Galtung and Ruge: The 12 News Values

In their research paper, “The Structure of Foreign News”, Johan Galtung and Marie Holmboe Ruge identified the twelve factors observed by journalists when they distinguish simple stories from newsworthy ones while also have been able to point out the general problems of the factors.

The first factor, Frequency, tackles the rate of occurrence of news stories published in a newspaper. “The more similar the frequency of the event to the frequency of the news medium, the more probable that it will be recorded as news by that news medium.”

Threshold, as the second factor, includes how intense and dramatic the event is. Absolute intensity and the intensity increase of a news story are covered in this factor. An example of this is reportage of a murder story. The more extreme the murder happened compared to other murders, the more the possibility that it will be reported.

The third, Unambiguity, refers to how clear a story can be interpreted. “The less ambiguity, the more the event will be noticed.” Clarity of the news and its freedom from ambiguity allow the readers to not have misleading interpretations and inconsistent implications of the story.

Under Meaningfulness, the fourth factor, cultural proximity and relevance are encompassed. In cultural proximity, the familiar and the culturally similar are being given attention. Relevance on the other hand refers to the meaningful implications of a story to the readers even if it emanates from a culturally distant zone.

The fifth and sixth factors contradict each other. Consonance considers the predictability and the demand of an event while the Unexpectedness factor involves the scarcity together with the unpredictability of the event or story.

The Continuity factor means that if an event has been already labeled as news, the follow up stories related and associated to it will also be considered as news.

The eighth factor, Composition, refers to the content and the implications of the event.

The next factors are connected to how prominent, notable or famous the subjects or main participants of the events are. This is why sometimes, news stories are labeled as “elite-centered’.

Reference to elite nations and reference to elite people means that the more the event concerns elite nations and elite people, the more it will be considered as news items.

In reference to persons, the more personal the story is, the more it becomes newsworthy and interesting. The same goes with reference to something negative: the more negative the event is, the more it is reported.

According to the research, events become news if they satisfy the twelve conditions. However, the challenge to journalists is to try and counter the factors above to be able to produce more relevant news. It means more reports on long term developments, give occasional trivial reports, emphasis on ambiguous events, reports from culturally distant zones, emphasis on the dissonant, awareness of the continuity factor and composition factor and more coverage on non-elite nations, non-elite people and on positive events.


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