Wick Communications

What is news?

In journalism on March 7, 2013 at 2:19 pm

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I must admit that I don’t take time for that question very often, considering how much time I spend producing and consuming this thing called “news.”

And I’m only considering it now because of something I read in billionaire Warren Buffet’s letter to Berkshire Hathaway shareholders. He was explaining why his company had spent $344 million acquiring 28 community and medium-sized daily newspapers. He defines “news” this way:

News, to put it simply, is what people don’t know that they want to know.

That is a bit clunky, but it sounds about right, doesn’t it?

Actually, I don’t think we need a definitive definition of news. It’s one of those things you should be able to spot when you see it. But there is a just-out-of-grasp feel to Buffett’s definition that appeals to me. How do you know what people don’t know that they want to know? If you let it, that is the sort of thing that can keep you up at night.

I do however think Buffett’s definition misses an important aspect of our mission: Entertainment. We may want to know how the city council voted or where the fire engines were going, but information alone sometimes needs to be made palatable. Some consumers are good with steamed veggies and tofu; others of us want a little flavor. And we have competitors. I’m sure Buffett understands that. We want readers to turn to us rather than the competition. …

For those reasons, we sometimes seek to package news as a Q&A or to tell it in point-counterpoint editorial opinions or some other form that is more entertaining than a dry telling.

What is your definition of news? I’d like to hear it.

Clay

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  1. New is what ever can be of interest to your readers. How do you know what you want. All you have to is to walk in their shoes and listen. One sure fire way to know your on the track of news is does it interest you.
    Today, I was driving back to the office and I saw a circus tent with Camel rides outside. It just popped up. I stopped, took some photos, spoke with manager and grabbed a basic brochure. I got cool photo’s, I answered a question and asked who are you and why are you here.
    It may turn out to be a couple of photo’s and a fat cut line but I know people will wonder because they drove by it too.
    Plus, how many times does a camel show up out of nowhere.

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