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Most the dictionaries say "it is in the news".

However, I heard some native American speakers say "it is on the news".

According to my research, "it is on the news" might refer to "news on TV or on the radio" while "it is in the news" might refer to "news in general in paper or on TV or on the radio".

But, I am not so sure I can trust that explanation.

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  • As a life-long US resident of more than half a century, I can't ever remember hearing either phrase exactly. Can we get a bit more context for this?
    – T.E.D.
    Commented Feb 22, 2022 at 23:03
  • That's because the first one always takes the contraction it's, and only seldomly is the second one not in past tense, using was.
    – Mazura
    Commented Feb 22, 2022 at 23:26

3 Answers 3

43

The explanation you got is technically correct, but misses the main difference between the two.

If something is "on the news", it means news shows (usually TV or radio) have mentioned or shown it, not that it is a news item itself. Equivalent expressions for print media that just denote inclusion in the medium are "in the newspaper" or "in Time Magazine".

If something is "in the news", it means the news media in general are covering it as a news item.

For example, I've been "on the news" a dozen times as a random person interviewed in the street, or because I was in the background of a TV camera reporting on something else. But I've never been "in the news", because there's never been a significant news story about me.

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  • 3
    Man, why do you get interviewed randomly a dozen times? Commented Feb 21, 2022 at 20:54
  • 2
    @AzorAhai-him-: It can depend a lot of where you hang out. No news crew is coming to the farm I'm at unless a plane crashes here or something. But if I go hang out near the mayor's office every day, I'm likely to occasionally get picked by a reporter as a random dude who might have an interesting opinion. Likewise, hanging out at the university's student center got me interviewed a lot more than hanging out in the engineering labs. Also, I made the paper a couple times in my small hometown as there was nothing else to write about, while large cities have zero interest in my insignificant life.
    – MichaelS
    Commented Feb 22, 2022 at 0:50
  • 2
    @AzorAhai-him- TV news crews came to my high school when they were looking for opinions from students. Also, I was involved in some news-worthy protests and got interviewed there.
    – gotube
    Commented Feb 22, 2022 at 1:33
  • 2
    "On the news" especially means "being broadcast on TV (or radio) at this moment", or when said less emphatically, "being broadcast today in every news bulletin (but not necessary at this very moment)" - ie it's current news and TV/radio stations are including it in their news bulletins.
    – Bohemian
    Commented Feb 22, 2022 at 8:56
  • 3
    Another expression (at least in American English) is "all over the news", if you really want to emphasize that some topic is being covered by a lot of news media.
    – V2Blast
    Commented Feb 22, 2022 at 15:49
11

As gotube's answer explains, there are some subtleties here.

In general, we say that something is "in a newspaper or magazine", but "on the television or radio". This extends to phrases like "his photo appeared in a magazine article" and "his photo was shown on a television program".

The phrase "on the news" fits this pattern: it means that something was shown or mentioned on a television or radio news broadcast. We can also talk about specific news broadcasts, e.g. "he was interviewed on the 6 o'clock news".

The phrase "in the news", however, is different - "news" here is not referring to a specific publication or broadcast, but the abstract concept of "news". Something that is "in the news" is the subject of a news item, whether that item appears in print or broadcast.

So, if you are "in the news", you will probably also be both "in the newspapers" and "on the (TV and radio) news".

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  • Somewhat-confusingly, internet news sources also use "in", even if it's a video.
    – Vikki
    Commented Feb 22, 2022 at 19:16
  • One possibility is that "in" refers to a source that is very close, such as one that you hold in your hand (newspaper), but "on" is from afar, such as watching a TV across the room. But also, there could be a subtlety relating to general news vs a specific instance - a specific night's TV news or a specific day's paper. When you say, "I read it in the paper", it is probably assumed that it was today's paper. Commented Feb 23, 2022 at 8:06
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I think "in the news" could refer to anything, especially when the actual medium is not the point. I don't think "on the news" would be used for something in a newspaper or magazine, more like something you'd see or hear as part of news program. Something like "I saw it on the (local television) news last night."

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  • Yes - "on the news" would not refer to anything in print form. But equally one wouldn't use "in the news" when referring to a specific news bulletin on TV or radio. And if one were speaking generally with something like "Ukraine has been in the news a lot lately" - then it is definitely "in". I don't believe there is any distinction between US and UK here.
    – WS2
    Commented Feb 20, 2022 at 7:55

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