What is news?

Notes to accompany Exeter Observer community journalism courses and news writing seminars.

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 (also likely to 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 preferred (language, identity, values etc.)
    • elite organisations/institutions: stories involving powerful actors 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 sector’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.

Further considerations

Recent stories
Great Western Hotel beside Exeter St David's railway station

Analysis  ⁄  Community & society

Exeter rough sleepers in COVID-19 emergency accommodation face uncertain future

Exeter City Council has yet to confirm whether it will use any of the £2.15m Rough Sleeping Initiative funding it has received since 2018 to keep housing rough sleepers when government emergency accommodation funding runs out.

Read more ...

Exeter City Futures Net Zero Exeter 2030 plan

News  ⁄  Climate & environment

Exeter City Council accepts climate emergency plan to make city carbon neutral by 2030

Chief Executive warns that resourcing the plan is "problematic" given COVID-19 financial challenges and that lack of resources limits the council's capacity for immediate practical action.

Read more ...

Cyclists, pedestrians and cars compete for space on Union Road, Exeter, 1 June 2020

News  ⁄  Transport & mobility

Devon County Council fails to deliver promised COVID-19 cycling and walking infrastructure

Deadline for action on social distancing for safe travel set by county cabinet member passes despite Devon receiving £1.7 million share of government emergency fund.

Read more ...

Department for Transport New Road Layout for Social Distancing coronavirus road sign

Analysis  ⁄  Transport & mobility

Coronavirus exposes council failure to deliver Exeter transport plans

Devon County Council's failure to deliver overdue Exeter transport strategy and cycling and walking plan has led to an inadequate response to government demands for emergency coronavirus road layout changes.

Read more ...

Exeter Cathedral and Quay car park top deck

News  ⁄  Transport & mobility

Coronavirus halts decision to spend £3.9 million on car park repairs and upgrade

Exeter City Council spending plans will be revisited in June at same time as Net Zero Exeter carbon reduction plan is discussed by Executive.

Read more ...