What determine qualities of news

By Raja Umi Nurshahirah Raja Izzuddin

Basically a news item is to educate and bring awareness to the readers about what have been happening around the readers. The news items are loaded with current information and facts that have been supported by either professionals or eye-witnesses of the events or the authorities concerned before they get published in the media.

In the 19th century, print news became popular for readers to know what exactly happened around them especially during the war-torn years. People were usually looking for factual details and at the same time there were some parties who wanted to create awareness among the people of their hopes and voices.

That is why those people supported the idea of the news and were eagerly awaiting the arrival of the newspapers.

However, the world nowadays is filled with new technology where readers can gain access to the latest news through smart phones, tablets or computers regardless where they are and what they are doing. Be it in the city or in the countryside, people know the exact locations and how to search for news using the new technology to keep abreast with latest news.

Online news is very convenient and that is also the reason why traditional printed newspapers are fiercely competing not only among themselves but also with the online newspapers. It has been reported that many printed newspapers around the globe have suffered following the drastic decline in their physical copies or circulation as readers have now moved to online news. So that is why traditional newspapers are struggling to make sure readers continue to purchase the printed newspapers.

Enticing the readers

A journalist should know the quality of news that readers are searching for to entice them to read the news. Long before the advent of new technology people might not have much options but to read news in printed forms, but as the world progressed with the new technology readers have become more selective. They tend to choose the kind of news they want to read or the news that their eyes could catch the most.

Not all readers read the whole newspaper especially when news are available online where they can choose the topics or subjects that interest them. As a journalist there’s no choice but to make sure that the stories written will interest the readers. He or she must therefore work hard to ensure what are reported and written catch the readers’ attention immediately.

I did a small study for my Principles and Practices of  Journalism final assignment recently to determine the qualities of news that readers are paying attention to. The newspaper that I studied is New Straits Times and the period is three weeks, from 25 April to  7 May 2016.

As we speak of the qualities of the news, there are certain qualities of the news that can get readers to be seriously engaged with the news items carried by the media. Those qualities are timeliness, proximity, unusual nature, human interest, conflict, impact, helpfulness, celebrities, entertainment and lastly, trend. These qualities are very important to the readers and when those qualities are involved, the curiosity of the readers would rise rapidly as they flip through the printed newspaper or scroll the online news to learn about the news.

Importance of Timeliness

The first quality of the news is timeliness. Timeliness is an event that happened on that particular day or the day before its publication. The readers usually want to know the latest news that happened around them especially when they deal with the online news. They expect journalists to keep on updating on latest events that occurred around the world where they cannot be there physically as they live in different parts of the world. To the readers, events that happened even without their knowledge is worthy of news that they need to read and know in order to be prepared for the worst.

For instance, in New Straits Times on 4 May 2016, it had been reported that snake species python was captured together with its 90 eggs at 9.20 a.m. in an oil palm plantation at Kampung Sungai Kerang. The news immediately was published at 2.16 p.m on the same day. Which means, the event that get published is fresh which happened on the same day and people do not know that kind of news will happen or discovered shortly.

Proximity

Second quality is proximity. Proximity is a situation that may interest the local because such an event happened in or close to the community. Usually, this category of news will interest a particular group of people that may be closely associated with their life either in positive or negative context.

To give an example, on 5 May 20l6, it had been stated in the news, ‘Kelantan school hit by second wave of hysteria’. In Kota Bharu, Kelantan, a school named SMK Pangkalan Chepa 2 was hit by second wave of hysteria involving 40 students and resulting in almost 1000 students being sent home to avoid any unnecessary accident from occurring again. Also, last month, nearly 100 students were hit by hysteria which led the school to call the bomoh to solve this problem. The people in Kelantan especially those who have kids in that school felt deeply involved in this story.

Unusual Nature

The third quality of the news is unusual nature. Unusual nature is the event that rarely happen or the events that are considered out-of-the-ordinary kind of events, or people engaged in unusual activities which are considered newsworthy. Readers would be attracted to this kind of rare stories that are of unpredictable nature that aroused public curiosity.

For example, on 4 May 2016, a journalist had reported that a wild boar died after getting its head stuck in between the school gates. The event happened at Kuantan, Pahang where the animal was spotted at 6.30 a.m and the security hurriedly alerted the authorities. They tried to save the wild boar but it died in the process of saving. A teacher from that school also stated that, such an incident was the first time in the school’s history.

Human Interest Stories

The fourth quality of the news is human interest. Readers like to read stories about people who have special problems, achievements or perhaps experience which they have managed to overcome or who seek to improve and inspire readers. The readers will be interested in the achievement story or on the experience shared in overcoming certain challenges, so they can learn from the experience and improve their live.

As an illustration, on 27 April 2016, a news item was published on Zurinah Hassan receiving the 13th National Laureate Award. This is such an achievement for her as she is also the first woman who received the honour of receiving the National Literature Award. On Oct 13 last year, Zurinah Hassan whose goes by the pen name Haniruz was chosen based on her contribution to the development of literature and also in spreading knowledge at the national and international levels. After her poetry called ‘Sesayup Jalan’ became famous in 1974, she went on to write short stories, novels and poems, some of which were translated into Japanese, French, Spanish and Russian.

Conflicts and the Interests

Thee fifth quality of the news is conflict. Conflict means stories involving conflicts that people face with government authrities or with other people and also a newsworthy kind of news, especially when the conflict reflects or are related to the local problems. Any kind of conflict that occurs either national or international would also be in the focus.

To illustrate, on 26 April 2016, it had been reported by the journalist on the news, ‘PKR slams Sarawak DAP chairman for making bankrupt accusation’. Those two parties have conflict regarding the bankruptcy that affected the votes. In Kuching, Sarawak, Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) denied the accusation towards them on the issues on Batu Kitang proposer Narawi Palayan. The manager of the campaign named Simon Siah agreed that there were unknown delay in the nomination process but both the proposer and the seconder for their candidate Voon Shiak Ni faced no issues with the Election Commission, therefore, there is no issue of bankruptcy.

Impact Stories

The sixth quality of news is impact. Impact is reaction stories towards that particular news event of news angles that may affect readers especially when major national stories or tragedies occur in a community. This massive kind of tragedies will interest readers who may be affected by the news, hence, this is a newsworthy kind of news that people around will pay extra attention to.

To give an example, on 5 May 2016, six members of important people in Malaysia including two of them, Plantation, Industries and Commodities Deputy Minister, Datuk Noriah Kasnon and Kuala Kangsar MP, Datuk Wan Mohammad Khairil Anuar Wan Ahmad were missing a few days and then reported dead following a helicopter crash. So many people sent their condolences and prayers on social media on the demise of the late Noriah Kasnon and other passengers onboard the fated helicopter. This story clearly shows the impact on the administration of Malaysia and on the people.

About Helpfulness

The seventh quality of news is helpfulness. The stories that are related to the consumer, health, and other how-to stories help readers cope with their lives. This kind of stories usually teach people on how to do a good things or to improve society to become much better. These stories can give solution to their problems in their daily life and they can adopt the solution in daily life. That is why stories of this kind are newsworthy.

For clarification, on 29 April 2016, Tengku Mahkota Tengku Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah of Pahang stated in the news that the government should take seriously the increasing number of criticisms of the people and views on environmental issues and take positive steps towards protecting the environment. He also said that the government should consider making necessary arrangements, including water rationing, as the duration of the hot weather was still unknown to them. Not only that, he also called on all Pahang mosques to organise the ‘Istisqa‘ supplementary prayer.

News about Celebrities

The eighth quality of news is celebrities. People who are well-known for their accomplishments, not only entertainers, but the athletes who have gained fame for their achievements, and the attention that they received from the audience, either good or bad. Usually, news related to celebrities received a lot of attention by the readers.

To elaborate more, on 7 May 2016, readers certainty would like stories relating to a celebrity named Justin Timberlake. He returned again on the screen after taking several years of rest. It had been stated that the famous superstar returns with the sound track and music video called “Can’t Stop the Feeling” a few days ago that apparently will appear in upcoming 3D movie “TROLLS”.  His fans will be enchanted with development by this superstar especially when they had been patiently waiting  for his new sound track.

Entertainment News

The ninth quality of news is entertainment. The meaning of entertainment is the kind of stories that can amuse the readers, or make the readers feel good or also help them to enjoy their leisure time. Entertainment stories are the kind of news that evoke thriller kind of emotion of readers, rather than the feel calm in reading the story, and they can sit leisurely without worrying about anything in their heart and mind.

As an example, on 5 May 2016, it has been reported that the movie Ada Apa Dengan Cinta 2 has been ranked the highest in Malaysia. This Indonesian romance drama has collected more than RM2.5 million in box office taking, making it the highest grossing Indonesian film in Malaysia. The highly-anticipated sequel of the hit 2002 movie, is currently showing at a total of 100 cinemas here and in Brunei. The movie lovers certainly love to read this kind of preview, therefore, the chances they will watch the movie will be higher. There will be no strong emotion involved and their hearts and minds are at peace while making the decision. Therefore, readers prefer to read this kind of stories in their leisure time.

Trendy

Last but not least is trend. Trend is the kind of stories that may indicate patterns or shifts in issues that may influence readers’ lives. There are so many issues that can influence readers’ lives such as crimes, social issues and other forces in society either in a positive or negative way. This kind of story also makes people pay extra attention because every move they make will determine the outcome.

For example, on 26 April 2016, a report stated that a decision on dengue vaccine to be made in July. As people already know, dengue has been haunting the people in Malaysia a long time ago. Thus, a vaccine is really needed as victims of dengue keep on continuing since a long time ago without any proper vaccine. Even though so many precautions have been made, the dengue issue never seem to diminish. It makes readers feel furious as the number of victims keep increasing.

Thus, those stated are all the qualities of the news that have been reported in New Straits Times as I researched them for my journalism assignment recently.***

Raja Shera

Write to make history rather than be history. Allah always inside me. InsyaAllah!

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