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Social Sci LibreTexts

2.4: News Messages

  • Page ID
    13746
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    News – CC0

    News messages are often broken into three categories: “hard” news, “soft” news or features, and opinion. “Hard” news comprises reports of important issues, current events, and other topics that inform citizens about what is going on in the world and their communities while “soft” news covers those things that are not necessarily important and are handled with a lighter approach. Opinion pieces, unlike the other two which value “objectivity,” are subjective and will have a specific point of view.

    Hard News

    • Breaking news – Sometimes referred to as “the first take on history” breaking news stories provide as clear and accurate an accounting of some kind of event as possible while it is happening. In reporting about wildfires raging in the west, the breaking news story requires a timely accounting of what’s happening, with a tight focus on the “who, what, when, where, why” and it requires well-honed observation and interviewing skills. For the breaking news story, the information tasks for the reporters are to show up, assess the situation, use their senses to cover the event, and learn more information through first-person interviews. Breaking news provides the “need to know” information as an event unfolds. EXAMPLE

    • Depth report – The depth report is the story after the breaking news report. The goals for journalists preparing a depth report are to try to help people understand how the event happened, who was affected, what is being done about it, how people are reacting. For instance, in the aftermath of a story about wildfires in the West, the reporter’s information tasks would include gathering background information about the firefighting efforts, the economic impact of the fires, the reactions of home and business owners, the potential impact that the weather might have on future similar events. As with the breaking news story, the journalist is transmitting information, not opinion and they must be able to identify the most knowledgeable sources. EXAMPLE

    • Analysis or interpretive report – The focus here is on an issue, problem or controversy. The substance of the report is still verifiable fact, not opinion. But instead of presenting facts as with breaking news or a depth report and hoping the facts speak for themselves, the reporter writing an interpretive piece clarifies, explains, analyzes. The report usually focuses on WHY something has (or has not) happened. The information tasks are greater for this type of report, due to the need to clarify and explain rather than simply narrate. An analysis of the wildfires might look into how environmental policy or urban sprawl factored into the event. Analyses generally require learning about different perspectives or ranges of opinion from a variety of experts and more “digging” into causes. EXAMPLE

    • Investigative report – Unlike the analysis which follows up on a news event, the information tasks for an investigative report require journalists to uncover information that will not be handed to them, these stories are reported by opening closed doors and closed mouths. These are the stories that expose problems or controversies authorities may not want to see covered. This requires unearthing hidden or previously unorganized information in order to clarify, explain and analyze something. A key technique used in investigative reports is data analysis. In the aftermath of the wildfires a news organization might investigate the insurance claims process or how a charitable organization that received relief funds for fire victims actually allocated the money. The investigative report requires the communicator to have a high level of information sophistication, and the ability to convey complex information in a straightforward way for the audience. EXAMPLE

    Soft News

    • Feature – The feature differs from the other types of news reports in intent. The previous examples seek to inform the audience about something of importance or concern. Features, on the other hand, are designed to capture audience interest and are more about providing entertainment than critical information. The feature story depends on style, great writing, and humor as much as on the information it contains. There are several types of features:

    News – A story about a man who used cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) to revive a pet dog rescued from the bottom of a pool might be reported as a news feature. It is based on an event, but covered as a feature, but the information tasks require gathering material to put more emphasis on the drama of the event than on the information about how to do CPR on a dog. EXAMPLE

    Personality sketch or profile – A story about the accomplishments, attitudes and characteristics of an individual seeks to capture the essence of a person. This requires both thorough backgrounding of the subject and skills in interviewing as information tasks. The communicator has to have a well-honed ability for noticing details that bring to life what is interesting or unique about the person. EXAMPLE

    Informative – A sidebar to accompany a main news story might be written as an informative feature. For example, an informative feature that describes the various methods firefighters use to combat wildfires might accompany a breaking news story. The information tasks for the reporter include a good command of sometimes-technical information to convey the story to the audience. EXAMPLE