Sucking up Nous

Loving the word News

Is ‘news’ the most concisely impactful word ever?   Think about the word’s meaning and suddenly you’re seeing planes flying into tall buildings, Michael Burke telling us about some starving children, a car crash in a Paris underpass and a duck amusingly perched on a skateboard.

You may have your own images.

But think about the word itself.  N E W S.  It’s got that North East West South thing going on, so there’s a sense of width, and universality, but also you can’t say ‘News’ without saying ‘new‘, and it’s the newness of the unfolding drama that keeps it ever fresh.   Breaking news is so yummy.

And you can’t say ‘News’ without saying ‘eww‘ as in gross, which it sometimes is.

There’s also a subliminal sound of nudes, which means that even without being aware, you may be thinking of this.

I could go on.

But we need to go deeper.  All the north east south west and new and what have you is interesting,  but it doesn’t help us to disinter what news is FOR and why viewers need it.   News may be about the flow of events and societal shifts, and the stories which bring them to life, but let’s think, instead, about the human need and what news does.  To help, let’s consider a word that’s a little like News, but is pronounced differently.  Or rather, it can be pronounced differently, differently.  Nous.

Did you pronounce it the French way (rhymes with ‘boo’), or the English way (rhymes with ‘house’)* ?  It works both ways.

ANYWAY, nous.

Nous, that’s US

Let’s take the French NOUS.  It means us, or we.  And it encapsulates the way that news is about a wider society, and about family, and everything in between.  Some people are locally oriented, while others are most concerned with the country as a whole.  The more globally minded care about the state of humanity.  Anyway, Maslow understood all this – he put kinship and connections as a core need in his hierarchy.  And Sister Sledge understood it too..

How news can be classified. It’s about us – local, national or global.

We know that at different times of day, this sense of ‘us’, and who ‘we’ are changes.

In the morning it’s more about family and a protective urge.

During the day time, news might be used for conversation at work – what will entertain or interest my friends.

The early evening TV news has an important local component – what’s happening in my region – and a sense of connecting with the changes that are taking place.

And at 10pm, it’s more about the ‘State of the Nation’.  People watching the news as an act of citizenship.  Like a national duty.

So News helps provide a sense of us as a community, defining who ‘we’ are.   But it’s not all about us, sometimes it’s about something we need.


NOUS, that’s about knowledge

Then there’s news as insider information.  A bit like special facts that are known to a few.  They were initially discovered by experience and then ‘made available’ to intimates.

Flash Harry. Racing tips, gossip on a need to know basis… services rendered

There’s a surprisingly long entry dedicated to nous on Wikipedia (while Google Images has NO IDEA what Nous is).  But what you need to know is, (checks that no-one is eavesdropping) that (quick glance from side to side) nous is information that is scarce.  News is best when it gives audiences a sense that they’re accessing helpful knowledge from an expert.  It’s the difference between journalism, which is informed news and interpretation from an expert, and ‘coverage‘ which involves pointing a camera somewhere and describing what’s taking place.

Nous delivers information which a viewer can use to his or her advantage, at a more personal level.  That’s quite a potent mixture.

That might be the business news at 5 am, or from a subscription service, or from a late evening programme providing analysis.

The best TV news programmes are able to make viewers feel part of a wider community, while imparting something which feels special.

News, Nous, Nous.  C’est tout.

*How you respond to the word NOUS Might be an interesting modern shibboleth or litmus test – that is a where your pronunciation gives away something hidden about who you are.  Ask someone to identify a popular bushy-tailed nut hoarder.  If they say sqvirrel, they’re German.  And lollapolooza will smoke out a Japanese person).  Saying Nous like the French implies an open and societally responsible citizen. (Or someone from France or Belgium).  Whereas Nous as in house, is more personal and self-oriented.

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