News is information about current events that has been transmitted in some form or another – written, printed, distributed by word of mouth, published in a newspaper or magazine, broadcast on television or radio, or communicated over the internet. News can be factual or it can be based on opinion. It is often based on the principle of balance; two opposing sides are presented to the reader in order that they can make up their own mind about what is true or not.
The main job of news media – newspapers, magazines and radio – is to inform their readers, listeners or viewers. It is not their job to entertain, though they may do this through music, drama or cartoons, crosswords in newspapers and the like. It is important to remember that the news you provide should always be accurate, whatever your editorial view of the matter. It is also important that your audience can trust the information you provide – there are websites that evaluate sources of news for their consistency in providing verifiable, documented and sourced information.
In terms of what makes good news, a story will be interesting to your audience if it is new, unusual, significant and about people. It is also useful to consider where the event took place. A coup d’etat in the country next door, for example, will probably have more impact than a coup in your own country.
Similarly, a story involving a crime is going to be more newsworthy if it involves money or someone of importance. However, there are many kinds of crime – road traffic offences, burglaries, robberies, forgery, etc. – that may be newsworthy in their own right, but do not have the impact of, for example, a bank heist or a murder.
All of these criteria have to be balanced against practical considerations such as the availability of information, the speed at which it can be reported and the ability of journalists to find suitable sources for the story. These factors can vary from time to time, and it is for this reason that events with similar intrinsic news values do not always rise up the hierarchy in the same way.
When writing news, you should aim to keep the story as brief as possible whilst ensuring that all of the key information is included. This will help your reader to get the most out of it, and it will also help you to stay within the limits of the word count for your piece. In a newspaper this is the physical limit of the fold; online it is the virtual one of the bottom of the screen before readers have to start scrolling down. It is also important to write the most important information at the top of the article – above the fold, in other words. This will encourage your reader to continue reading. It will also be easier for them to read if you use short paragraphs rather than long ones.