News stories can generally be filed into one of two categories, hard or soft news. Broadly defined, Hard news covers recent, important issues, while soft news is mainly used as a form of entertainment.
Going into more detail, hard news covers recent, important and potentially consequential news. Topics such as politics, business and crimes all hold gravity and are important for the reader to know (Digital News Report). Bainbridge, Goc and Tynan describe hard news as a means to distribute new information to the public, which provides them with the knowledge to participate in the democratic process (2015, p.xxiv).
Looking at an example from Rocky Mountain News, the severity and urgency of a hard news story is immediately apparent. The brief and powerful heading cements the gravity of the issue, while the contents are concise and informative. The inverted pyramid is being heavily used, because hard news stories are written for readers to stop at any time, and still walk away with information about the topic (Jert’s Literacy Weblog), so the most important data should be discussed first, and followed by less important information.
In contrast to the serious and informative nature of hard news, soft news, is allowed to cover less severe topics such as celebrity, sports and lifestyle news. Soft news is defined by Tom Patterson, as “typically more sensational, more personality-centred, less time-bound, more practical, and more incident-based than other news.” (2000)
The used example of a soft news story shows how different the two genres of articles are. The contents of this article are more conversational and carries a less severe tone. In comparison to the other example, this one carries very little weight, and does not need to be timely. The JFK assassination was a huge tragedy and it was in the public’s best interest to be alerted to this as soon as possible, because it effected the situation they were in. The sports story could be told at any time because it is not imperative for the reader to know about it at a certain time.
Soft and Hard news both do different jobs. Soft entertains and audience more than a hard news story does. Its conversational, and more flowing way of communicating information makes it an easier read, it also appeals to the intrapersonal aspect of a person’s life. Hard news is essentially the opposite. It communicates urgent news, or news which needs to be shown to the public as soon as possible, before the topic loses influence. They are stern, informative and provides vital information for the public to contribute to the democratic process. It is almost unfair to compare the two, because they are used for two different reasons, one to educate and the other to entertain. Each style does its job and attracts readers, so what they are used for is irrelevant.
Bainbridge, J , Goc, N, and Tynan, L. (2015). Media and Journalism: New approaches to theory and practice (3rd ed.). Australia: Oxford University Press.
Patterson, T. E. (2000). Doing well and doing good: How soft news and critical journalism are shrinking the new audience and weakening democracy—And what news outlets can do about it (Faculty Research Working Paper Series, RWP01-001). Cambridge, MA: John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University
Journalism: Writing the Hard News Story. (2017). Jerz’s Literacy Weblog. Retrieved 28 August 2017, from https://jerz.setonhill.edu/writing/journalism1/journalism-writing-the-hard-news-story/
Figure 1:President is Slain (1963) [digital image], received from http://www.huffingtonpost.com.au/entry/john-f-kennedy-front-pages-newspapers-day-killed-assassination_n_4283342
Figure 2: Our Good Sports (2014). [digital image], received from http://www.kingscliffhockeyclub.com/our-good-sports/