What is news?

I got into an interesting e-discussion recently about what constitutes news. It was prompted by a colleague’s very interesting post suggesting that true news can actually be measured by the amount of risk it brings to you as an individual. And if a news story introduces no risk to your life, should it be classified as news?

Income tax increases add risk to my life, so I class any related stories as news. But arguably, a reduction in income tax rates does not introduce any risk and according to the above proposition, any related stories should not constitute news to me. I’d beg to differ, as they offer opportunity.

Three “news” stories annoy the shit out of me on an annual basis: Spaniards throwing tomatoes at each other in the street; Spaniards running away from angry bulls, again in the street; and backward people from Gloucestershire injuring themselves while throwing themselves down a hill alongside hunks of cheese. (Maybe if the bulls were combined with the tomatoes, it would become newsworthy. Somehow, I think not.)

But there is a category of information currently classified as news that does fall foul of the risk-based definition, but that I would want to know about: Sport. Maybe “news” should be classified into one of two buckets: risk and interest. More on this another time.


4 Responses to “What is news?”

  1. art vandelay on June 12th, 2008 09:36

    You’re nearly there. News can be classified by facts relating to existence or survival, which could loosely be clssified as risk and that which can be classified by meaning.

    If we paid attention to only survival, the world would be run by small groups of women and we’d all be eating moss. But humans need meaning. They need big celebrations when the men kill an ox. This is meaning. This is even more newsworthy.

    There is a possible third category, under which sport falls: metaphor.

  2. art vandelay on June 12th, 2008 09:36

    I should have said *can* be even more newsworthy.

  3. Manny on June 15th, 2008 04:36

    A nice dollop of schadenfreude goes a long way to being news in my book.

  4. UKOK on June 22nd, 2008 22:31

    Sort of. My blog did not cover the risk item, that was a suggestion in an email. But the point is sound. I am not sure your view on what I said was right. You imply that income tax going up increases risk and should therefore be news (according to your view of what I said) but that lowering the taxes does not increase my risk and therefore should not be newsworthy.

    I think my view is news is something that alters the risk in my life rather than only affects the risk to me in a negative way. In fact my blog outlines exactly that point that there is not enough life affirming news producing a inappropriately negative and risky view of the world.

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