What Is News?
Average Duration
60+ Minutes
Difficulty Level
1.5
Lesson Host
Paul Saltzman
of the Chicago Sun-Times
About

Explore how journalists “filter” information, or determine which events and issues to cover in a given news cycle, by using key criteria.

News literacy topics

News judgment

Learning objectives

  • I can explain what newsworthiness is and name the four major factors that determine it.
  • I can develop my own sense of news judgment by evaluating the newsworthiness of a series of examples.

Essential questions

  • What does it mean for an issue or an event to be “newsworthy”?
  • What makes an issue or event “news”? Who decides?
  • What factors should be used to determine which issues and events get covered by journalists?

Excerpt

“Now, imagine that you’re a journalist: Your job is to decide — out of everything that happens on a given day — what should be reported to the public. In other words, what counts as “news” that day. And, no, you can’t just cover everything. You have a limited number of people, and there’s only so much time, and space to report the news. Besides, even if you could pursue every single thing that happens everywhere, you really wouldn’t want to, because a lot of what happens every day wouldn’t be newsworthy to most people. Still, enough big things do happen to make choosing among them challenging. So how would you choose which stories to cover? Which events or issues would make the cut and get valuable space on your website or in your newspaper or precious time during your TV or YouTube newscast? In other words, how would you decide which stories are newsworthy? Here’s your chance to test your own news judgment and to get a sense of the kind of difficult decisions journalists make every day.”