DEFINATION OF NEWS
What is News?
News is one of the most difficult issues to define in mass communication. There are almost as many definitions of news as there are journalists. Even laymen in the streets can readily come up with acceptable definitions of news. In general terms, news is very relative and depends on what one thinks is news. At any given moment, millions of events happen simultaneously throughout the world. “Obasanjo sacks Education Minister”, “FRA Williams dies,” “Super Ea gles thrashes Gabon,” “Obama wins Re-election, Clinton in Sex Sca ndal, and so on are potentially news. However, they do not become news until some reporters give an account of them. In other words, news is the account of an event, not the event itself.
We can now consider some definitions given by scholars and media professionals thus:
William S. Maulsbyl defined news thus:
• News is an accurate, unbiased account of the significant facts of a timely happening that is of interest to the readers of the newspaper that prints the account.
William G. Bleyer defines it like this:
• News is anything timely that interests a number of people; and the best news is that which has the greatest interest for the greatest number.
Mitchel Chainley defined news as:
• The timely report of facts or opinions that hold interest of importance, or both for a considerable number of people.
Prof. Charles Coates defined it thus:
• News is what interests the reader, the viewer, the reporter, the editor, the producer, their spouses and their neighbours. News is what affects their diets and their lives.
Sam Zelman of CNN says:
• News is what is important because of its impact on society; it is what people need to know and what they want to know.
There have been other numerous definitions of news but interwoven in all of this is the fact that news must be something of interest to a significant number of people. In this regard, the nature of news is always changing because community interests and standards are always changing. For instance, the Western definition of news emphasises an event that is out of the ordinary, exciting, sensational, and of the “man-biting dog” variety. According to Lord Northcliffe , who revolutionised journalism in England between 1890 and 1920 (incidentally he died a raving lunatic but very wealthy), “if a dog bites a man, it is NOT news, but when a man bites a dog, it is News.”
This definition has since influenced Western journalists and media in the reportorial duties. To them, news is made in the developing countries only when there are scandals, coups, civil wars, uprisings, natural disasters, and so on. Western norms and values maintain that “bad” news is better than “good” news. That is why when 1 00 planes take off from a base to a destination and 99 of them arrive safely and one crashes, the 99 that arrived safely will not be mentioned or reported but much noise will be made about the only one that crashed. That is news for the Western mass media and audience.
However, for this course, I will define news as an accurate, unbiased account of a current, timely event, which is reported in the mass media and is significant to a large number of people in a locality. Furthermore, in contemporary thinking, today’s news is about real life, real people, real events, real places or real issues in a real world reported in real time using any available means of communication. Agbese (2008) also sees news as finding out and publishing the things people do not want others to know and second, anything that will make people talk.