.
The first part of a news story, called the lead, must capture attention with something unusual or surprising. It might be a dramatic anecdote, a new fact or an important breaking news update. The lead also introduces the main topic and often includes the answers to the five Ws – who, what, where, when and why.
It’s not always easy to decide what makes the cut as a news item. Some events are more interesting and significant than others, but how journalists determine which of these to highlight depends on the criteria and judgments that they have established for themselves based on their market research and the demands of their audience.
An important consideration is the impact of the news on society. If it is a war, for example, most people will be interested in the fighting and the result; however, the same is not true of a coup in neighbouring country. This is because the latter is more likely to affect the lives of those who live in that country.
Other factors can determine the importance of a news event, such as whether it involves celebrities or ordinary people. People are usually interested in what famous people do, where they go and how they look. They are also interested in what happens to them – for example, if they become ill or are involved in a scandal.
Some events occur in areas of culture that people are interested in, for example sex, religion, education, health and the environment. These are often deemed newsworthy because they change the way people behave or affect people’s daily lives.
The best sources of news are those that are unbiased, fair and accurate. It is worth checking that a source has not been influenced by personal biases and that they have contacted eyewitnesses in a suitable manner. This can be difficult to achieve in war zones, where governments or rebel factions may be able to shut down newspapers and radio and television stations, but online sources of news are much harder to control. The Internet has also enabled citizen journalism to thrive, with individuals able to share information through social media and mobile devices, even when traditional media channels are being restricted or closed. In addition, a good news source will have a robust process for verifying facts and ensuring accuracy.