What is "Real News" Supposed to Look Like?
In a world of talking heads, fake news, and up-to-the-second updates, we are left preoccupied, pondering the very underpinnings behind the concept of news itself. When did the news begin? Has it always been this way? What is “real news” supposed to look like, anyway?
Just a few months ago, my wife and I made the move into a new-build condominium high-rise in downtown Phoenix. So far, it has been a wonderful experience for us both, an accomplishment of sorts, and something we have been looking forward to for some time. Interestingly enough, among the amenities included in our new monthly Homeowners’ Association assessment fee is DirecTV; and along with it, enough local and mainstream news channels to occupy a lifetime. Given that we have not had living room access to cable news for several years now, I have come to find myself playing catch-up with world events. Much to my dismay, nonetheless, and despite my sincere and concerted efforts to take it all in, the manner in which the news is delivered has left me in a state of wonder regarding the credibility of the information conveyed and the culture of outrage it has seemingly fostered in my own heart.
In a world of talking heads, instant feeds, fake news, and up-to-the-second updates, I am left preoccupied, pondering the very underpinnings behind the concept of news itself. When did the news begin? Has it always been this way? What form did it take initially, and why? How has it evolved over time? In short, the foremost question I find myself asking is this: just what is “the news” supposed to look like, exactly?
Unfortunately, most definitions surrounding what “the news” is are fairly all-encompassing. In the end, however, they appear to all have something to do with it being either (1) newly received, or (2) noteworthy, information.
According to The News Manual, a three-volume book published with assistance from the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the criteria for what makes a good news story is whether it adequately satisfies the following 4 factors:
Whether a news story is determined to be good or bad, it is expected to fall into one of the following groupings:
In addition to understanding what does or does not meet the threshold of “news” based on the above criteria, whether or not to deem any particular piece of information newsworthy depends in large part on the deeper meaning we ascribe to the news – its purpose. We must ask ourselves why we are spreading the information in the first place.
“Absolute truth is a very rare and dangerous commodity in the context of professional journalism.”
In order to reach some form of common ground in this respect, we must settle on what the news is supposed to do for us. Is it meant to inform and educate? Or, is the job of news to also entertain? And if so, to what extent? Must the news be dull, dry, fact-intensive information that only varies relative to the medium within which it is conveyed? Or, should journalists and news outlets be afforded unlimited leeway when it comes to catching the reader/viewer/listener’s attention and disseminating information?
From the old days of town-criers, word-of-mouth was the only real sources of viral news around. Travelers to any particular region were the springboard for many local stories, recounting their adventures abroad. Eventually, the rise of print publications brought new opportunities for well-thought out perspectives, to include new forms of satire – even the yellow journalism (or “fake” news) we read about today. But whether the method is long-form, audio-visual, or perhaps one day even virtual, before we can know what news is, we must first come to an agreement, both as purveyors and consumers of information, about just what it is the news is for and what the purpose of its dissemination should truly be.
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