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The processes of selection & presentation of the content of the news

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Presentation on theme: "The processes of selection & presentation of the content of the news"— Presentation transcript:

1 The processes of selection & presentation of the content of the news
Topic 2 The processes of selection & presentation of the content of the news

2 How is news presented? Traditional methods of news coverage include:
Television Newspapers Radio New media methods of news include: Internet 24 hour rolling news channels on satellite television Television still the primary source of news coverage (72%); despite the new ways that news can be accessed, such as sat tv, the internet, blogs, text news to mobile phones. Will the new media become more popular?

3 Television news An Ofcom survey in 2005 found 67% regarded television news as being the most trusted news medium. Television news is often seen as a ‘window on the world’ offering the audience fair & unbiased evidence of events as they happen. Chandler says the way the television news is presented results in the audience regarding it as the most reliable source of news. Much of the way the news is represented is centred around the newscaster & the studio surroundings.

4 How/why is the television news regarded as being most reliable?

5 The way the news is presented appears to convey the objective truth; in other words, no bias.
The television news is perceived by all groups as an honest & trustworthy reflection of the real world. It is rarely challenged and instead seen as very valid. See Buckingham’s findings on pg 155 & add to notes.

6 Is television news impartial?
Critics of the way the news is presented claim it presents its audience with an illusion of objectivity. What is an illusion? McQuail argues the ‘news’ is not objective or impartial. If it was all events would be reported in the news – we know they are not. News is actually a socially manufactured product because it is the end product of a selective process whereby choices & judgements are made about what events are important enough to cover & how to cover them. This selective process is carried out by gatekeepers. These are people within the media who have the power to let some news stories through & stop others (editors & journalists). Gatekeepers actually decide what counts as news, or is newsworthy. McQuail actually believes news is loaded information & often reflects the perspective of particular groups. If this is the case then what can we say about the reliability & impartiality of the news?

7 Web task Look at the websites of the following newspapers on the same day: Sun Daily Mail Daily Telegraph The Guardian Cut out the main headlines & stories & present on a poster. Make a detailed observation (A4 page max) comparing the presentation of the main stories considering the following: Did all papers cover the same stories? Headline language, images, length of report? Highlight similarities & differences. Draw a conclusion on McQuail’s statement that news is socially constructed & part of a selective process.

8 The biased/partial nature of news selection Organisational or bureaucratic constraints/routines
News coverage is shaped by the way television news companies & newspapers are organised & which audiences they are aimed at. Look at the following diagram & expand

9 The biased/partial nature of news selection The news values held by the media organisations
Spencer-Thomas explains that ‘news values’ are general guidelines/criteria that determine how worthwhile a story is & how much prominence it is given by newspapers & broadcast media. In other words, news values are what journalists, editors etc consider to be newsworthy or what is going to appeal to a the audience. News values/newsworthiness will differ between different newspapers & channels as different groups tend to watch certain news channels & read certain newspapers. An interesting news story will contain some of these news values.

10 The biased/partial nature of news selection Ownership, ideology & bias
The selection of news stories do depend on who actually owns the newspaper or news channel where the story is being reported. For example, the Mirror newspaper is traditionally pro-Labour & so will tend to run stories that portray the Labour party in a positive light or are in line with their political values. This means certain stories will not be reported objectively. A media owner can influence the editorial priorities, fairness, transparency & impartiality of the news. Basically, owners of the news can influence the way news is reported by setting the approach, making resources available.

11 Some would say the news is not biased.
Plural sociologists argue journalists are professionals who are disinterested, impartial & objective pursuers of the truth. Neo-pluralists do admit though that in the modern world of journalism many more obstacles are in place which make objectivity difficult to maintain. For example, Davies argues that contemporary journalism has been corrupted by a failure to check facts. The best example of this failure to check facts were the millennium bug stories which were a key feature of the news in 1999, where claims were made that computer systems would crash at midnight & entry into the 21st century. These stories were widespread within the media & were not verified by the journalists writing them. Davies argues that modern day journalism is actually ‘churnalism’, wherein journalists over-rely on ‘facts’ produced by government spin doctors & pr experts. Journalists are now passive collectors of second-hand material. In other words, very few stories checked by journalists using investigative techniques.

12 Why has journalism become churnalism?
Davies claims commercial pressures have led to space needing to be filled as quickly & as cheaply as possible. As a result, it is cheap to use ‘facts’ from official sources such as PR companies etc There also is commercial pressure to follow stories that the public want to hear; celebrity stories attract large audiences. What do large audiences attract? We are witnessing what Couldry calls the ‘tabloidisation’ of the news as it becomes underpinned by entertainment values in the war to attract larger audiences. As a result, sport, crime & celebrity marriages have now become the central focus of news reporting. Is this news?!! Essentially, the news lacks balance & relevance in comparison to what it did a couple of decades ago.

13 Read page 160-162 to add depth to the argument as to why the news is biased & partial:
The power elite The propaganda model of the media The hierarchy of credibility The social backgrounds of media professionals Semiotic analysis

14 Web task The Glasgow University Media Group takes a Marxist stance at how the media selects & presents news. Read case study on page 161 to see one of their studies. Find out more about their work on the media on

15 Moral panics This is another area to consider when discussing the selection & presentation of news. It is particularly relevant when discussing media representations of young people, sexuality & certain ethnic groups. An important aspect of news production is the focus on particular types of news that results in moral panics. A moral panic is a media reaction to certain social groups &/or their activities which is defined as threatening social values. This then creates anxiety among wider society due to the way the issue is portrayed.

16 Moral panics & young people
The term moral panic was made popular by Stanley Cohen in his discussion of how the media reacted to youth ‘disturbances’ on an Easter Monday in 1964. What he claims were minor scuffles were reported in the media as ‘Day of Terror’, ‘battle’, ‘riot’. There was no explanation from the media as to what actually caused the minor fights on that day; instead incidents were exaggerated & over-reported. He argues the media took the moral high ground & tapped into what they saw as a social consensus that the general population was concerned about the activities of young people & the apparent decline in their morality. In his work ‘Folk Devils & Moral Panics’ Cohen says mods & rockers were presented & analysed in the media as a threat to law & order. The media called for them to be punished & controlled, ultimately affecting the wider public’s perception of young people at that time.

17 Examples of moral panics
Mid 50s Teddy boys 1964 Mods & rockers Late 60s Hippies smoking marijuna Skinhead violence Early 70s Football hooliganism Street crime/mugging 1976/1977 Punk rock Heroine addiction Mid to late 80s Homosexuality & Aids Illegal acid-house raves Video nasties

18 Early to mid 90s Child sex abuse Single parent familes Ecstasy use Children & violence Dangerous dogs Mid to late 90s Welfare scroungers Boy’s underachievement in schools 2002/2003 Paedophiles Black gun culture Asylum seekers Hoodies, knife & gun culture Binge drinking

19 Why do moral panics come about?
Read page 163 for stages of a moral panic Furedi argues moral panics occur when society fails to adapt to dramatic change, such as change in dress & behaviour, and it is felt there is a loss of control. Quite often, it is because the older generation feel they are losing control over younger people; they feel they are at risk from this new behaviour & that things are getting out of control. With the media’s encouragement, they believe traditional norms & values are under threat. The media tends to highlight ‘problem groups’ because it believes the majority of people share common norms & values & are against these changes. The media basically gives the public what it thinks the public wants to hear. The media are key reasons why moral panics occur.

20 Another reason why moral panics may come about is because such stories are a good way of selling newspapers (particularly tabloids) & making a profit! The audience is manipulated by the media for commercial purposes.

21 Hall (a Marxist) believes moral panics come about because they serve an ideological function.
He studied media coverage of black muggers in the 70s & found this labelled all Afro-Caribbean males as a threat to the white population. This had the ideological purpose of turning the white wc against the black wc & diverting attention away from the profits being made by capitalism. Such media coverage also justified the strict laws & policing used against problem groups. In other words, it enables laws to be passed that otherwise would be considered by the public as being too harsh. (eg installation of surveillance cameras)

22 Do moral panics have a real basis?
Left realists would argue that moral panics should not be dismissed as a product of the inability to adapt to change, as a means of making profit or as serving ruling class ideology. They believe they have a very real basis in reality as the media often identifies groups who are a very real threat to society – particularly to vulnerable groups like older people. They believe many moral panics are justified. Either way, the study of moral panics draws our attention to the fact that the media is very powerful in defining what is acceptable or unacceptable behaviour.

23 Exam question (spec paper)
‘Both the selection & presentation of news are ideologically controlled’. To what extent do sociological arguments support this view? Essentially, this question is Marxism versus Pluralism.

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