News comes in two broad categories – hard and soft news. First, what is news? It is an account of current happening. News is Information not previously known to someone. It is an account of current event written by a journalist and reported through a mass medium – print or electronic. News is a report of a recent and important event of interest to the public. You use news elements as a guide in ensuring that the most basic facts or ingredients are included in the story.
There are two broad categories of news. They are hard and soft news. Let’s see the thin line that divides these categories of news.
Hard news is an account of a serious, topical event which often tenses up the interest of the audience as they read or listen to it. It has been defined as “serious and timely stories about important topics” describing “major crime, fire, accident, speech, labour dispute or political campaign” (Fedler, Bender, Davenport, and Drager, 2005, p. 131). Hard news has also been described as news “of important public events, such as government actions, international happenings, social conditions, the economy, crime, the environment, and science. Hard news must not be negative or bad news. Positive news on serious issues which often draw rapt attention from the audience with significant impact qualify as hard news. Hard news stories come in inverted pyramid form, presenting facts from the most important to the least important.
This type of news is basically written to entertain, while still informing the audience. It mostly adopts featurized news presentation format. Soft news is not just entertainment news, but also includes human interest or human angle stories which may not be on the entertainment industry. Serious events also have ‘soft’ angle. For instance, a political rally could provide a fashion story if the reporter looks at the pattern of dressing of some of the politicians present at the rally. However, soft news stories often arouse emotions and ecstasy.
Lorenz and Vivian (1996, p.40) while recognizing the difficulty in defining soft news, describe it as news about “things that people instinctively want to know, as opposed to things they feel duty-bound to know.” They further note that soft news is less important than hard news but not unimportant. Dominick (2009) writes that soft news, which he calls features, rely on human interest for their news value and appeal to people’s curiosity, sympathy, skepticism, or amazement. According to Dominick:
They can be about places, people, animals, topics, events, or products. Some stories that would be classified as soft news are the birth of a Kangaroo at the local zoo, a personality sketch of a local resident who has a small part in an upcoming movie, a cook who moonlights as a stand-up comedian, and a teenager who mistakenly gets a tax refund check for $400,000 instead of $40 (p.306).
Soft news may not be as timely as hard news but it is not necessarily stale news; it may not be breaking news but it could be interesting and exciting, providing insight into serious matters (Nwabueze, 2015). It could even come in form of gossip stories, as contained in the gossip columns or pages in some newspapers and magazines. Most television and print media reserve airtime and space for soft news. The numerous entertainment programmes, features and magazine programmes on television are soft news contents.
(see: Introduction to Mass Communication: Media Ecology in the Digital Age – second edition, 2021; written by Nwabueze, C.)