MEDIA, CULTURE AND SOCIETY ESSAY
-THE NEWS MEDIA

Horror movie right there on my TV
Shocking me right out of my brains
Horror movie, its the six thirty News.
- The Skyhooks.

The news media is in our face each and everyday with immaculate women and fatherly men bringing us up to date around the clock. I am, of course, specifically talking about television news, however, much of what I will say is true for radio and print news as well. But what is news? Stuart Hall, 1978 quotes:

At any given moment billions of simultaneous events occur throughout the world…All of these occurrences are potentially news. They do not become so until some purveyor of news gives an account of them. The news is the account of an event, not something instringic in the event itself.

When considering the social production of news we should also discuss what is thought to be newsworthy. By looking at headline news stories we can see that they contain elements of drama and intrigue. In this paper I will look specifically at the three commercial evening news programs in South Australia seen on channels 7, 9 and 10. In looking closely at the social production of news in South Australia I will reflect on the connections drawn between the news media, cultural meanings and everyday social life.
As the quote in the first paragraph says, billions of events happen around the world everyday. What we are considering are the elements that make an event newsworthy, meaning the event is of enough interest to enough people to keep the audience watching and thus the companies buying their advertising time. News programs face problems of regularly producing and distributing a commodity that is both irregular and unpredictable. The production is governed by deadlines and what is referred to as the ‘news hole’ which is the twenty two minutes each night that needs to be filled with news. So whether war breaks out or a cat gets stuck up a tree, whether it is a light news day or a heavy one the twenty two minutes gets filled nothing more nothing less. (Tiffen, R. 1989)
We need to keep in mind that it is imperative that commercial news programs appeal to populist views. To keep selling advertising spaces at top dollar the news programs need to keep up the ratings. This in turn explains why commercial news programs report events that will be of interest to the majority and never concentrate on stories which are relevant or interesting to a minority group only.
Journalists render stories as newsworthy to fill the news hole, to fit the deadlines and appeal to the majority to keep ratings. There is also a whole set of news values which constitute good news. The most primary value is that the story is out of the ordinary, stories “which in some way breach our normal expectations about social life”.(Hall et al. 1978) Extraordinariness, however, is not the only news value in making good news. Other news values include events that happen to the elite and famous personalities, events which are dramatic or show human characteristics of humour, sadness or sentimentality etc. and events which have a negative consequence or events which are part of an existing newsworthy theme. Perennial themes such as football, the Melbourne Cup or Christmas find a regular place as good news. Also local news is considered very important and often stories will headline specifically because of their local content. (Hall et al. 1978)
Before writing this paper I viewed all three commercial evening news programs in South Australia from Tuesday the 29th of October, I took notes on the type of events each station thought to be newsworthy. Sure enough the previously mentioned news values were evident in South Australian commercial news. All three news programs had approximately the same format, roughly eight important and short stories then an ad break, four or five global and general interest stories then another ad break followed by sport, ads and weather to conclude. Channel Ten was slightly different as it is an hour long, it included a recap on major stories and more general interest stories. At this stage I will look at the stories that are reported before the first ad break as these are considered