Latest update March 27th, 2023 12:59 AM
Mar 18, 2023 Features / Columnists, Peeping Tom
Kaieteur News – What is the news? How does a journalist decide whether an item or occurrence is newsworthy?
In a small society like Guyana, it is not unusual to find very trivial and often mundane items making the news. Smallness in size can translate to smallness in outlook. But not everything that is not earth-shaking is unworthy of being newsworthy.
Consider the following:
“Yesterday was joyous in the Ramsmith household. A new member was welcomed into their ranks. A bouncing bay boy was born to Mrs. Ramsmith at 2 am at the Georgetown Public Hospital. The child, the fourth in the family was immediately named Lucky. The father Mr. Ramsmith is a tailor and his wife is a housewife.”
Now consider this story:
“The anticipation is over! It is a boy! The President of Timbuktu was yesterday the proud father of a bouncing baby boy. The child, the first for the First Family, was delivered at 2:00 am yesterday.
An official release from the Office of the President said that the mother is doing just fine and in high spirits. The child has been named Prince.”
Now which one of these births do you think is newsworthy? Obviously it will be the birth of the child of the public figure. The birth will be a matter of public importance quite unlike the birth of the tailor’s son which will be treated as simply a private matter not serious enough to warrant being of public interest.
Importance plays an important role in determining whether a matter is newsworthy or will be carried as a news item. Since not all matters of public interest can be accommodated, some items will receive greater attention and thus coverage while others will not.
Criminal offences are by their very nature– being an offence against both the person and the community matters of public interest. However, not all crimes are reported even though all of them may be of public interest.
Similarly, most civil matters will not be of public concern. But certain civil matters by virtue of their significance will be reported on while most others will not feature in the media.
The scale of an event is also significant. The story of a Minister handing over a few plastic barrels and some seeds may have some public interest element, but an editor that is pressed for space can legitimately refuse to accommodate such a story because it is not as if an entire community is being rescued by a relief package.
Similarly, a Minister paying a field visit during which nothing of real significance happens other than his presence would never out -challenge another story about an accident on the streets.
If any Minister wants to go and take out a picture of him or her watching a rice field, that minister is free to do so and to place that picture in his or her professional album rather than expecting the press to carry it as a newsworthy item.
In Guyana, we have a situation where when certain companies have a promotion this becomes a major news story in itself.
One can understand if a major prize is at stake that the newspapers would want to keep their readers abreast of who is the winner. But in some instances, you find small promotions being given publicity.
On the other hand, if someone wins a school raffle, you do not expect this to be a news item, except if the newspaper involved in providing a community service to the organisation that ran off the raffle.
In Guyana, also, we have a most interesting phenomenon. In colonial Guyana, persons aspiring to high office would usually have to be known public figures before they are selected to hold such offices.
Thus, you would have found that well-known persons who would have no need to place their pictures in the papers everyday so as to become known to citizens.
In Guyana, we have a situation where a number of unknown personalities are suddenly catapulted to public office and some of these individuals believe that the more their pictures are in the papers, the better they will be seen as doing something.
Well not every photo opportunist or publicity seeker is newsworthy. Today, the media is being unduly summoned to all manner of unnecessary briefings and turning of the sods events.
These things are often public relations and self- promotion exercises which the media should not rush to give publicity towards.
(The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions and beliefs of this newspaper and its affiliates.)
They are being paid while we are being played…your pain is their gain!
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