What is news?

Notes to accompany the Exeter Observer community journalism training course.

News values

Three categories

  1. Impact

    • threshold: event must pass minimum size/scale/intensity/effect threshold to be reported, beyond which greater impact = more coverage
    • frequency: sudden events more likely to be reported than long-term/gradually unfolding stories
    • negativity: bad news more exciting than good (likely to also score highly on other metrics)
    • unexpectedness: unusual more interesting than everyday (man bites dog not dog bites man)
    • unambiguity: easy to understand topics (fewer possible interpretations) more likely to be reported than those with complex background or requiring specialist knowledge
  2. Audience identification

    • personification: stories presented in terms of actions of named individuals or concerning particular people or presented from human interest angle preferred to those presented as result of abstract social forces (which are more likely to be presented if can be illustrated via references to individuals)
    • meaningfulness: cultural relevance or proximity to audience (language, identity, values etc) preferred
    • elite nations/regions: stories involving global powers more likely than those about less influential players
    • elite people: stories involving important persons (wealthy, powerful, famous, infamous) with influence on lives of audience more likely than those about ordinary people
  3. Pragmatics of coverage

    • consonance: stories matching media’s expectations of newsworthiness more likely to be reported than those which do not, journalists more likely to cover event for which they are prepared
    • continuity: story already in news and of persistent interest more likely to be reported, partly because previous coverage has made story more accessible to audience
    • compositional balance: story that adds to coverage range more likely to be reported than one that adds to pile of similar items


Has something happened that is:

NB the more criteria a story meets the better

BUT if story does not meet any of these criteria for its intended audience, it is unlikely to gain any attention.

More course notes

Recent stories
Exeter City Council accounts delayed by auditors Grant Thornton

Feature  /  Democracy & governance

Exeter & East Devon council accounts delayed by Grant Thornton's "lack of staff resources"

Annual accounts for local government, including Exeter City Council, have been delayed by private sector firms failing to complete their work on time after cost-cutting government auditing reforms.

Read more ...

2019 parliamentary elections - Devon Conservative vote share change bar chart

Analysis  /  Democracy & governance

Conservative vote share varies across Devon but still blocks an Independent MP in East Devon

Labour loses vote share in every constituency, but retains Exeter and Plymouth Sutton & Devonport to leave the county position unchanged from 2017.

Read more ...

Exeter election polling station

News  /  Democracy & governance

Conservatives hold Topsham in Exeter city council by-election

A by-election held on general election day produced an unusually high turnout but a lower Conservative vote share than at the May local elections.

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East Devon Independent Claire Wright 2019 general election candidate

Feature  /  Democracy & governance

East Devon Independent Claire Wright set to unite Remain voters in close historic two-way contest

Claire Wright is poised to make history by beating the Tories in East Devon next week. If she does it will be without thanks to the LibDems and Greens, who insisted on standing candidates against her despite the preferences of local party members and the Unite to Remain campaign.

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Striking University of Exeter history lecturers Dr Jennifer Farrell and Dr Gemma Clark

News  /  Education & skills

University of Exeter staff strike over pay, pensions and working conditions

The Exeter branch of the University & College Union (UCU) is taking part in a national eight day strike for fair pay and pensions, including equal pay for female and BAME staff, and against casualisation and increasing workloads.

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