Royal baby: is it news?

There has been understandable criticism of the news media in various countries for its wall-to-wall coverage of the birth of British royal baby, Prince George.

On a basic level, Tomorrow focuses on exclusives so this is not something we would have covered as an organisation.

But many of the public criticisms raise important questions about how news outlets choose the weight of importance within individual stories and the extent of coverage overall.

Does the news media cover the birth of every human being? No. Birth is news to the respective family, and while most of the public would offer their congratulations and best wishes if asked, they might not view the birth of a stranger as “news”.

Yet plenty of stories involving strangers are presented as news. Social media has changed and expanded what “personal” and individual news might be classed as “relevant” or “interesting”. It is news to someone.

News is what is new – a birth qualifies in that respect, though speculation about possible names, or the reaction of family members, is not. This is a difference in news reporting: there is the reporting of what has happened, and the speculation of what might happen, framed as “news”.

The general public would generally agree that the birth of the third in line to the British throne is news – it has happened. They object to the speculation and comment being framed as news.

And just as the news media’s definition of news might not always be “news” to members of the public, some “news” for the public might not be news for the media. If a conspiracy theory, for example, has been disproved within a news outlet, does that require the organisation to report, “This isn’t true”? Not necessarily. If everyone is reporting something, must all news outlets report it? Is “news” following what everyone else is reporting?

There have always been various qualifications for news: the more local the better;  report what people are talking about; and the infamous “if it bleeds, it leads”, ie presuming violence is always the most newsworthy.

And there will continue to be disagreement over what news organisations argue is news and what its readers or viewers believe to be news.

Tomorrow will continue to adhere to our core principles and we hope readers will challenge how we apply those.

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