Is News a Genre?

Published by in Offbeat
25th Nov 2016

‘News’ is defined as the communication of information on current events which is presented by print, broadcast, Internet, or word of mouth to a third party or mass audience. “Genre” is a group of texts unified by a foundation of shared features that overtime have become accepted to form specific conventions within that type. This discussion will identify and discuss some features of news that make it a genre.

The discussion will first focus on the news elements of news as known in journalism and try to prove how they make news a genre and then add the less traditional elements to the list of news elements that make television, radio and newspaper news a genre and which are associated with it.

Harwood and Hudnall (1997) list timeliness, conflict, prominence, significance and human interest as the main elements of news.

To an editor news is anything that is either recent, speaks of conflict, is about the affluent and prominent in society, is of some level of presumed significance and is of gratifying value to humans.

True and significant as Harwood and Hudnall’s list of elements are to describing news as a genre, they are just news ‘news values’ and they serve more as indicators of what should be chased as news to producers and journalist than indicate to audience what to expect from news as a genre-making element should do.

These elements may fail to be important in differentiating news from a drama series which might be recent, might contain conflict, include prominent figures (such Tom Cruise or Michael Usi), be significant and be interesting. There needs to be something else that parts news as a genre from others such a drama. The rest of this discussion thus moves on to the real elements that are associated with news as a genre.

Objectivity and less emotion are expected of all real news and thus associated with it as a genre. The audience doesn’t expect to see their star die or fail to succeed in a drama series because it is biased and highly emotional (violence, sex and action), in news the content is delivered as it is even if its Tom Cruise who has died.

Structure and positioning of news also helps in defining its uniqueness as a genre. Nobody picks up a newspaper and expects to find news on page 7 and classified adverts in the first 3 pages. It is thus cultivated in the minds of audiences anywhere in the world that what is on the front page and the back page of any newspaper should be news.