Is News a reflection or construction of reality?

Essay by DemandriusUniversity, Bachelor'sA, April 2007

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It is difficult for news, in any form, to be a true reflection of reality, due to the many factors involved in the production of news. Human error, human interest and the fallacies of management all conspire to blur the line between truth and fiction. Potter (1998) stated that “news is not something that happens; instead, news is what gets presented. We almost never see news events as they happen. Instead, we are shown the media’s manufactured construction of the events.” This essay aims to determine what news is, and to analyse whether or not news is able to be an accurate reflection of reality, and why.

News can be defined very simply as new information of any kind, particularly information pertaining to current events. However, not all current events can be reported in the media, and as such, only news that is considered “newsworthy” is able to make it into the media for dissemination to the general public.

Galtung and Ruge (1970) came up with the earliest form of systematic classification for newsworthiness – eleven news values, the meeting of which would make an event more likely to be reported in the news. The news values were frequency, threshold, clarity, cultural proximity, consonance, unexpectedness, continuity, composition, actions of the elite, personification and negativity. In the aforementioned system, the more points that a news story meets, the greater the chance that it will be published in the news.

To take an example of how these news values are applied in selection of a story, one just has to look at the September 11th 2001 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Centre towers in New York City. The news meets a large number of values, as will be explained:Threshold - The magnitude of the attacks made them relevant all over the...