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Characteristics of News

All news stories possess certain characteristics or news values. Traditionally, journalist have said that newsworthy events
are those that possess:

 Accuracy
 A media organization will be judged on the accuracy and reliability of its journalism, which must be well-
sourced, supported by strong evidence, examined and tested, clear and unambiguous. Verified facts
must form the basis of all news, not rumor and speculation.
 We need to be totally transparent in declaring what we know and what we don’t know. Those who trust
you will be prepared to wait for your version. In fact, they might use your coverage to check whether a
hastily prepared item by a competitor has any truth in it.
 Accuracy is at the heart of what we do. It is our job to get it first but it is above all our job to get it right.
Accuracy, as well as balance, always takes precedence over speed.
 This is the first requirement of a good news report. You must get all your facts right, starting from the
name and designation of the subject to the statements made by him or her. You cannot hide behind the
excuse that there was not enough time to cross check the facts.
 The facts that you need to check are:
 Names and their spelling
 Designations
 Incident details. In case it is an accident you must know the exact number of people who were
injured or killed.
 Statements: the quote reported in the news report must be accurate, and in context. It should
not be, misinterpreted to imply another meaning.
 If it is a science story you must make sure that all scientific names are correctly spelt, and
explained.
 If it is a sports story then you must make sure that the number of runs made or goals scored are
mentioned accurately.
 If it is a court story you must make sure that the court verdict is presented accurately.
 Balance
 Balance in journalism is considered one of the most important characteristics of any news piece
 Balance means a lack of bias, and it is the ethical imperative of a journalist to transmit the news in an
impartial manner.
 This means that a reporter should, whenever possible, demonstrate opposing viewpoints at play in a
story dynamic; it is important to note that there are often more than two sides to any story.
 Objectivity
 Objectivity means that when covering hard news, reporters don’t convey their own feelings, biases or
prejudices in their stories, they accomplish this by writing stories using a language that is neutral and
avoids characterizing people or institutions in ways good or bad.
 Objectivity called for journalists to develop a consistent method of testing information – a transparent
approach to evidence – precisely so that personal and cultural biases would not undermine the accuracy
of their work.
 In the latter part of the 19th century, journalists talked about something called “realism” rather than
objectivity. This was the idea that if reporters simply dug out the facts and ordered them together, truth
would reveal itself rather naturally.
 Clarity – Concise and Clear
 This is not easy to achieve. You are required to report an event in as few words as possible. You can do
this if you use short and simple words and keep out irrelevant facts. The intro of your report must be
short and crisp. The body must be made up of as few paragraphs as possible with each paragraph
devoted to one point.
 There should be no ambiguities. The facts must be sourced, and accurate.
 Writers need to keep their reader’s attention. Writing clearly and concisely is one way to capture and
retain interest. Rambling on, conversely, may lose your reader’s attention.
 Writing clearly and concisely means choosing your words deliberately, constructing your sentences
carefully, and using grammar properly. By writing clearly and concisely, you will get straight to your
point in a way your audience/readers can easily comprehend.
 Brevity
 The importance of this characteristic cannot be overstressed. You must learn to write short stories
without missing important facts. Please remember that today’s reader is in a hurry. He does not have
the patience to go through long news reports.
 Brevity does not mean writing a short story. It also means using short words, short sentences and short
paragraphs.
 Attribution
 All news reports, with a few exceptions, must be sourced. The source can be identified as follows:
 Individual. An individual, who witnessed an accident or survived an earthquake, can be quoted
by name as an eyewitness.
 Organization. A spokesperson authorized by an organization to brief the media on its behalf.
The spokesman can be referred to by:
 Name and designation (ex.: Mr. T. Greene, Police Commissioner, told the media…)
 Designation alone (ex.: The Police Commissioner told the media…)
 Anonymous sources. There are occasions when a news source, who happens to be a senior
government official or an important leader, does not want his or her name to be used. In such
cases, the reporter can attribute the story to informed sources or well – connected sources or
official sources or sources who don’t wish to be named. However, the reporter must know the
source well and should trust that the information provided is correct.
 Exceptions. The reporter need not worry about attribution in those cases that he has witnessed.
For instance, the reporter can report a cricket match or a rally stating what happened. This is
because these are statements of fact that have occurred in public domain, and have been
witnessed by scores of people. The same applies to the sweating in of a new government or
historical facts.
 Timeliness
 Journalists stress current information – stories occurring today or yesterday, not several days or weeks
ago – and try to report it ahead of their competitors. Remember what the first three letters of “news”
spell: NEW.
 Impact
 Reporters stress information that has an impact on their audience and stories that affect, involve or
interest thousands of readers or viewers.
 Prominence
 Even routine events can become newsworthy when they involve prominent individuals or prominent
places, locations.
 Proximity / Localizing
 The closer an event is to home, the newsworthy it becomes.
 Conflict or Controversy
 Two people arguing about their divergent philosophies on a social issue is more newsworthy than two
people who agree on everything. The tension between the subjects creates the conflict that often makes
a story dramatic and interesting to read, hear or watch.
 Unusualness / Singularity
 Deviations from normal – unique, unusual, unexpected events, conflict or controversy – are more
newsworthy than the commonplace.
 Currency
 When something unusual happens it can often focus attention on similar events and underlying
conditions. This “currency” is a direct tie to stories already in the news.
 Affinity
 People are interested in other people who share characteristics or have an affinity with them, based on
religion, nationality race, etc.
 Human Interest
 Stories that have strong emotional content are said to have human interest. These features vary from
stories that makes us laugh, to those that make us cry. Seek out uplifting stories about people
overcoming obstacles.