What’s (the) News? Values, Viruses and Vectors of Newsworthiness

13-14 December 2018

Third biennial conference of the Brussels Institute for Journalism Studies (BIJU)

Department of Applied Linguistics / Faculty of Arts & Philosophy

Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB), Belgium


Online registration is open. Visit this link to register.

Conference fee (including reception, lunches, coffee): € 150 (regular participants), € 75 (PhD students / Master students)Dinner will be organized on Friday 14 December and charged separately (to be paid on-site, in cash).

For updates on the practical organization, please check this website.

All questions about the conference can be addressed to:


Call for papers (closed)

Steered by what Kovach & Rosenstiel describe as our ‘awareness instinct’, exchanging ‘news’ fulfills basic human needs for information, orientation, and connection. The entanglement of ‘news’, understood as recent and current public information, and the development of journalism (as a profession), renders the question what ‘is’ or ‘becomes’ news highly relevant for the study of journalism. One particularly influential approach to ‘newsworthiness’ in journalism studies emerged from Galtung and Ruge’s 1965 seminal study on ‘news values’ in (foreign) news reporting. The core question of this study was which  criteria journalists apply in the news selection process. The authors contend that (negative) events having to do with conflict, elites or change in the daily lives or the immediate environment of the audience are likely to become news. Especially if they have some magnitude and if they are recent, unexpected and/or if they can be linked to individual people. Since then, numerous scholars taking sociological or critical cultural approaches to ‘news values’, and selection and journalistic routines in general, have revisited their ideas, and refined and complemented them.

These insights have been applicable to a lesser or greater extent throughout the whole history of journalism, yet, the digital era and the advent of social media more specifically have altered vectors – understood both as agents and carriers – of newsworthiness significantly, reshaping how ‘news’ is conceived, the way it comes about and is exchanged. Within a networked, globalized environment, the range of sources that are available to journalists or that are able to trigger ‘news’ on a day-to-day basis has expanded considerably, while a plethora of newcomers (e.g. citizen journalists, alternative, grassroots and partisan media outlets) in or at the margins of the journalistic field challenge traditional conceptions of ‘newsworthiness’, as well as the relationship between ‘journalism’ and ‘news’ per se (e.g. in ‘slow journalism’ and ‘constructive journalism’ movements). Even if the position of these newcomers along traditional news media’s status as primary definers of ‘the news’ may still be subject to debate, it is hard to deny the impact of digitization and social media on contemporary audiences’ daily ‘news diet’.

Amongst others, search engines, (automated) news aggregators, and social media platforms, and their underlying algorithms, have become key to understanding how news emerges and circulates nowadays. Social media allow to register which stories are clicked, liked or shared most and thus to examine which topics and approaches raise the highest interest of the audience. Journalists are expected to develop a feeling for ‘shareability’ and to produce texts and visuals which will ‘go viral’. The focus in the selection process seems to have shifted ever more from what journalists deemed fit to publish towards what the audience is expected to appreciate most. Moreover, as clicks, likes and shares are monitored automatically, news stories which receive the most attention of readers are moved up higher in the news flow, so that they are picked up even more often. This presentation process often happens without human intervention, thus leaving the selection entirely to the appreciation of the audience. Furthermore, these developments have also led to highly customized news packages – ‘me media’ – and the related issues of the ‘filter bubble’ and ‘echo chamber’.

However, it is still the journalist (or is it the ‘news worker’) who decides what shape the story will take and which aspects will be accentuated. The topic of news values can therefore also be approached from a linguistic/discursive side. The main question then is how news workers construct an event as interesting or relevant, i.e. how they use language to make certain events newsworthy, especially on the internet media platforms. And taking into consideration the importance of visual resources on these platforms, an analysis of verbal text will in many cases have to be replaced by or complemented with a multimodal analysis.

We invite participants to engage in a critical discussion of newsworthiness. Possible questions which can be addressed are: are there topics which are newsworthy by nature, which elements arouse most interest in human psyche, which stories and/or sources do journalists and their audience find worth sharing, how do news values vary between media types and news beats, how can journalists or news workers construct issues or events as interesting, what is the relation between newsworthiness and publishing platforms.

Inspirational literature:

  • Bednarek, Monika & Helen Caple (2017). The Discourse of News Values: How News Organizations Create 'Newsworthiness'. New York: Oxford University Press.
  • Harcup, Tony & Deirdre O'Neill (2017). What is news? News values revisited (again). Journalism Studies, 18 (12). pp. 1470-1488

We welcome submissions from all relevant disciplinary backgrounds approaching topics including but certainly not limited to: 

  • News values in the selection of news
  • News values in the production of news
  • The linguistic or multimodal construction of an event as newsworthy
  • The relation between publishing platforms and newsworthiness
  • What makes news ‘go viral’
  • Algorithms and automation in the presentation of news
  • Methodological approaches to the study of newsworthiness
  • We welcome both qualitative and quantitative methodologies, and analyses at process, product/text, and/or audience level.

Junior researchers are warmly invited to participate.

Monika Bednarek

Monika Bednarek (University of Sydney, Australia)

Discursive News Values Analysis: Past, Present and Future

This presentation introduces a linguistic approach to ‘newsworthiness’: Discursive news values analysis (DNVA). Newsworthiness concerns the worth of an event to be reported as news, as established via a set of news values (such as Negativity, Proximity, Eliteness, Unexpectedness, etc). Discursive news values analysis examines how this ‘worth’ – and these news values – are established through semiotic resources and practices. This theoretical and analytical framework has been developed in collaboration with Helen Caple, whose research focuses on image analysis and multimodality. My presentation is dedicated to examining linguistic resources that construct news values, but I also provide an introduction to the development of DNVA more generally, including the ways in which it has so far been applied as well as future research directions. I will also present initial results from a new case study on reporting about ‘Australia Day’ – the official national day of Australia, which is set on a date that is becoming increasingly controversial. Because of this controversy, Australia Day reporting is worthy of closer analysis in order to investigate how the national day is presented in the Australian news media. The case study makes use of a corpus linguistic approach, although DNVA can also be undertaken ‘manually’ through (multimodal) discourse analysis of smaller datasets.

Tony Harcup

Tony Harcup (University of Sheffield, UK)

The Bad News And The Good News About News

This paper will be an attempt at re-thinking the value of news values. It will draw on previous empirical studies of the factors that are deemed to make events (and non-events) more or less newsworthy, but will go beyond such descriptions of what news is to offer some results of critical thinking about what news could be. Underpinning the paper will be an understanding that news matters to society and is therefore rightly an area of concern for scholars, journalist and citizens alike. The bad news about news is that it does not always ask enough questions or serve the interests of citizens, especially those with the least powerful voices. The good news about news is that it sometimes does all this and more. The paper will seek to explore some of the ways in which journalism might do better in living up to its claims to be serving the public good and providing people with the information we need to be informed and active citizens.

The conference programme is now online. Please note that the programme is subject to change, and will be updated continuously up to the conference. If you have any comments or questions, please contact the conference team.

Programme What's (the) News Conference now online!

The front entrance of the Museum of Natural Sciences.

The conference will take place at the Museum of Natural Sciences in Brussels, Belgium (29 Rue Vautier, 1000 Brussels).

You can find the exact location here.


The museum is easily accessible by public transport:


Brussels-Luxembourg station is a five-minute walk from the museum.


Line 1 or 5 to “Maelbeek/Maalbeek” station, a ten-minute walk from the museum
Line 2 or 6 to “Trône/Troon” station, a ten-minute walk from the museum

The entrance to the museum is well marked.


Bus 38 or 95 to “Idalie” or “Luxembourg” bus stops which are a five-minute walk from the museum
Bus 34 or 80 to “Museum” bus stop, opposite the museum

There are several Villo! bike rental stations near the museum. The nearest, station no. 102, is located just outside the Museum, at the base of the outside staircase, facing 229-233 Chaussée de Wavre.

For more information, please see the following websites:

The Dinosaur Gallery at the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences.

All participants are warmly invited to attend the reception on Thursday 13 December from 6:30 to 7:45 p.m., which will take place on the upper floor walkway of the Dinosaur Gallery at the Museum of Natural Sciences (Mezzanine of the Gallery of Dinosaurs).

Following the reception (group 1: 7-7:45 p.m. / group 2: 7:45-8:30 p.m.), there will be a guided tour of the museum. This tour will cover all master pieces of the museum, including the Dinosaur Gallery and the Gallery of Evolution. Pre-registration is required (cost €10, to be paid in advance).

Dinner will be organized on Friday 14 December (7 p.m.) at restaurant ‘Poivre & Sel’, Parnassusstraat 2, 1050 Elsene (http://www.poivre-et-sel.be/en/) and will be charged separately (estimated cost €40, to be paid at the conference, in cash).

All papers will be published (after the authors’ consent) in the electronic proceedings of the conference and we are planning to publish a selection of the papers in a volume and/or a special issue. Special issues on the conference themes of the 2014 and 2016 editions appeared in Journalism: Theory, Practice, and Criticism ('Hybridity and the News' (2017) and 'Constructive Journalism: Concepts, Practices, and Discourses' (in press, available online first), and in Discourse, Context & Media ('Post-truth and the political: constructions and distortions in representing political facts' (in press, available online first)). 

Book of Abstracts

Book of Abstracts

Conference Proceedings

Conference Proceedings