Hello and welcome back to Scribes & Archers. The weather for today is looking rather crisp, with a chance of flying newspapers. But let’s head over to Worldbuilding with recent news updates. Worldbuilding?
Okay, not the best intro, but today we’re talking about how communication, and especially the news, works in your world. The title says fantasy, but this can apply to any fictional world. And I’m a little brain-dead today, so please bear with me.
What’s in the News?
Let’s start with content. What is considered newsworthy in your world? Politics? Local events? Crime reports? Entertainment? How does this change from culture to culture based on their values? Maybe your education-centric culture shares routine updates on things that have been discovered/learned from visiting foreigners, while your theocratic society values sharing religious revelations and newly-realized religious laws.
Are all of these categories talked about together in one format, or do you have to get a separate news source for each?
How does the content of each category change depending on your culture? What might be in the political news of a kingdom vs. the political news of a republic? How will local events be different in a big city vs. in a small town? How will entertainment be different in a culture that values warfare vs. a culture that values art?
Who Writes the News?
Whether your news is physically written or simply retold, who is responsible for spreading it? Is news taken directly from the source, such as a religious organization or a school? Is it shared by grandmothers and nosy neighbors? Are there specialized journalists?
Your culture will trust particular people with its news based on its values. A theocratic society might trust its religious leaders that are considered infallible, while a community-centered culture might understand that word-of-mouth isn’t always reliable but still value the intention of their neighbors in sharing news and simply take things with a grain of salt.
Who your culture trusts with its news might also shape its values and practices. That theocratic society might learn to simply take the news as fact no matter where it comes from, since their religious leaders are considered infallible, whereas that community-centered culture might be more aware of the need for research and checking with the source when presented with new information.
Also keep in mind that whoever spreads the news has the ability to shape the news. Some places might have very faithful news-sharers, while others might have journalists who spin the news to fit a particular narrative, whether that be merely for creativity’s sake or for corrupt ends. Who is responsible for your culture’s news will shape how the news is presented and perceived.
Who Gets the News?
Is news something that everyone can access, or is it limited to certain groups of people with inside access or access to a particular news format? Is news conveyed publicly, through a newspaper or bulletin or TV program, or is it private through letters or personal discussion?
Are the limits on news access intentional or incidental? Do the leaders of a totalitarian government control who has access to the news so that they can shape the thoughts of their people? Or do the people of a community-centered culture end up leaving a certain town or group out of the loop due to oversight? Or does limited access to a certain format leave some people unable to access it? Maybe newspapers are expensive to make and sell, so the poor have to rely on word-of-mouth to get the news.
How is News Conveyed?
What format does the news come in? Are there TV news programs? Newspapers? Carrier pigeons? Word-of-mouth? Posted bulletins (in one central location or spread throughout an area)?
Why this format? Is it the cheapest? The most accessible? The most reliable? The easiest to manipulate? Which of these factors are important will depend, again, on the values of your culture and of those responsible for spreading the news.
How is this format distributed? Maybe word-of-mouth news comes mostly from your neighbors, but there’s also a designated news-sharer who travels around town spreading news. Or maybe your culture uses newspapers, which could be sold at stands around town or could be delivered.
Also consider what kind of jobs this might create. Printers? Delivery boys? Newsstand vendors? Reporters? Pigeon-keepers? Professional memorizers? Bulletin-posters? Journalists?
Is News Communication the Same as Regular Communication?
Is news communicated just the same as anything else (writing, speaking, video, letters, carrier pigeon, etc.)? Or is news special? Is it special on purpose to set it apart as news, or is it simply more effective to mass-communicate through another method other than the norm?
Is news delivered the same way as other communication? Is the technology the same, even if the format is different? Or is it completely unique?
Have you considered the news in your world before? Who’s responsible for it? What is the most important category of news in your fictional culture? Let’s chat in the comments!
Looking for a flexible place to keep your worldbuilding notes? Sign up to my newsletter for a free country-building template!