“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
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 you knew that in March 2017, 4 people were killed and dozens injured when a terrorist rammed his car into pedestrians and attacked a policeman outside the Houses of Parliament, before being shot by armed police. I also bet you knew that later in the same year a similar attack, in which a gang of men (using the same methods to target pedestrians near London Bridge) killed 8 and wounded dozens more. But I’d wager you may not have heard that in the very same months of the very same year attacks in Pakistan and Nigeria killed well upwards of 100 people each. This map might be an illuminating way for you to question how the reality of terrorist activity in the world compares to the reality constructed by 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: proximity, sensationalism, relevance and extraordinariness.
- Construction of Reality in the News
- Criteria to Judge Newsworthiness
- The News: Gates, Agendas and Values
- Why News Junkies Are So Glum About Politics
Class Activity: “Read All About It!”
Look at the front pages of today’s newspapers and collate a small selection of the stories that you find in various papers around the world. Apply the newsworthiness criteria to these stories and discuss your findings with others in your class:
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? Write up your understanding of the newsworthiness criteria with some well-chosen examples in a one-two learner portfolio entry.
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