Sunday, June 29, 2014

"Proximity" Factor of News

Rabin Man Shakya
Former Lecturer of Journalism, Peoples Campus and RR Campus, TU.

James Gordon Bennet Jr., an American publisher of the New York Herald, on Oct 4, 1887, had launched the Paris edition of the newspaper titled "The Paris Herald" which is now the "International New York Times" circulated and read across the world including Nepal where "Republica" has affiliated to it.

Bennet Jr. used to tell his reporters in an epigrammatic way: "A dead dog in the Rue de Louvre is of more interest than a flood in China." Though a little bit exaggerated, this quote illustrates the idea that the news stories about event and mishap in one's  home town are more newsworthy and more interesting than some accident and catastrophe that take place far away.

A store or bank robbery of higher magnitude in Dallas, Texas may be less newsworthy than a shop robbery of a lesser scale in Kathmandu for readers in Nepal. However, if some accidents or robberies take place abroad and involve some Nepali guys as victims, then the news value increases for Nepalese readers not only in Nepal but also for Nepalese scattered across the world because of emotional proximity.

There is no doubt that Proximity, Timeliness, Human Interest, Conflict, Impact, Prominence etc are the primary factors that determine the news worthiness of a potential news story. And it goes without saying that news closer to home has more news appeal than from far away.

Millions of Nepalese have migrated to other countries in search of jobs owing to dismal economic scenario in Nepal. In fact, as a result of increasing global migration, it will be hard to find a country where a Nepali has not reached. According to an estimate, more than 100 thousand Nepalese are living only in the US. The Nepali diaspora scattered across the world are always eager to read news from Nepal rather than the countries where they are living currently. Having fervent desire to keep in touch with Nepal, thousands of Nepalese living across the world reportedly have hooked up with  Indian and Nepali cable channels.

Moreover, digital journalism and use of social media have tremendously helped the people to keep in touch with what is happening in their communities and families.

That is why proximity refers to the geographical as well as emotional closeness of a news story to the readers and viewers of newspapers (online as well), radio and TV networks; and help readers and audience relate to news stories on a more personal and 'nationalistic'  level  in this age of global migration.

Why, among the South Asian countries, Afghanistan is always making headlines in the US newspapers and TV networks overshadowing even India and China? War against terrorism may be one of the main reasons but the role of the emotional proximity can not be ruled out, as hundreds of thousands of US military troops are still deployed in that country.

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