By Contributing Writer Kashima Grant
What Is News
What is news? And why is “this” particular story considered news and why is “that” particular story considered news? I find myself asking the questions multiple times a day when I see headlines and stories via television, the Internet and other news sources.
Tom Bettag, an executive producer of what was the The Koppel Group at Discovery Channel, wrote in a December 15, 2016, Nieman Report article that, “A sociologist once asked me how we (journalists) decide what news is. He was appalled at my response: Those of us in the newsroom decide what news is.” Bettag was being honest. The definition of news, according editors, producers and publishers who worked in corporate news American and had yet to contend with social media and new media, was that news whatever they say it is. Rudiments of this philosophy may still be alive in some newsrooms but definitely not in the significanse it was in America’s news rooms when Bettag was executive editor.
So this article is based on an assignment for my journalism ethics class, asking several media studies majors as well as other students, their opinions about what is news, the journalism business and how they get news information that they consider important to them.
Avid Maldonado, 23, says that “news is information provided from a media outlet that informs the consumer what is going on in the world locally and internationally.” Avid lives in the Bronx and his interview was conducted in person and via email.
Maldonado, dressed casually in black sneakers with red patterns, white socks, black shorts and a red graphic T-shirt when he was interviewed in person, said people receive their news from non-traditional sources, such as social media pages such as Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and blogs. He subscribes to CNN and Yahoo news. He uses these sources because, he says, “they are easily accessible on my mobile device which gives me access on my own terms.”
How does one determine what is important enough to be considered news? How does one filter through the available news sources to find the one that reports the news stories that one cares about? Technology has made it easier for many people to have access to sources that they consider news sources. More people are getting their news from online sources and news applications that are readily available on a phone or tablet.
Andrew Henry’s Theory
Lesia Forde, 23, says that she receives her news from news applications on her iPhone and her Yahoo application. She also says that she uses these sources primarily because they are “super-convenient as opposed to going and purchasing a newspaper or having to sit in front of the television to watch prime time news.” Forde, dressed casually in black sneakers with a white bottom, white socks, black denim pants and white T-shirt, lives in Rosedale, Queens.
This interview started in person and was concluded via email.
Andrew Henry, 21, who lives in Brooklyn, says, “I primarily get my news off of Twitter and Instagram. I do spend most of my time on social media outlets. I have my own theory which is, if it’s worth knowing, then I’ll hear about it.” Andrew, interviewed via email and in person, also said, “The reason why I check social media for my news, is because I know that the people that I follow will only discuss news that can be considered ground breaking and truthfully ‘worth knowing.”
With news so readily available on smart phones and tablets, it can still be difficult to find news stories worthy of our choice. We are living in a time with news sources reporting on the same stories in a race to see who can break the stories first, no matter what the stories are.
One headline I recall on CNN a few weeks ago told of the divorce between Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt. It was also reported by Yahoo, the New York Daily News, New York Post, and other news outlets. I personally don’t care to know about the personal life of celebrities.
Kimberly Thomas, 18, a Brooklyn College student yet to decide a major, says, “The news on television and in newspapers have become more of a source of entertainment in the sense that its aim is to attract people by using attention grabbing titles, or covering things about celebrities and such, rather than covering important events.” The Thomas interview was conducted in her home, and she was dressed casually in a black pencil skirt, white graphic T-shirt and black and white floral patterned Adidas sneakers.
Entertainment News, News That’s Entertaining
Eulalee Ward, a retired teacher who didn’t wish to share her age, expressed similar sentiments. “Some of the content used in these news headlines or stories don’t deserve this much attention,” she says. “Hearing about private lives of celebrities, who wears what, who divorce who, and who is seeing who and where is not something I am very interested in.” The interview with Ward was conducted in person at her home. She was dressed casually in a khaki colored Bermuda shorts, khaki and white horizontal striped shirt and slippers.
There are times when I Google news stories, so that I can get a variety of news sources to try to find some type of balance in my news of the day. I understand that news outlets are trying to give people what they want, so to speak, and that news that can be delivered in entertaining ways. News accounts, of course, about crime, war, politics and natural disasters aren’t meant for entertainment but I do believe that a lot of news is meant for entertainment.
News is meant to keep us up to date and in the know. It’s a way for us everyday people to know where to travel, or what our country is involved in and also to know what is going on within our communities. News headlines shouldn’t solely be based on how many times it has been shared or whether the post went viral on the internet. News outlets should always strive to provide more than just entertainment. They shouldn’t assume that headlines on Angelina Jolie and Kim Kardashian are solely what we want.
Contributing Writer Kashima Grant can be reached at Kashima.Grant26@myhunter.cuny.edu