Barry Fox's article, Google searches for quality not quantity, at New Scientist discusses a recently published Google patent application (not an awarded patent, yet) about concepts that Google News is possibly using in its algorithm.
Google has plans that will dramatically improve the results of internet news searches, by ranking them according to quality rather than simply by their date and relevance to search terms.
The article and the patent app itself are interesting reads and could shed some light about how Google News ranks articles. However, to use the phrase "has plans" might be a bit strong. Why?
Fox fails to mention that this patent application was filed with the USPTO about 18 months ago, on September 16, 2003 to be precise. This means that it's very likely that one/some/many/all or none of the concepts are already being utilized in the Google News algorithm.
I've been compiling search related patents for a couple of years (look for a new update in SearchDay soon) and it's important to remember that it can take a long time from first filing a patent application to the time it's published and then awarded. This doesn't mean reviewing patents isn't useful and interesting, far from it, just something to keep in mind.
Btw, here's a link to the full text of the patent app: Systems and methods for improving the ranking of news articles.