Readers, Writers, Texts

Newsworthiness

“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, sensationalismrelevance and extraordinariness.

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:

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: Tabloid News

Tabloid Journalism is a type of journalism which is often discounted by those who prefer “true journalism.” Tabloid journalism tend to focus on more sensational or extreme topics such as celebrity gossip, outrageous crime, seemingly impossible events (such as the possibility of extra-terrestrials) or other sensational stories. Tabloid papers take the mantra of ‘if it bleeds, it leads’ extremely seriously.

Today, tabloid journalism is particularly strong in anglophone cultures such s the UK and the US. These papers are easily recognizable by the vivid red mastheads – in fact, in the UK tabloid papers such as the Sun, the Mirror and the (now discontinued) News of the World are also known as red-tops. Usually placed at shop checkout counters, many give these papers very little credibility. However, there is a huge market for ‘infotainment’ and advertisers have taken advantage of the circulation, making this business highly lucrative – and making the tabloid press more influential than you might like to believe.

One of the main characteristics of these “newspapers,” is that, unlike daily newspapers which report current events in a more professional or factual manner, the tabloid style is to emphasize the sensational elements of a story. For example, a more “reputable” newspaper may report on the death of a particular celebrity, noting the passing and possibly providing a brief history of his or her’s life. A tabloid, however, will concentrate on anything which may be possibly scandalous surrounding the person’s life. This could take the form of something as ridiculous as a pet dog or a shoe fetish; any of which may or not be true; but nonetheless, this is what a tabloid would focus on. 

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). Below are some news reports from tabloid newspapers. Work with these texts separately, making sure to note down the various tropes of each text type. Add the texts to your Learner Portfolio; you will want to revise text types thoroughly before your Paper 1 exam. Finally, you can test your Paper 1 analysis skills using the sample papers below:

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