By Patrick Akpese
Journalism has over the years witnessed various phases of change and evolution from diverse world views to a more community centered and geographic specific practice. The traditional notion of journalist determining what amount to news has been emphasized by media practitioners and educators like Galtung and Ruge and has since been relevant until the wake of developmental thinkers and social responsibility advocates begun criticizing the traditional news value. The belief that news or journalism must be designed to solve the problems of society has greatly influenced the ideological shift from Galtung and Ruge to the the Pacific paradigm of development journalism while regarding the former as being hypothetical, foreign-centered and cannot solve problems of the present. (Harcup and O'Neill, 2001).
Galtung and Ruge (1965), in effort to answer the question what events become news, presented a paper outlining news factors: Frequency, Threshold, Proximity, Newness or Novelty, conflict, human interest etc. However, the questions of the relevance of these values in determining news in the contemporary era was argued by Harcup and O'Neill (2001) maintaining that it best defined the day to day domestic or bread butter news approach and have provided for new news values that best resonate the current trend in society that is conscious of power. They mentioned power of the elites, celebrity, entertainment, surprise, bad news, good news, magnitude, relevance, follow-ups, newspaper agenda etc.
On the contrary, their approach doesn't seem that different from the former proponents; Galtung and Ruge. This is because the current society is consciously seeking after development which is crafted by the ordinary members and not the same powerful as maintained in the former approach of prominence.
The practice along the pacific has brought about a new paradigm that best suit the interest of social minority and advocates for development rather than what affected an elite or the powerful; the inherence of the new approach in development journalism. By this approach, a new set of news values came up in the practice in Asia, Malaysia and China. They are clarification, constructive criticism, instructive, and future oriented news value. These values are explored below.
By clarification, the value of news that brings about social change and development must be anchored by the ordinary members of the society. Developmental projects must not be read like news to the people to whom it was designed in a matter of seconds and minutes. This news value posit that the media take the responsibility to explain the entire project to the people and its impact on their lives. When this is done, it gunners the ultimate support of the people and help them understand the need for their corporation instead of leaving them naïve or half informed. The media in this approach explains the reason for the location of the project, the money invested into it, the source of the money and the duration of the project. This is far, human interest related than the value that pursue novelty and overlook the responsibility of ensuring all inclusive governance. Xu's (2009) contributed immensely into this new value. He argued that instead of reporting newness and prominence, reporting the difference between what has been planned, to do and what in reality has happened and its impact on the people should be the focus of journalism in developmental agenda.
Furthermore, constructive criticism should be the value of news in a society that seek after accountability and transparency. By this news value, the media has the opportunity to offer reasonable criticism on government projects instead of reporting merely that a project is ongoing or about starting. This positive assessment of government projects will expose to the people the areas of darkness and light on the projects. The authorities will also be willing to accept the criticism since it is offered in a friendly way that suggest solution rather than attack and insult.
Moreover, instructiveness is an element in determining news worthiness. In the traditional approach, the haste to be the first to break the news override the sense of educating the people on the issues of development captured in the minutes news bulletin. Under the new value of instructiveness, the actual fulfilment of the media's traditional role that has become a mantra rather than an obligation; to educate will be realized.
The media here is to make the conscious effort to teach, educate and enlightened the people to understand the various government policies instead of just reading a paragraph or two that is competing with adverts and photos, as the case on television news media today – a five minutes explanation with about fifteen minutes breaks for commercial. It is only when the public become informed and enlightened that the work of the media is truly in the interest of the people.
In this case, mobilization of citizens to rally behind government initiatives won't be burdensome as the case now. This values of seeking for what is instructive will go a long way to change some social disorders such as showing apathy towards government properties with the mindset that it is for the government. By effective education before the projects creates the readiness of the people to accepting it as their own property.
J.D Perottete (2015), argued that this new approach will enable the media to hold government accountable when it fails to deliver on developmental issue. The political culture of abandoning state projects simply because there was a change of government not change of state, would be addressed under this new news values. Xus, (2009), cited by Perottete (2015), also provide that there is the need to shift journalism focus to news of economic and social development while working constructively with government in nation building. In this light, nation building must be the major factor in news.
Last but not the least, the ability to predict future occurrences must be considered as a news value. The media must be able to perceive using the past and present data and events to advise the public and government on pending future events and also provide possible solutions to the problems. What becomes news should be able to inform the public to be alert and warn against present actions that might endangered the future if measures are not put in place. In this regard, the media doesn't only caution in a single day news or discourse but persistently and persuasively until attitudes are change and society lives in peace.
The media under this news value functions proactively and not reactively like the traditional practice where the event is only reported and cautioned when the worse has already happened. For instance the June 3rd flood and fire disaster only gets media attention on anniversary of the event or on another disaster.
Be it as it may, David Robie (2013), argued that development should lead to human progress. On this note, reactive reportage or news cannot promote development but will always leave a deficit of damages. He also proposed some news values that seem relatively same as the pacific approaches discussed so far. For a society that is hungry for equality and development, he proposed for the media in such ecology to consider self-determination where it promotes the wellbeing and confidence of its citizens in order to live life to the best standard as a news value. He also stated independent voice of the people (ordinary) to represent in news and in the language of the people. Robie continue to mention education, solidarity, interpretation of conflict in the way of life of the people and culture as news values in the realm of development journalism in his proposed four world news values revision.Dear to his heart was the advocacy for community achievement being promoted over the achievement of individual elites of the society, promotion of a free but balanced media with social responsibility self-regulation and finally upholding community ethics with recognition of indigenous diversity and cultural values.
To end it, it must be established that in a democratic society where the media gets it right, the citizens enjoy comfort and freedom. Change is paramount to the development of a modernized news media in the emerging society of development hence news values must be redefined to meet the current need of society. I am on this note calling on the Ghana Journalist Association ( GJA), National Media Commission ( NMC), National Communication Authority, ( NCA), Ghana Institute of Journalism ( GIJ), and relevant stakeholders to review journalistic practices in Ghana to meet the current trend of the profession. Development Communication and Journalism is the future of participatory development.
Tags: GIJ, GJA, NCA, NMC, All media organizations in Ghana.
Alexander J.D Perottet (2015): News Value in Three Pacific Nations: A case Study in Development Journalism and The Reporting of Pacific Island Forum in Fiji, Vanuatu and New Zealand.
Harcup T. and O'Neill D. (2001): What Is News?: Galtung and Ruge Revisited.
Robie D. (2013): Four World's News Values Revisited: A deliberative Journalism Paradigm For Pacific Media.