There are many elements that decide what news we, the public, are exposed to obviously some are more influential than others but each factor has a part in the selection process.
News values have a great bearing when it comes to determining the news content, each can halt a stories journey to the front page or alternatively boost it to centre stage. The news values are the basic guidelines journalists follow when choosing which features are most relevant to their audience, which will attract most interest, which will improve the companies image and so on, vital news values include proximity, personalisation, threshold and composition.
Within these news values “gate-keepers” (editors and owners) have the power to completely overrule any decisions about which features are included and which aren’t – because of this the news we are exposed to can often be biased as the owner of a newspaper is extremely unlikely to publish reports damaging their reputation.
The media can also be reshaped if a story is likely to break partnerships between the owner/editor and their allies, if any narrative projects a negative image of any people or companies which fund or befriend the media text then the story will not be included.
An example of this is the case of Princess Diana’s affair with James Hewitt. Rupert Murdock, the owner of The Sun newspaper, new about this story three years before it was actually exposed, he held the story because he was close with the royal family and did not want to loose this influential ally.
Similarly the beliefs and morals that structure the news, especially newspapers, are those of the gate-keepers, this has an enormous effect on society as its probable the views and opinions people develop will conform to those of the information they have been exposed to.
Editors and Owners are not the only ones who have a say over what news the public are allowed to see, news agencies are companies that gather, edit and select news and photographs before distributing there chosen items to newspapers and programmes which are subscribed to their services. If a news agency decides not to include a story or photograph the media do not have a chance to report it and it therefore is not uncovered to society.
Time and space greatly affect how the news is accounted; there is never enough time or space to fit in every single event that has taken place that day, because of this a lot of stories are never included. Limited space isn’t helped by the amount of advertisements incorporated into both newspapers and broadcast news – media sources need adverts to help fund them this means the more ads the more money which is why there are such an abundance. The pages and times reserved for advertisements take away space that could be used for more stories, which are instead excluded. In a typical tabloid newspaper seventeen pages are devoted to adverts and almost every other page has at least one advert on it.
Likewise, deadlines can effect which features can be printed, a story can not be included if its only half finished and considering the number of stories journalists have to research then write all in a short time – its not surprising some are left unfinished and therefore unpublished.
Perhaps the most important element which controls the news content are the laws which prohibit certain reports to reach the press, a few examples would include; ‘The laws of libel’ this law ensures that no untrue statement about a person which might bring him or her into contempt, ridicule, dislike of hostility in society. ‘Defence Notices’ request that journalists do not report certain news items which the government believes to be against national interest, these usually concern military secrets.
The laws stated above along with others prevent certain stories from being published or for full details to be given, determining what the papers/news programmes are allowed to include and barring any defamation. If these laws are disobeyed the journalist is likely to be made redundant, recently it was discovered that a reporter for Sky News had fabricated a story about the Iraq war status this lead to him being fired and did not leave him with a reputable name in the media when looking for new employment, this illustration of the consequences of flouting the rules shows how serious it is taken.
Of course all of these contributors are focused on legal regulations and the media’s preferences, however a large factor in picking news stories is their entertainment value-what will draw in audiences, what will sell more papers? What the audience want to see greatly affects what and where reports are featured, everybody likes to read gossip and find out the latest scandals of celebrities and stories of this nature are extremely popular.
A newspaper is likely to feature these types of items on the front pages to draw in audiences or promote them so as they cannot be missed at a glance. Because of the gossip appeals to readers/watchers it dominates a lot of our news stories, The Daily Mirror newspaper chose a feature on Posh and Beck’s fashion sense over an update on the Iraq war.
One of the news values is proximity, this is a stories relevance depending on its location, geography does have a big influence on news content – also linking in with gaining audiences. Readers/watchers are going to be more interested in local stories which relate to themselves or their country, this means that often UK narratives have priority over foreign stories no matter how unimportant the British stories may be.
Examples of this can be found by comparing different newspapers and broadcasts, as a minority are inclined to choose significance over locality, The Telegraph featured a report on Romanian affairs whereas The Star newspaper had no mention of this.
In summary there are many elements which contribute to what news stories we see and how they are portrayed, the media set the agenda for our civilization and our individual views and opinions by limiting what news we are exposed to, however it would be impossible to make all the news of the world available and without bias.
Each of the many factors that determine a story’s future collaborate to shape today’s media and in turn shape what is considered right, wrong and normal in modern society.