Top Ten Stories of 2013; Shape of 2014 News
This News Business
Defining what is news has not always been easy because what is news in the eyes of a journalist may be no more than drivel to another.
News is, however, the primary commodity through which a medium seeks to interest its audience with its regular diet of public intelligence.
It is the quality of news reporting, which is value-added information processing, that informs the weight patrons attach to what a news medium offers as news.
The New York Times prides itself as publishing “all the news that's fit for print”. In other words, what it doesn't publish is not news. The (Nigerian) Guardian asserts that what it publishes is shaped by a “conscience nurtured by truth”. It is a bold claim of fidelity to ethical consciousness, which must be tested regularly. Many other publications make similar claims, emphasizing the sanctity of truth-seeking as a cardinal objective of journalism.
It is a stressful enterprise with various considerations influencing the final decision on what is passed to the public as news. By professional practice and requirements of the law, there is usually a news manager designated with the responsibility of superintending and coordinating the editorial process of newsgathering, processing and dissemination.
That manager is the editor for newspaper and online titles; the news manager/director, in the electronic media.
As professional heads of their news media, editors work under tremendous pressure serving the public. As individuals and representatives of their news channels in a social setting, they shape public discourse with their notion of news. What they publish, rightly or wrongly, is news. It is an aggregate of their individual understanding of the news business as it is an expression of their organizational perspective; a blend of the managerial savvy and organizational interests.
As Bernard Roshcho posits in Newsmaking, “News is a social product that represents an attempt to make meaning of what is happening in society and an organizational product representing what a news organization decides to do with it.”
News usually occurs at great speed and requires good understanding to recognize, gather, interpret, process, contextualize and serve. “News is a report that presents a contemporary view of reality with regard to a specific issue, event or process,” say Melvin DeFleur and Everette Dennis. “It usually monitors change that is important to individuals or society and puts that change in the context of what is common or characteristic.”
So, what is News to the Nigerian editor? What stories excited the Nigerian editor in 2013; and why? What is the editors' sense of history? That was the assignment Media Review set out to establish. It's a fresh look at an old annual exercise previously conducted over a seven year period of 2001 and 2007.
Then as now, the objectives of the exercise are providing our readers an insight into the news judgment of our editors, helping the readers to understand what interests our Media Gatekeepers, and by extension, learning how to engage them in 2014 and beyond.
As we told the editors, the exercise has, in the past, been found useful in training courses in News Reporting and Rudiments of News. For editors, it provides them with areas of convergence and points of departure in their judgments when compared to their colleagues' thus helping to boost media scholarship.
What is contained in the following pages represents our interpretation of the feedback from the editors.
Lanre Idowu, fnge