I was wondering how news are made in the mainstream media like BBC, EuroNews, Fox, CNN etc. Who decides what event makes it to be reported?

Recently, I read an article , which stated that in 1983, 90% of US media was owned by 50 companies, whereas in 2011 90% was owned by only 6 companies. Maybe this is the reason, why the news reports are often similar in their choice what to report and what not to report, especially when it comes to world news and foreign politics.

Here is an example of an event , which largely has been ignored by the mainstream news channels: The largest peaceful human gathering is taking place in Karbala, Iraq, called Arba'een.

22 Million Muslims are gathering at the holy shrine of the third Shia Imam, Hussain ibn Ali, to commemorate his martyrdom in the year 680 AD in Karbala, where he and his 72 family members and companions were killed by the tyrant of the time, Yazid. 22 Million Muslims show that they support his principles, namely to stand up against tyranny and oppression. And all this is happening in a war torn country and being threatened and surrounded by ISIS terrorists.
Wouldn't it be interesting for the people of the world to see a positive side of Islam?

But I cannot find a report about it at BBC main news for example.

Therefore, my question is:

How are news made in the western mainstream media?

  • 6
    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic. I think we should have a "Closed because it is a disguised rant" close reason.
    – Philipp
    Commented Dec 3, 2015 at 11:33
  • 1
    Perhaps you should ask that question to the source of your "22.000.000 people" figure. If there was that many people in a city with just over 1 million residents, it would make the news (if only for the situation of starvation and epidemics that such a human concentration would cause). Note that Wikipedia puts the maximum historical attendence at just 2 million people.
    – SJuan76
    Commented Dec 3, 2015 at 12:02
  • 2
    You cannot believe its happening as it is not mentioned in the main media. Here is a short YouTube clip from the procession last year to get an impression youtube.com/watch?v=XSFM66ujHGE
    – Noor
    Commented Dec 3, 2015 at 12:31
  • 2
    There seems to be plenty of articles about it that Google News lists
    – Bobson
    Commented Dec 3, 2015 at 15:27
  • 2
    For comparison, it would be interesing to know how many middle-eastern news sources reported about the pilgrims which came to Saint Peter's Square in Rome last Easter to receive the Urbi et Orbi blessing from the Catholic pope.
    – Philipp
    Commented Dec 3, 2015 at 17:44

3 Answers 3

  1. News is made by entrepreneurial endeavors that are ultimately defined by supply and demand.

  2. Western News did cover Arba'een.

  3. BBC covered the event in 2010 and 2014.

This question should have been titled, "does BBC have political motive to ignore Arba'een?" - Because that's a question that can objectively be answered, and it's about politics.

If you asked whether Fox News had motive to ignore Arbaeen, a lot of people would likely have said yes. For BBC, most would agree the answer is "no, but it has economic motive." The aforementioned supply-demand principle would dictate they cover it during a slower news cycle.

  • 1
    ... which only shows that "a lot of people" - likely of a certain political bent - have zero information and make stupid assumption. Fox news covered it this year, as well as many Fox affiliate stations. google.com/?gws_rd=ssl#safe=off&q=fox+news+Arba%27een
    – user4012
    Commented Dec 3, 2015 at 19:17
  • 2
    First Google hit: "Millions of Shiite pilgrims flock to Iraqi holy city for annual Arbaeen commemorations Fox News‎ - 1 day ago Iraqi Shiite pilgrims participate in the Arbaeen ritual in Baghdad, Iraq, Tuesday, Dec.1, 2015."
    – user4012
    Commented Dec 3, 2015 at 19:17
  • 2
    Regarding Fox news, I would not say that they covered it - they mentioned it. The images they show, do not in any way support the fact, that more than 20 Million people (Iraqi authorities today say 26 Million ) participated, as in each image you only see a few people.
    – Noor
    Commented Dec 4, 2015 at 22:37
  • @Noor - take it up with Associate Press. They are the ones who provided the info (Fox report was sourced from AP)
    – user4012
    Commented Dec 5, 2015 at 1:55

The news are made based on several, sometimes overlapping, criteria:

  • What are the eyeballs/ratings that the story will generate.

    As an example, look at 50% of lurid crime stories on Fox News web site. They have zero importance, but they generate eyeballs because people eat up bad news and crime. Other news media's the same.

  • Does the boss (from Editor on upwards) evaluate it to be publishable based on intangible and subjective quality newsies call "newsworsiness"?

    Of course, in real life "newsworthiness" is something in the eye of the beer holder. A CBS editor might decide that a story bashing G.W. Bush is newsworthy but one bashing Obama isn't.

    Or that a story about some event in far-off country is not newsworthy because 90% of projected audience has no interest in it (despite the event being of geopolitical importance). E.g. Venezuela unrest.

    From Wikipedia article on media bias:

    In a joint study by the Joan Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy at Harvard University and the Project for Excellence in Journalism, the authors found disparate treatment by the three major cable networks of Republican and Democratic candidates during the earliest five months of presidential primaries in 2007: "The CNN programming studied tended to cast a negative light on Republican candidates—by a margin of three-to-one. Four-in-ten stories (41%) were clearly negative while just 14% were positive and 46% were neutral. The network provided negative coverage of all three main candidates with McCain faring the worst (63% negative) and Romney faring a little better than the others only because a majority of his coverage was neutral. It’s not that Democrats, other than Obama, fared well on CNN either. Nearly half of the Illinois Senator's stories were positive (46%), vs. just 8% that were negative. But both Clinton and Edwards ended up with more negative than positive coverage overall. So while coverage for Democrats overall was a bit more positive than negative, that was almost all due to extremely favorable coverage for Obama.


    After the election was over, Washington Post ombudsman Deborah Howell reviewed the Post's coverage and concluded that it was tilted in favor of Obama.[116] "The Post provided a lot of good campaign coverage, but readers have been consistently critical of the lack of probing issues coverage and what they saw as a tilt toward Democrat Barack Obama. My surveys, which ended on Election Day, show that they are right on both counts." Over the course of the campaign, the Post printed 594 "issues stories" and 1,295 "horse-race stories." There were more positive opinion pieces on Obama than McCain (32 to 13) and more negative pieces about McCain than Obama (58 to 32). Overall, more news stories were dedicated to Obama than McCain. Howell said that the results of her survey were comparable to those reported by the Project for Excellence in Journalism for the national media. (That report, issued on October 22, 2008, found that "coverage of McCain has been heavily unfavorable," with 57% of the stories issued after the conventions being negative and only 14% being positive. For the same period, 36% of the stories on Obama were positive, 35% were neutral or mixed, and 29% were negative.[117][118]) While rating the Post‍ '​s biographical stories as generally quite good, she concluded that "Obama deserved tougher scrutiny than he got, especially of his undergraduate years, his start in Chicago and his relationship with Antoin "Tony" Rezko, who was convicted this year of influence-peddling in Chicago. The Post did nothing on Obama's acknowledged drug use as a teenager."

  • Will the boss (or individual news person) be happy with the news based on personal desires and biases?

    Even if it's objectively newsworthy (as in, tons of people find it interesting when someone else publishes it), if it doesn't fit the desired narrative of the boss it wouldn't be published (for a good example, see John Edwards affair hushing up for as long as they could).

    Or see the citations from 2008 US prez race coverage in last bullet point.

  • Will the news generate problems for news organization?

    There were substantiated allegations that CNN suppressed some news out of Iraq (as in, major news like Saddam's atrocities) because otherwise, Saddam Hussein would prohibit their access in-country. See here and here and here and here

  • Will the news affect the media organization's revenue and budget negatively?

    All news media organizations require money to be run.

    If you do something to cause people who you rely on to stop giving you money (be it advertisers, government agency, or a rich donor), you won't be publishing news anymore.

  • I like long answers. I'm about the only person who votes for them, that's why I write short ones. Commented Dec 3, 2015 at 18:24

"News" is most often made using the following criteria:

  • what will get us the highest ratings?

And that's about it. Note that most 'news' in western media these days is heavily entertainment based. There was a time 40+ years ago when the media options were much fewer than today. With the glut of media options out there (we have like a dozen full time news television channels, all sorts of talk radio, umpteen online publications, etc) everyone is fighting for the same ad dollars--of which, btw, there are a lot fewer of due to the competition, and slow death of print and TV media.

That doesn't mean there isn't great news sources still out there, it's just that those sources have to be sought out by the consumer.

(All that said, the BBC tends to remain one of the more respected sources of news globally--in part due to the fact that they aren't heavily dependent on advertising.)

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .