Information and the News

Information is intended to change our behaviour in some way, to inform us.  One of the characteristics of information is newness, new information on which we can choose to act or not to act.  Is all information news and does all news provide information?

News is defined as “information not previously known that is delivered through the mass media and has some impact on the audience” (HurleyJournalism).

In Bolton’s (2014) book, The News: a User’s Manual, he explains how we have a constant need to be in contact with the news, by television, radio, paper or online sources. However Bolton suggests that few people can recall the headlines from the previous week that had demanded their attention and which had importance at the time.  National and international news with regular programming schedules require us to pause our lives and focus on the events around the world.  Bolton argues that news is not reporting on the events of the world but a filtering of data determined by the news agency of being newsworthy.  The news is a construction of facts presented in an approachable manner suitable for mass consumption. Bolton points out that despite their independence, there is usually agreement between news organizations about the prominent news stories of a particular day.

Bolton argues that whilst news organizations focus on the presentation of facts, we don’t know what to do with the information and lose track of what matters.  Characteristics of information include timeliness, frequency, appropriateness, accuracy, understandability, brevity, rarity and presentation.  Characteristics of the news are shown in Table 1.

Table 1: Characteristics of the News

Table 1: Characteristics of the News

The characteristics of information relate to factors that affect our ability to interpret the information presented, whereas the characteristics of news refer to factors that focus on the content of the information; they are factors that determine whether information is perceived to be newsworthy, that is, of sufficient interest to be published via news media.

Bolton identifies six types of news stories and suggests how they should inform readers:

  Political news should reflect the complexity of society.

  World news to inform of different cultures, humanizing areas of the globe.

  Economic news outlining current developments and the human story behind products.

o   Celebrity news to provide inspiration and advice.

o   Disaster news demonstrating the consequences of actions and promoting a spirit of generosity and gratitude.

o   Consumer news relating to items that help meet out aspirations.

Bolton’s categorization of news stories omits sports news. The role of sport media is to inform, educate, encourage social participation and facilitate ‘culture making’ (Moradi et al, 2012).

The continuous stream of news, with the powers of mass media, has the potential to demand our attention and consume our time.  We therefore need to be aware of our interaction with the news and be aware of our responses to different types of news information.  Is the news informing us or merely consuming out time and contributing to information overload?


Further Reading: Characteristics of information are discussed in Chapters 2 and 3, information overload is discussed in Chapter 7.


Please use the following to reference this blog post in your own work:

Cox, S. A., (2014), ‘Information and the News’, 27 June 2014,, [Date accessed: dd:mm:yy]

© 2014 Sharon A Cox