Around the world , international news sources such as the BBC World Service are often welcomed as alternatives to domestic state-run media. News organizations have historically been male-dominated, though women have acted as journalists since at least the 1880s. The number of female journalists has increased over time, but organizational hierarchies remain controlled mostly by men. Studies of British news organizations estimate that more than 80% of decision-makers are men. Similar studies have found ‘old boys’ networks’ in control of news organizations in the United States and the Netherlands. Further, newsrooms tend to divide journalists by gender, assigning men to “hard” topics like military, crime, and economics, and women to “soft”, “humanised” topics.
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To make the news, an ongoing process must have some “peg”, an event in time that anchors it to the present moment. Relatedly, news often addresses aspects of reality which seem unusual, deviant, or out of the ordinary. Hence the famous dictum that “Dog Bites Man” is not news, but “Man Bites Dog” is. There are 204 counties that currently are news deserts, with no newspapers, local digital sites, public radio newsrooms or ethnic publications.
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Public relations agencies can create complete content packages, such as Video News Releases, which are rebroadcast as news without commentary or detail about their origin. Video news releases seem like normal news programming, but use subtle product placement and other techniques to influence viewers. Commonly, news content should contain all the “Five Ws” of an event. Newspapers normally place hard news stories on the first pages, so the most important information is at the beginning, enabling busy readers to read as little or as much as they desire. Local stations and networks with a set format must take news stories and break them down into the most important aspects due to time constraints.
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BBC radio marketed itself as a news by and for social elites, and hired only broadcasters who spoke with upper-class accents. The BBC gained importance in the May 1926 general strike, during which newspapers were closed and the radio served as the only source of news for an uncertain public. (To the displeasure of many listeners, the BBC took an unambiguously pro-government stance against the strikers). As its name implies, “news” typically connotes the presentation of new information. The newness of news gives it an uncertain quality which distinguishes it from the more careful investigations of history or other scholarly disciplines. Whereas historians tend to view events as causally related manifestations of underlying processes, news stories tend to describe events in isolation, and to exclude discussion of the relationships between them. News conspicuously describes the world in the present or immediate past, even when the most important aspects of a news story have occurred long in the past—or are expected to occur in the future.
In modern times, printed news had to be phoned into a newsroom or brought there by a reporter, where it was typed and either transmitted over wire services or edited and manually set in type along with other news stories for a specific edition. Today, the term “breaking news” has become trite as commercial broadcasting United States cable news services that are available 24 hours a day use live communications satellite technology to bring current events into consumers’ homes as the event occurs. Events that used to take hours or days to become common knowledge in towns or in nations are fed instantaneously to consumers via radio, television, mobile phone, and the internet. The telegraph ushered in a new global communications regime, accompanied by a restructuring of the national postal systems, and closely followed by the advent of telephone lines. With the value of international news at a premium, governments, businesses, and news agencies moved aggressively to reduce transmission times. In 1865, Reuters had the scoop on the Lincoln assassination, reporting the news in England twelve days after the event took place. In 1866, an undersea telegraph cable successfully connected Ireland to Newfoundland cutting trans-Atlantic transmission time from days to hours.
Models of news making help define what the news is and how it influences readers. But it does not necessarily account for the content of print news and online media. Stories are selected if they have a strong impact, incorporate violence and scandal, are familiar and local, and if they are timely. This collective form experience can be understood to constitute a political realm or public sphere. In this view, the news media constitute a fourth estate which serves to check and balance the operations of government. An important feature distinguishing news from private information transfers is the impression that when one reads it, one joins a larger public.