Have you ever read a newspaper and wondered how the news ‘coincidentally’ fits in the exact number of pages everyday?
It has baffled me for many years as to how do newspapers have this mysterious way of maintaining the exact amount of news on every single paper they sell!
This year when I started my University Journalism course, I was introduced to the term “News Values” which solved my paradox on the mysterious equal amount of news in newspapers.
It basically means that newspapers get to choose which pieces of news stories and other articles are ‘worthy’ of publishing on certain days and on certain issues.
This got me thinking again, but what makes a certain story worthy of publishing and another one unworthy?
Again in classes they explained that for a story to be worthy of publishing it must abide by a certain criteria checklist that each publication assign. So for example some publications only publish what they consider to be what their audience want to read only, others would publish stories based on their political agenda only, or some others would host a mix of stories to provoke their audience or generate a debate among them.
After further research into the subject of “News Values” it struck me that the media’s power in having an influence on the demographic was higher than I ever expected. It’s not just the newspapers that pick certain stories to publish and overlook others, it’s every other media outlet as well.
A very funny example, yet could be seen as sad in a way, that I face on regular basis is how many people in Europe still believe the Middle East is one large piece of desert! When in fact, some places in the Middle East such as Dubai or my very own hometown Cairo, are as far away from being a desert as possible. But the reason people still believe so, is because that’s how the media frames it, a large chunk of desert land with camels and tents!
Another example that I couldn’t help but notice is the coverage of the “Terrorist” attacks wave that has recently been hitting the world. During and after the Westminster attacks the media coverage and follow ups were, and still are in some extent, huge! The use of images, videos and sources was great. When it was revealed that the attacker was a Muslim and when ISIS claimed responsibility for the attacks the coverage grew even bigger!
On the other hand, only a couple of weeks after the Westminster attacks, there was another attack in St Petersburg, Russia, where a bomb exploded in a train and killed 14 people. The media coverage was just as great as that of the Westminster attacks’, only until the suicide bomber was identified as a Russian, non-Muslim citizen, and no radical group claimed responsibility for the attacks, so the coverage started to slow down and follow ups were not as much detailed and everywhere to be found as what was seen on Westminster stories. It was no longer interesting.
Examples on that scales are so many. However, in so many occasions it seems to be overlooked by the people who may ignore the signs or just be genuinely unaware of the influence the media is putting on them.
All in all, I believe it is times like that need critical thinking more than ever in what one consumes from the media. The media truly is a double sided weapon and it needs to be handled carefully and with a little use of judgment. Media platforms today are more than just newspapers or TV or news websites, it’s everywhere on social media websites and all over the internet. Be smart, be critical.