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Deciding What Is News

 “What is sometimes called the news-making process is the result of a daily bargaining process between various personnel in newspapers and broadcast stations. Editors look at the world they cover with particular standards and measures. They attempt to direct reporters to cover the most interesting, newsworthy material. There are some generally accepted definitions of news, and these provide the justification for what appears in the newspaper. But many competing forces want space in the news columns and on newscasts.” These Passages are extracted from the book, Mass Communication volume one, written by McQuail and Denis. This book is about debates between Merrill and Dennis on various media issues such as freedom of the press and public access to the media. While reading this book, as an editor of the Dongguk Post, I was interested in the chapter 10 of the book about a matter of who makes the decisions about what is considered news; the Editors or Market Forces.

 According to the book, Dennis argues that market forces should decide what is news. He thinks that editors have too much control over selecting what news to present to the public. Also, since news is difficult to define and numerous perspectives exist on what actually is news, it is preferable to have news selection determined by market forces, which give a broader account of events rather than relying on an editor’s preferences alone. In contrast, Merrill argues that editors’ judgments should decide what is news. To sum up, she thinks that market forces, government and other institutions naturally have their impact of news, but the media managers should determine what to publish. Also, obviously editors will take the audience’s desires into consideration but these desires should not determine news decisions in a microscopic sense.

 Rightly or wrongly, I believe that I am in accord with Merrill. Generally, there are four factors in determining news: audience, medium, competition and editorial judgment. First one is getting to know the audience. It is the most basic. News is a report of something new and there are always something new going on. But, what journalists attempt to do is determine what’s truly important to their audience. Second, it is the medium’s impact on journalist’s message. For example, some stories are better suited and more engaging with the audience on television because of strong visual elements. Also, radio relies on good sound bites and natural sound. Third one is the role of competition. Reporters always aspire to break stories, get scoops. More often, though, something has already been reported so you should seek to advance the story by adding new details and perspectives, updates and local angles.

 With an understanding of audience, medium and competition, the most important factor in determining news is editorial judgment. There is a list of traditional news values: Journalist stress current information and information that has an impact on their audience and stories that involve thousands of readers. Unusualness is also more newsworthy than the commonplace. Based on these traditional news values, editors decide what is news.

 This being said, news is an editorial matter. However, there are real word pressures such as advertiser, government and audience pressures. I think the way to attack that problem is through stressing the need for multi-perspective news. If the journalists report news with various and balanced perspectives, they can break the media’s unwritten hegemony of values and respond appropriately to market forces.

Kim Yu-young  tbfor700@dongguk.edu

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