What is News?

Tony Harcup, Deirdre O’Neill
  • Journalism Studies, March 2016, Taylor & Francis
  • DOI: 10.1080/1461670x.2016.1150193

News Values

What is it about?

The deceptively simple question “What is news?” remains pertinent even as we ponder the future of journalism in the digital age. This article examines news values within mainstream journalism and considers the extent to which news values may be changing since earlier landmark studies were undertaken. Its starting point is Harcup and O’Neill’s widely cited 2001 updating of Galtung and Ruge’s influential 1965 taxonomy of news values. Just as that study put Galtung and Ruge’s criteria to the test with an empirical content analysis of published news, this new study explores the extent to which Harcup and O’Neill’s revised list of news values remains relevant given the challenges (and opportunities) faced by journalism today, including the emergence of social media. A review of recent literature contextualises the findings of a fresh content analysis of news values within a range of UK media 15 years on from the last study. The article concludes by suggesting a revised and updated set of contemporary news values, whilst acknowledging that no taxonomy can ever explain everything.

Why is it important?

in a democratic society the public rely on news outlets and their journalists for information and for holding the powerful to account. However, this places the news media and those that own or work in this industry in a position of power. He (or she) who controls the message and flow of information also wields influence. What a journalist chooses to cover (and by the same token, what they choose not to cover, since this can be just as significant), and the way they choose to cover some events (who is interviewed, whose viewpoint is expressed, what facts and figures are included) helps us to deconstruct news media. It is important for media scholars to help the public understand how decisions about news are taken. In addition, news values are worth studying because they inform the mediated world that is presented to news audiences, providing a shared shorthand operational understanding of what working journalists are required to produce to deadlines. It is the way news values work in practice that results in them being articulated and conveyed to new journalism trainees and journalism students, and they are also used by public relations professionals and others aiming to obtain maximum news coverage of events (or pseudo-events).

Read Publication


The following have contributed to this page: Ms Deirdre O'Neill