Retailing at just 20p, the price of a child’s lollypop, the i newspaper is the latest addition to the UK’s national newspaper scene. The i is the “compact” version of the Independent, an established “quality” newspaper owned by the Russian Alexander Lebedev. It shares all its content with its sister paper, slimming it down to about half the size. The i carries 56 pages, The Independent roughly twice that.
What follows is an analysis of the news agenda of the i newspaper using the definitions of news values that are contained in Journalism Principles and Practice by Tony Harcup and Deirdre O’Neill. For the purposes of this exercise we will concentrate on the news stories exclusively, and so we will discount the front cover, the sports section, the various news matrices (and other forms of News in Briefs or nibs) and other artefacts that so obviously lie outside our understanding of journalism (weather panels, adverts, cartoons, readers letters et al).
And so, in the edition for Wednesday 23 February, we find that the i contains 36 news stories and 12 features. A summary of the news values of the paper’s news pages is as follows:
The I leads, on page 4 (oddly for a newspaper the front page and pages 3 and 4 taken up with either images or short items and none can be described as fully-fledged articles) on the news of the Christchurch earthquake. Applying Harcup and O’Neill’s test, it is fair to say that the news values inherent in the lead story are those of Bad News (it’s an earthquake), Magnitude (a sufficient number of people were involved) and Relevence (although New Zealand is half a world away it is an English-speaking country with close ties to the UK).
Another interesting story that might explain our methodology is the page 6 lead about union leaders warning that the NHS cuts will lead to a loss of 50,000 jobs. This story contains six news values : it mentions the Power Elite (Union leaders), Bad News (people losing their jobs), Magnitude (50,000 people are involved), Relevance (we all use the NHS), Follow up (it’s all part of the drip-drip-drip of cuts) and, arguably, it suits the Media Agenda of the paper – the i is renowned for its liberal bias and is read by many union members and public sector workers.
In all of the 36 news stories in this morning’s papers the most common new agenda was that of Relevance. In all, 27 stories had a direct or indirect relevance to a UK audience (being about the UK, the USA or another English-speaking nation, plus a solitary story about Germany, which is a significant European partner). These findings reinforce Harcup’s suggestion that “in the UK we get more stories about the USA than, say, Belgium, because although the latter is nearer and a partner in the EU, we share more language and cultural reference points with the former.
The second most populous news agenda was that of Bad News. Of the 36 stories, 24 were bad news and 12 were good: an exact ratio of two-to-one. We also noticed that a great deal of stories contained within the paper are already in the news: 17 stories – over half – were follow-ups of previous stories.
Relevance, Bad News and Follow Ups, perhaps we might have expected that of most newspapers, but what can we discern about the tone of this paper specifically? Significantly, perhaps, the i contained 15 stories about the Power Elite but just four that feature Celebrities, a ratio of nearly four-to-one. It is worth noting that this is somewhat offset by the feature pages that carry small items about Cheryl Cole, Sheridan Smithy, Kate Moss and Paul McCartney, but hints that the paper’s own claim that it contains “none of that celeb gossip nonsense” has some substance after all.