Saturday, June 30, 2012

The Era of Social News Media™

Has Facebook become part of the news media?

"News" is defined as "Current events"

One theory claims that the English word "news" developed in the 14th century as a special use of the plural form of "new". In Middle English, the equivalent word was newes, like the French nouvelles and the German neues. Similar developments are found in the Slavic languages – the Czech and Slovak noviny (from nový, "new"), the cognate Polish nowiny and Russian novosti – and in the Celtic languages: the Welsh newyddion (from newydd) and the Cornish nowodhow (from nowydh)

We know that newspapers were invented in the early part of 17th century.

In order to understand what is news, one first needs to know the history of News.

In Ancient Rome, Acta Diurna, or government announcement bulletins, were made public by Julius Caesar. They were carved in metal or stone and posted in public places.

The first documented use of an organized courier service for the diffusion of written documents is in Egypt, where Pharaohs used couriers for the diffusion of their decrees in the territory of the State (2400 BC).

The oldest news agency is the Agence France-Presse (AFP). It was founded in 1835 by a Parisian translator and advertising agent, Charles-Louis Havas as Agence Havas.

In Early modern Europe, increased cross-border interaction created a rising need for information which was met by concise handwritten newssheets. In 1556, the government of Venice first published the monthly Notizie scritte, which cost one gazetta. These avvisi were handwritten newsletters and used to convey political, military, and economic news quickly and efficiently to Italian cities (1500–1700) — sharing some characteristics of newspapers though usually not considered true newspapers. Due to low literacy rates, news was at times disseminated by town criers.

What is News

Common sense tells us that news content should contain the "Five Ws" (who, what, when, where, why, and also how) of an event.  

Although there should be no questions remining, as per the theoretical definition of News, which is typically seen in the exhibition of newspapers placing importance in the gathering followed by reporting of hard news stories on the first pages. With the most important information at the beginning, busy readers can read as little or as much as they desire.

Recently, local stations and networks with a set format are taking news stories and break them down into the most important aspects due to time constraints. As observed, cable news channels such as BBC News, Fox News, MSNBC, and CNN, are taking advantage of a story, sacrificing other, decidedly less important stories, and giving as much detail about breaking news as possible.

With news organizations are aiming for objectivity and reporters claiming to cover all sides of an issue without bias, as compared to commentators or analysts, who provide opinion or personal point-of-view the result is a laying out of facts in a sterile, noncommittal manner, and then standing back to "let the reader decide" which view is true.

In everything to do with News, the fundamental aspect is the newsrothiness of a news item. Newsworthiness is defined as a subject having sufficient relevance to the public or a special audience to warrant press attention or coverage. Historically, in some countries and at some points in history, what news media and the public have considered "newsworthy" has met different definitions, such as the notion of news values. For example, mid-twentieth-century news reporting in the United States focused on political and local issues with important socio-economic impacts, such as the landing of a living person on the moon or the cold war. More recently, the focus similarly remains on political and local issues; however, the news mass media now comes under criticism for over-emphasis on "non-news" and "gossip" such as celebrities' personal social issues, local issues of little merit, as well as biased sensationalism of political topics such as terrorism and the economy. The dominance of celebrity and social news, the blurring of the boundary between news and reality shows and other popular culture, and the advent of citizen journalism may suggest that the nature of ‘news’ and news values are evolving and that traditional models of the news process are now only partially relevant. Newsworthiness does not only depend on the topic, but also the presentation of the topic and the selection of information from that topic.

The modern ecology of news is defined as “Everything we thought we once knew about journalism needs to be rethought in the Digital Age”, according to professor of Sociology and Communication Michael Schudson.

Who is Michael Schudson

He has an undergraduate degree from Swarthmore College, and a doctorate in sociology from Harvard University. From 1976 he was assistant professor at the University of Chicago. In 1980 he joined the faculty of University of California, San Diego, where he was a Professor of Communication and Adjunct Professor of Sociology until 2009. He is currently a full-time faculty member of The Journalism School at Columbia University. He received a MacArthur Foundation award in 1990.

Understanding 'news values' is as critical as the 'ecology of news'. News values, sometimes called news criteria, determine how much prominence a news story is given by a media outlet, and the attention it is given by the audience. A. Boyd states that: "News journalism has a broadly agreed set of values, often referred to as 'newsworthiness'...". The reader can read more about news values here The aspects of 'news values' that I would like the reader to note are:
  • Frequency: Events that occur suddenly and fit well with the news organization's schedule are more likely to be reported than those that occur gradually or at inconvenient times of day or night. Long-term trends are not likely to receive much coverage.
  • Negativity: Bad news is more newsworthy than good news.
  • Unexpectedness: If an event is out of the ordinary it will have a greater effect than something that is an everyday occurrence.
  • Unambiguity: Events whose implications are clear make for better copy than those that are open to more than one interpretation, or where any understanding of the implications depends on first understanding the complex background in which the events take place.
  • Personalization: Events that can be portrayed as the actions of individuals will be more attractive than one in which there is no such "human interest."
  • Meaningfulness: This relates to the sense of identification the audience has with the topic. "Cultural proximity" is a factor here -- stories concerned with people who speak the same language, look the same, and share the preoccupations as the audience receive more coverage than those concerned with people who speak different languages, look different and have different preoccupations.
  • Reference to elite nations: Stories concerned with global powers receive more attention than those concerned with less influential nations.
  • Reference to elite persons: Stories concerned with the rich, powerful, famous and infamous get more coverage.
  • Conflict: Opposition of people or forces resulting in a dramatic effect. Stories with conflict are often quite newsworthy.
  • Consonance: Stories that fit with the media's expectations receive more coverage than those that defy them (and for which they are thus unprepared). Note this appears to conflict with unexpectedness above. However, consonance really refers to the media's readiness to report an item.
  • Continuity: A story that is already in the news gathers a kind of inertia. This is partly because the media organizations are already in place to report the story, and partly because previous reportage may have made the story more accessible to the public (making it less ambiguous).
  • Composition: Stories must compete with one another for space in the media. For instance, editors may seek to provide a balance of different types of coverage, so that if there is an excess of foreign news for instance, the least important foreign story may have to make way for an item concerned with the domestic news. In this way the prominence given to a story depends not only on its own news values but also on those of competing stories. (Galtung and Ruge, 1965)
  • Competition: Commercial or professional competition between media may lead journalists to endorse the news value given to a story by a rival.
  • Co-optation: A story that is only marginally newsworthy in its own right may be covered if it is related to a major running story.
  • Prefabrication: A story that is marginal in news terms but written and available may be selected ahead of a much more newsworthy story that must be researched and written from the ground up.
  • Predictability: An event is more likely to be covered if it has been pre-scheduled. (Bell, 1991)
  • Time constraints: Traditional news media such as radio, television and daily newspapers have strict deadlines and a short production cycle, which selects for items that can be researched and covered quickly.
  • Logistics: Although eased by the availability of global communications even from remote regions, the ability to deploy and control production and reporting staff, and functionality of technical resources can determine whether a story is covered. (Schlesinger, 1987)

An evolutionary psychology explanation for why negative news have a higher news value than positive news starts with the empirical observation that the human perceptive system and lower level brain functions have difficulty distinguishing between media stimuli and real stimuli. These lower level brain mechanisms which function on a subconscious level make basic evaluations of perceptive stimuli, focus attention on important stimuli, and start basic emotional reactions. Research has also found that the brain differentiates between negative and positive stimuli and reacts quicker and more automatically to negative stimuli which are also better remembered. This likely has evolutionary explanations with it often being important to quickly focus attention on, evaluate, and quickly respond to threats. While the reaction to a strong negative stimulus is to avoid, a moderately negative stimulus instead causes curiosity and further examination. Negative media news is argued to fall into the latter category which explains their popularity. Lifelike audiovisual media are argued to have a particularly strong effects compared to reading.  

What makes Facebook a News entity?

Facebook is known as the world's best social networking platform. 

Is it?

In my opinion, Facebook has all of the above criteria employed by 'news values'. Its features of Share, Like and Timeline have given rise to a new era of news - the Social News Media.

We should welcome Facebook as a new edition to the world of news conglomerate.

What do you think. Let me know by commenting to this post. 

In conclusion, it is only time before Twitter also gets labelled as a new entry to the new media. 


  1. News on Wikipedia 
  2. News Values on Wikipedia
  3. Shirkey, Clay (2008). Here Comes Everybody. Penguin. p. 328. ISBN 978-1-59420-153-0.
  4. "United Courier Systems". Retrieved 2012-03-09.
  5. Brook, Timothy. (1998). The Confusions of Pleasure: Commerce and Culture in Ming China. Berkeley: University of California Press. ISBN 0-520-22154-0 (Paperback). Page xxi.
  6., A Newspaper Timeline, World Association of Newspapers
  7. Infelise, Mario. "Roman Avvisi: Information and Politics in the Seventeenth Century." Court and Politics in Papal Rome, 1492–1700. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002. 212,214,216–217
  8. Weber 2006, p. 396; World Association of Newspapers: "Newspapers: 400 Years Young!"
  9. Broderick, James F.; Darren W. Miller (2007). Consider the source: A Critical Guide to 100 Prominent News and Information Sites on the Web. Information Today, Inc.. p. 1. ISBN 0-910965-77-3.
  10. "Public Journalism and the Problem of Objectivity". Retrieved 2012-03-09.
  11. Thomas, Helen (2006). Watchdogs of Democracy?. pp. Chapter 5 "Spinning the News" p. 57.
  12. "Re-thinking Objectivity". CJR. Retrieved 2012-03-09.
  13. "newsworthiness - definition of newsworthiness by the Free Online Dictionary, Thesaurus and Encyclopedia". Retrieved 2012-03-09.
  14. "News values: immediacy and technology".
  15. [2] News Values. URL retrieved June 17, 2011.
  16. Schudson, Michael (2011). The Sociology of News (2nd edition). p. 205.
  17. Schudson, Michael (2011). Th Sociology of News (2nd edition). pp. 207–216.
  18. Schudson, Michael (2011). The Sociology of News (2nd edition). p. 207.

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