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By Understand Media Staff

News comes to us in many forms - on TV, on the radio, online, and of course in print as a newspaper. We recognize news when we see it, but do we really understand what news is? How would you define news? Is news important? Do we need news to be a good citizen in our society? Let's explore this further.

News can be defined as information that is current, out of the ordinary, and relevant.

First, news must be current. Of course this could mean different things for different news outlets. For magazines that publish once per month, being current means printing information that happened in the last month. For a daily newspaper, being current means printing stories and information that happened yesterday. For CNN or Yahoo News, being current means telling us about stories happening now. In fact, CNN often provides us a live video feed of news as it happens and where its happening.

Second, news must be out of the ordinary. The old says goes, "Dog bites man, that's not news. Man bites dog, that's news!" You would think that the news would bring us all types of information, but this isn't the case. We can assume that life as it usually is, is pretty routine and maybe even boring. So news tries to bring us stories and information that stand out from regular life. Things that don't fit with how we experience life every day - that's news.

Finally, news must be relevant to the people consuming it. If you don't care about the financial industry, then you won't read the Wall Street Journal. Every news outlet, whether a newspaper or a TV news network, has a target audience that it tries to appeal to. The news is tailored to that audience, so different outlets will have a different lead story. For example, imagine what the top story would be on the evening news; it would likely be about a murder or big accident in your town. But then think about what the top story would be in a sports newspaper; that might be a story about a famous basketball player. The news is tailored to its audience.

One thing that is important to remember, and that we have alluded to here, is that someone is creating the news. Someone decides what the top story should be. Someone decides if the reporters should cover a particular story or another. And someone decides if the story fits in with the expectations of the audience. These people are called editors, and they have a lot of power over what types of news stories we consume.