What Is a News Cycle?

Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum

A news cycle is defined as the amount of time that passes between the release of one edition of a news outlet and the follow up edition. The most common example of a news cycle would be the daily newspaper. Released early in the morning of one day, the next edition does not appear until roughly twenty-four hours later. That one-day period between the daily edition constitutes a news cycle. Originally associated with newspapers, the term is applied today in all forms of news distribution.

A daily newspaper's news cycle is roughly 24 hours.
A daily newspaper's news cycle is roughly 24 hours.

Newspapers are not the only form of print news media with a cycle. A number of magazines devoted to high profile news events operate with a news cycle of one week. Each new edition features news and events that have occurred in the seven days since the last publication. Along with hard news, there are a number of weekly publications that specialize in entertainment news, providing a steady flow of information about celebrities to a curious public.

TV news cycles have varied considerably since cable TV began.
TV news cycles have varied considerably since cable TV began.

At one time, TV news was built around a news cycle that was usually composed of a few hours between news broadcasts. Generally, early morning news programs that ranged from fifteen to thirty minutes allowed people to catch up on world events before leaving for work. A second news report would be presented around the middle of the day, and a third offering of news would occur around the dinner hour.

The advent of cable television significantly altered the cycle for many broadcast stations, since networks devoted exclusively to news effectively make it possible to access the latest world developments any time of the day or night. In a number of cases, the mid-day new broadcast has been discontinued. A number of markets rely strictly on broadcast network news for the early morning. Local news often is relegated to the dinner hour and a late night edition.

Radio continues to follow the same cycle that has been an earmark of the medium for decades. Often, a short news update is featured around the top of each hour. This interim of an hour between news breaks is possibly the shortest continuing news cycle in the media today, excepting the constant news broadcasts found on several cable television stations.

Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum

After many years in the teleconferencing industry, Michael decided to embrace his passion for trivia, research, and writing by becoming a full-time freelance writer. Since then, he has contributed articles to a variety of print and online publications, including wiseGEEK, and his work has also appeared in poetry collections, devotional anthologies, and several newspapers. Malcolm’s other interests include collecting vinyl records, minor league baseball, and cycling.

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Discussion Comments


You know, even with a fairly quick news cycle, I bet there is always some late breaking story the news outlet misses, and wishes they could put in that edition. If a newspaper runs in the morning, I'm sure there are things that happen as the paper goes to print that the journalists wish they could put in that edition.

I suppose the Internet solves this problem. However, I don't think the market for well-written, daily news stories is ever going to go away. Yes, I do read some of my news online, but I'd rather read well thought out stories in a paper like the New York Times, even if I have to wait a whole day to hear the news!


@starrynight - Interesting point. I get a lot of my local news from a Facebook page dedicated to my area. The page is run by regular people, not by journalists. It's faster, but of course there's always the chance these non-journalists could get it wrong.

Anyway, I think it's really interesting how the news cycle has evolved over time. As the article said, daily newspapers have a news cycle of 24 hours. Then, with the advent of televised news, the news cycle became a few hours. Now, with the Internet, the news cycle can be measured in seconds!


@Ivan83 - I can see how it would be difficult to work under those conditions. However, I think new writers can learn to adapt. I read a lot of online news, and most of what I read is fairly well written.

One thing I think is interesting about the shortened news cycle and Internet access is that a lot of non-journalists report the news. For example, there was an earthquake on the East coast in 2011. People were posting on Twitter about the earthquake before any news outlets picked the story up.

I saw a chart that showed a geographic representation of the tweets in realtime, and it was pretty amazing. In some places, the tweets were seconds after the earthquake happened!


Do you guys think that the hyperactive pace of the 21st century news cycle has lowered the standards of journalism? I sure do and I don't know how this could be avoided. If you are under pressure to write up a story only moments after it has happened and then to publish that story online or on television in a matter of minutes, the quality of that reporting has to suffer.

You have less time, less information and more pressure. That leads to lies, half truths, obfuscations and inconsistencies. It is great that we can get our news so quickly after it happens, but if we took a moment to process the events I think the coverage would be richer.


Don't forget online news! The news cycle for an online news outlet is pretty much continual, with updates and breaking news moving as soon as it's available. It can be a struggle to work in online news and collaborate with a newspaper, for example, with a very different cycle.

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