Traverse City Record-Eagle

Opinion

July 17, 2013

Keith Kappes: What is ‘news’ in today’s world?

Since the first journalist wrote the first news article and published it in the first newspaper, folks have been trying to define “news.”

Yesterday’s definitions have been swallowed up in the 24-hour TV news cycle and the incessant buzz of social media.

As a former journalism professor turned publisher, I find myself struggling to define “news” in the context of today’s world.

Historically, those who taught and practiced print and broadcast journalism generally embraced the premise that news is comprised of one or more of eight elements or characteristics.

But the traditional definitions of those elements have changed, as I will try to describe.

Immediacy — Some journalists like to say their business is news, not history. That means reporting something that just happened or is about to happen or that they want to happen.

Proximity — If it didn’t happen here or close by, is it important to me or my car pool? Technology has brought the world to our living room, tablet computer and smart phone. Where exactly is Maldives?

Prominence — There are as many definitions of this term as there are aspiring and perspiring musicians, drugged starlets, fading movie stars, corrupt politicians, serial killers and others in the public eye who arouse our curiosity. Their lives prove that name recognition can be a mixed blessing.

Oddity — Most of us are too polite to talk or write about freak shows but this category goes from the simply bizarre to the daredevils who look death or crippling trauma in the eye while their cheering spectators hope for the worst.

Conflict — Political, ethnic and religious zealots have been fighting and dying since the dawn of time. Mainly, the only things that change are names, geography, body counts and the number of television sound bites and tweets.

Suspense — This once legitimate news element has been reduced to cheap theatrics and media manipulation as we anxiously await the birth of celebrity babies, the outcome of media circus trials and the introduction of instant millionaires at pro sports drafts.

Text Only

Opinion Poll
AP Video
Raw: More Than 100,000 Gather for Easter Sunday Raw: Greeks Celebrate Easter With "Rocket War" Police Question Captain, Crew on Ferry Disaster Raw: Orthodox Christians Observe Easter Rite Ceremony Marks 19th Anniversary of OKC Bombing Raw: Four French Journalists Freed From Syria Raw: Massive 7.2 Earthquake Rocks Mexico Captain of Sunken SKorean Ferry Arrested Raw: Fire Destroys 3 N.J. Beachfront Homes Raw: Pope Presides Over Good Friday Mass Raw: Space X Launches to Space Station Superheroes Descend on Capitol Mall Man Charged in Kansas City Highway Shootings Obama Awards Navy Football Trophy Anti-semitic Leaflets Posted in Eastern Ukraine Raw: Magnitude-7.2 Earthquake Shakes Mexico City Ceremony at MIT Remembers One of Boston's Finest Raw: Students Hurt in Colo. School Bus Crash Deadly Avalanche Sweeps Slopes of Mount Everest