Media-Specific News Values

Morning News vs NYT vs Twitter trends

On the morning of Sunday, September 18 — as with all mornings — events were occurring and media outlets were reporting them as news. However, different media outlets consider different events to hold different levels of value as pieces of news, thus affecting the method of their presentation of information. These decisions are made largely based on the function the source is expected to fulfill for the audience.

On September 18 at roughly 5 a.m., live morning news on CNN spent most of their air time covering the breaking story that an explosion had occurred in downtown Manhattan the night before. Some other stories were covered, including the UN’s emergency council meeting over the US’s airstrike which killed Syrian troops, Obama’s speech at the Black Caucus event the night before, and — very briefly — a stabbing that had just occurred at a Minnesota shopping mall. All of these stories were, however, heavily overshadowed by the Manhattan explosion. The possibility of a terrorist threat in a very important city (helped along by the fact that the story was still developing) was more newsworthy than international relations, presidential politics, or a mass stabbing in a less-prevalent part of the country — to the extent that hardly any other stories were covered in over an hour. Though fewer topics were covered, the coverage was extremely in-depth, offering several points of view as well as input from eye-witnesses and experts, and including photos, videos, and live on-the-scene reporting.

Simultaneously, the homepage of the New York Times website was sporting its own collection of stories, organized and sized based on the paper’s own definition of relevancy. At the top of the page, and taking up the most real estate — obviously meant to draw the readers’ focus — was the Chelsea explosion. One prominent column portrayed a list of articles concerning the upcoming election. One column was dedicated to the arts — most of which were more locally pertaining to people/events in New York City. All of the stories covered by CNN could also be found, amidst many many other articles (which covered, for example, an attack at an Indian army base and a shooting in Philadelphia). There were several articles related to health (everything from zika to pesticides to insomnia), a few tributes to celebrities who had died, and several soft news interest pieces. Overall, readers of the NYT received a much fuller variety of news topics (however, slightly more locally-focused), allowing readers to direct their interest, which also creates the opportunity to miss important news amidst the barrage of information.

The following is a screenshot of the Twitter trends in the United States on the morning of September 18:

#Chelsea, near the top, aligns with the other two news outlets as a leading story. #UriAttak and St. Cloud are in response to, respectively, the attack on the Indian army base and the stabbing in Minnesota. Four of the ten topics are related to sporting events that occurred the night before. The difference between what is considered newsworthy on Twitter vs other sources is that the topics discussed on Twitter are people-driven, in what is (arguably, considering the algorithm) a democracy. Twitter also exists not purely to inform, but to entertain, which means that its popular topics will be largely driven by sensationalized tragedy/comedy/ politics — rather than fact-driven accounts — and will not be shared with the intent to incite intelligent discourse. This contrasts more reputable news outlets such as CNN and the NYT, which are professional organizations that organize their stories based on a hierarchical structure and a goal to both inform and appeal to the masses. It is worth noting that the Twitter trends may be largely effected by the news covered by sources like CNN and NYT.

In conclusion, people will have different opinions on the relevancy of a topic depending on where they got their news from. If a person only gets their news from CNN, they will only get exposure to a fraction of important stories. If a person reads the NYT every day, they may fall into a pattern of reading only what strikes their interest.