Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Diploma in Journalism Course with Zachimalawi: Mass Media Writing

On the surface, defining news might seem easy.
There is no specific definition of news. Different people have defined news differently. One of the oldest definitions of news is “when a dog bites a man it is not news but when a man bites a dog its news.”

Other definitions of news:

• It is a break in the normal flow of events, an action or statement so important or unusual that is worth sharing with others.
• It is material that the public must have because it’s important.
• News is deviation from expected.
• It is anything that will make people talk.
• News is an account of what is happening around us.

Determinants of news

What makes news worth writing about?
Journalists use certain elements to judge whether an event or happening is worth writing about. These elements are called news values/ news determinants. Some of these determinants have been spelt out in the above definitions. For example, unusualness and importance.

There are a numbers of news values but the basic ones include:
Impact, unusualness and prominence.

a) Impact
impact means importance or significance. What is the
result of a news story? If many people are affected,
the story is important. ( e.g. fuel crisis)
b) Unusualness
This means the interruption in the expected. Something that makes you stop, stare and wonder- How did it happen? (e.g. a man bites a dog, giving birth to a stone)
c) Prominence
People in big positions and widely known are
prominent. They are news makers. People are interested in whatever they do, small or big. (e.g. presidents, musicians )

Other determinants

d) Conflict
People battle each other. They have different ideologies, they fight things like hunger and diseases. Other examples of conflicts are wars, political campaigns, demonstrations. These are all conflicts and people are interested in reading them.
e) Proximity
Proximity means how close you are the event, emotionally or geographically. If something happens near us we are more interested in it than something that takes place away from us.
Proximity has another meaning. People feel attached to those with whom they share common interests/ characteristics. For example Africans are interested in the presidency of Obama because he has an African origin.

f) Timeliness
The latest is what makes news. News has a short lifespan. What makes news today has greater impact than what happened two weeks ago. However some situations are always interesting and this leads us to another determinant of news which is currency.
g) Currency
People have continuous interest in matters that affect their daily lives. These include issues concerning health, education, money.

Good reporters are good listeners. They go to places where people, observe and listen-they discover news.

Journalists have certain characteristics that help them to handle assignments thoroughly and accurately. They develop stories out of the ordinary. The following are characteristics of reporters.

Reporters ask questions. They are so curious. They look beneath the hippo’s nose. They have nose for news.

Curiosity leads to creativity. When there is no breaking news, a reporter comes up with story ideas after observing, listening and reading.
One way of showing your creativity is spotting trends. E.g why are students interested in journalism?

No matter how knowledgeable or creative a reporter is, he/she will be of little use if he does not meet dealines. Meeting deadlines is one of qualities the a journalist should have. While working towards deadlines, a reporter should make sure that everything he/she writes is accurate.

Journalism is a profession that needs commitment on the side of the reporter. He/she serves the public.
Journalists are faithful to facts no matter what the consequences. He/she should not create stories that have not happened.

A reporter should be dependable. He/she should do assignments that are given to him/her.

A reporter disciplines himself to write all the time.

Objectivity is important because it allows the reader to have facts without the interference of the reporter’s opinions, feelings and conclusions.
The reporter must be close enough physically and emotionally to his/her subject to understand what is being observed. But at the same time the reporter maintain a certain distance to keep things into perspective.

NOTE.The profession of journalism requires a lot of reading and writing.


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