The definition of “news” is changing. Here’s what it’s changing to. 10/5/07Posted by Steve Boriss in Definition of news.
Mathew Ingram notes that “it’s difficult to talk about the future of news without admitting that the idea of what we call ‘news’ has changed, and is continuing to change.” He refers to a post by Jeremy Wagstaff (Loose Wire, Wall Street Journal), who suggests that “news” is being replaced by “information.” Wagstaff also believes that much of the change is “not a revolution against the values of old media,” but about who can dictate what is news. But to really understand why news is changing and where it is going, a much longer-term perspective is needed.
History tells us that news was never really about journalists, a concept that old media is going to find difficult to accept. It is at least as old as the Old Testament, in which the word “news” first appears in the very first book (Genesis 29:13). In fact, you don’t even have to wade that deeply into the New Testament, which begins with the four “gospels,” a word which means “good news.” After that, you have to fast-forward all the way to late 18th century London before the world had its first full-time reporters, men who covered Parliamentary debates.
A definition of news that has always been and will ever be is this: “new information about a subject of common interest that is shared within a community.” The content must be new, as the name “news” demands. It must be spread socially, going beyond an individual’s inner thoughts. The community in which it is shared can be as small as a group of friends or as large as the world. The news community can be defined by geography or by any other shared interest. Think of the tens of thousands of magazine titles — each one of them represents a potential news community. News does not necessarily require paid middlemen like journalists to gather and spread it, which means that even user-generated MySpace pages are news outlets. The definition of news has never changed in the history of Man. What is changing is how Man makes a profit from it.