Readers, Writers, Texts


“Events don’t get into the news by simply happening. They must fit in with what is already known… They must fulfill a certain number of criteria… must jostle for inclusion in the limited number of slots available.” 

Hartley, 1982
What makes a story newsworthy? This video explains something called the TRUTH test used in media training courses to show what journalists look for in a story.

Have you ever wondered why only bad news gets reported? Or why some bad news gets more coverage than other bad news? For example – I bet every time there’s a terrorist threat in the US or Western Europe, you’ll find out about it through newsfeeds, television broadcasts, mobile phone notifications and front page splashes. But I’d wager you may not hear about attacks in places like Pakistan, Yemen, Nigeria or Somalia. If you were to use only the news media to learn where in the world was most at threat from terrorism, you might well conclude that London, Paris, New York or Washington are constantly under threat of attack. These infographics, known as the Global Terrorism Index and produced by the IEP, might be an illuminating way for you to question how the reality of terrorist activity in the world compares to the ‘reality’ constructed by international media reporting of terrorist activity.

So, why do some events garner major media coverage and others are all but ignored?  The most famous names in the study of news media are Galthung and Ruge, whose seminal 1973 work provided a collection of criteria by which analysts agree the news is ‘selected’ or chosen.  Study the following materials to come to your own understanding of these criteria, including:

Class Activity: “Read All About It!”

Look at the front pages of recent newspapers in the UK and collate a selection of the stories that you find. Use this resource from PBS to consider major newsworthiness criteria – explain the most recent stories by applying these criteria. Discuss your findings with others in your class.

Areas of Exploration Guiding Conceptual Question

Why do some texts follow the ‘rules’ of their text type or genre while other texts change form publication to publication or from story to story? How have some genres evolved over time? Learning to recognise the generic conventions of texts will help you understand how – and why – some writers break the rules. Near the end of this resource, you’ll learn why newspaper front pages contain conventional features from which they hardly ever deviate. Learning these features and being able to explain the effects they create will help you with your Paper 1 analyses as well.

Learner Portfolio

What stories thrust themselves into your view when you visit the home page of an online news vendor, compared with the stories you have to scroll/click through to find? Which stories are more vividly illustrated? How does a news writer use language to sensationalise or dramatise events that might not be considered ‘newsworthy’?

Write up your understanding of newsworthiness, including some well-chosen examples from the news you have studied in class, in a one-two page learner portfolio entry.

Paper 1 Text Type Focus: newspaper front pages

At the end of your course you will be asked to analyze unseen texts (1 at Standard Level and 2 at Higher Level) in an examination. You will be given a guiding question that will focus your attention on formal or stylistic elements of the text(s), and help you decode the text(s)’ purpose(s). Newspaper front pages, whether broadsheet or tabloid, have clear conventions that you can learn and analyze. Use these practice texts to familiarise yourself with the different features of newspaper front pages and add them to your Learner Portfolio; you will want to revise text types thoroughly before your Paper 1 exam. You can find more information – including text type features and sample Paper 1 analysis – by visiting 20/20. Read through one or two of the exemplars, then choose a new paper and have a go at writing your own Paper 1 analysis response:

key features of newspaper front pages
  • Masthead: a strip across the top of a newspaper front page containing the name of the newspaper, the date of publication and the price. Tabloid papers from the UK are called ‘red-tops’ because of the red colour of the masthead.
  • Newsworthiness: the front page carries the main and most important story of the day, likely to appeal to the widest demographic.
  • Headline: the choice of words in a headline is essential to the tone and angle of the story. There are many techniques involved in creating headlines and you should definitely learn: slammer; pun; alliteration; elliptical headlines (which only include the keywords).
  • Typography: large and bold fonts are used for headlines in order to catch the attention of someone browsing a news-stand.
  • Visuals: all newspapers make use of photographs to accompany stories. Tabloid papers are dominated by images while broadsheet papers tend to use smaller photographs. Look out for pictures of people’s faces, which reveal emotion and create bias.
  • Ears: smaller columns or boxes at the top left and top right of the page, previewing other stories inside the paper.

Body of Work: …


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