What Are the Characteristics of News?


The news you read in your newspaper, watch on TV or listen to on the radio each day isn’t about something that happened 10 years ago, or even last year (unless it’s an anniversary of something big that did happen, like the first man walking on the moon). What makes the cut as a piece of news is what is happening right now, has just happened or is the latest information about something that has already been going on. Whether you’re a journalist trying to decide what to write about or a student writing a paper for class, it helps to understand the characteristics of News so that you can create an article that captures the attention and interest of your readers.


The most important characteristic of news is that it is current, i.e., that it pertains to events, activities and circumstances that have taken place recently. When gatekeepers at newspapers, television and other news media organizations sift through the events of the day to decide what will make the news, they keep this aspect in mind.

Drama, Consequence and Proximity

Events that are dramatic and that have consequences for a large number of people or that affect the lives of many people often make the news. This can be a natural disaster, a terrorist attack or a political crisis. It can also be a crime, a fire that causes extensive damage or an accident involving lots of people.

Things that are close to home often make the news, such as a new job opportunity in your neighborhood or the opening of a local restaurant. Similarly, stories about nearby communities, colleges and universities are of interest to many people.

Usefulness: People also like to hear about useful developments in their world, such as improvements in medicine or transportation and advancements in science. Stories about the weather, train schedules and stock market changes are also of interest to many people.

A good way to make a story interesting is to provide some element of surprise. This can be accomplished through a unique headline, an intriguing lead or by giving details that are not generally known. The most important news items should be placed above the fold in a newspaper or on the top of the page on an Internet site. This is because most people don’t read past the first few lines, so putting the best news first will encourage them to continue reading. It also helps to know your audience; if you’re writing for a general newspaper, your articles will appeal to a much wider readership than an article written for a specialized magazine or community. The latter article will need to be shorter, but should still contain the most important and relevant information. In addition, you should include any supporting facts or quotes that will help to explain the main points of the story. This will add depth and credibility to your news article. You can also add a little background information to your news article for further reading or as a reminder for the readers.