Data Set: the Relevance of News Stories

Relevance is a core news value -- but what does it mean to audiences?

by Jena Barchas-LichtensteinJohn VoiklisDarcey GlasserJohn Fraser
Feb 25, 2020

News creators and news audiences alike understand relevance as a core news value, but they understand it in different ways. Relevance is not really a static property of news stories; instead, it’s a relationship negotiated between audience and story (and, less visibly, the story’s creator). Journalists can write in ways that highlight a story’s relevance to some particular audience, and audiences can make additional personal connections beyond the ones made explicit in the story. While most earlier research has focused on how journalists attempt to make stories relevant to their audiences, we asked the public how they judge relevance in an online survey study.

Specifically, we asked people to watch or read one of several health or science stories and answer a series of questions about their reactions. Towards the end of the survey, respondents were asked the following two questions:

  • Did you find this story relevant to you?
  • Why or why not?

In the first survey, this was asked as a single prompt with an open text box. In all following surveys, the first question offered radio buttons “Yes” and “No” while the second question provided an open textbox.

Keep an eye out for future publications using this data.

About this Study

This research was conducted with PBS NewsHour. It was funded by the National Science Foundation under grant #DRL-1516347 and the National Institutes of Health under grant #1R25OD020212-01A1. More information is available in the Readme tab of the data file. You can also check out a related post here.

Knology. (2020). News relevance data set. [Data file and code book]. Retrieved from

Further Reading

Bednarek M (2016) Voices and values in the news: News media talk, news values, and attribution. Discourse, Context, & Media 11: 27-37.

Bednarek M and Caple H (2012) ‘Value added’: Language, image, and news values. Discourse, Context, & Media 1: 103-113.

Bednarek M and Caple H (2014) Why do news values matter? Towards a new methodological framework for analyzing news discourse in Critical Discourse Analysis and and beyond. Discourse & Society 25(2): 135-158.

Cotter, C. (2010) News Talk: Investigating the Language of Journalism. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Heikkilä, H., & Ahva, L. (2015) The relevance of journalism: Studying news audiences in a digital era. Journalism Practice 9(1): 50-64.

Heikkilä, H., Kunelius, R., & Ahva, L. (2010) From credibility to relevance: Towards a sociology of journalism's 'added value'. Journalism Practice 4(3): 274-284.

Lee, A.M., & Chyi, H.I. (2014) When newsworthy is not noteworthy: Examining the value of news from the audience's perspective. Journalism Studies 15(6): 807-820.

Molek-Kozakowska, K. (2016) Stylistic analysis of headlines in science journalism: A case study of New Scientist. Public Understanding of Science.

Spitulnik Vidali, D. (2010). Millennial encounters with mainstream television news: Excess, void, and points of engagement. Journal of Linguistic Anthropology 20(2): 372-388.

Photo by Naren Morum on Unsplash

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