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NEWS IS NOT: The really significant events that happened in a given span of time – problem is that news is just a media text and works with conventions;

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Presentation on theme: "NEWS IS NOT: The really significant events that happened in a given span of time – problem is that news is just a media text and works with conventions;"— Presentation transcript:

1 NEWS IS NOT: The really significant events that happened in a given span of time – problem is that news is just a media text and works with conventions; it adheres to realism conventions and these influence how we understand the news. NEWS IS: A set of stories based on events deemed important to report over a given span of time. People in news business decide what news is. What drives decisions? if it bleeds it leads – airplanes versus cars. Selection process is very important. News is a representation of what is important for you to know Local news teams and the News you need to know – crime coverage, sports, weather, local celebrity events. The conventions themselves shape decisions about what it is that you need to know – pre-determined. Already sold as “What You Need To Know” News is a manufactured product Like a fictional text – editors, writers, actors – just like fiction. MAIN POINT: Rather than news gathering, it is more accurate to speak of news-making.

2 (MAJOR) NEWS SOURCES 1. "The wire" (AP & Reuters) 2. News Conferences and Press Releases 3. The competition (other news media) 4. The beat 5. Reporter initiative/ investigative research

3 The medium through which you get news matters.
CHARACTERISTICS OF NEWS Print news (and most internet news) Menu-like – choice Time-flexible – you can read it when you want Customized address – different section for different people Easily archived – and easily searched – indices of stories. Internet publications are different in this respect given the relatively recent emergence of Internet news publications, as well as the limited archives that many websites maintain Provides stable and easily referenced record. Papers of record (i.e. New York Times) create the ‘official story’ Broadcast news Sequential – news, weather, sports Time-fixed – happens at particular time of day Universal address – same news for everyone Fleeting – if you don’t record it, it’s gone Provides sense of immediacy The medium through which you get news matters.

News is often presented as fact when it is not. Reporters only quote/cite important people – and report those citations as truth. Uses same conventions as realism Many of the common criticisms of news that we are used to hearing are erroneous -Such as reporters being liberal An understanding of the process of news-making will help clarify why stories turn out the way they do. -If you understand how news is made then you have insight into how its not a mirror of reality but a manufactured product News and information are often thought to be the backbone of American Democracy. The news media fuel political education and participation -If we see this as the role of news then news should provide MOBILIZING INFORMATION that tells us about an event before it happens so that we can get involved. Instead, news treat politics more like a spectator sport. Thus…there’s a problem when we look at the distribution of news coverage…

5 CONVENTIONS OF NEWS Narrative -Reporting follows a story format, it not just randomly assembled -narrative instructs you about how to feel, and it fulfills expectations Objectivity -A style of writing or set of procedures to be followed. It is the standard of professionalism for journalists. -As a convention, objectivity is to truth what realism is to reality: it bears no direct and necessary relationship (an objective story does not necessarily have to be true). Genre Conventions -With respect to TV broadcast news, footage is often cut with reference to existing genres of entertainment media The (intentional or unintentional) use of Chomsky & Herman’s 5 Filters

6 NARRATIVE IN NEWS News stories are stories Narrative Frame – the mood and style of narrative (suspense, comedic, tragic, excitement and fear) Plot – what actually happens (always highly selective b/c you can’t report on everything that happens) Characters – each character has a role (good, bad, concerned citizen, etc.)

Earliest news broadcasts were offered as a “public service” in part to justify the ability for stations to secure licenses through the FCC. Early news advertised the “liveness” of television, especially through remote cameras. TV comes into home as part of a broader (1950s) cultural fascination with new technologies, and the news emphasizes this weather gadgets and helicopters. Audiences were already familiar with the format of news from radio, but the image component added a 2nd dimension to news experience, i.e. radio with pictures. The Kennedy-Nixon debates in the 60s were the first held on TV and as such they really demonstrated how the medium could be used (and how public images could be framed in the process). Over the course of TV history, news became a major source of advertiser revenue because of broad audience demographics. News serves up audience to advertisers. News expands from 15 to 30 minutes during the Vietnam war.

(Most Americans get news from TV but don’t necessarily know more about issues) 1. It is primarily a source of information for its audience Socially-based scheduling. Dinnertime and bedtime are not good times to retain info, and thus low information retention rate among audience members. Predictable coverage. Local news starts with death, then weather, sports, etc. Infotainment. News is provided by networks whose goal is to entertain not impart information TV news viewers can see events as they actually unfold “Live” editing techniques . News sold as live. Selective use of feeds Familiar conventions – same as TV fiction (Rapping article – sitcoms) Time compression and fabricated “on-scene” reporting. Example: White House lawn at 11:00 but nothing’s going on “on scene” A whole day goes by in 30 minutes.

The Conservative Critique – what conservatives say about newspapers The Liberal Critique – what liberals say about newspapers Both want to answer the question: What’s wrong with the news? They are seen as ‘opposing’ critiques, but both share a number of common assumptions: 1. Newspapers basically “work” -Most of the time people thinking newspapers encourage people to be good political and active citizens -Assume that people are getting the news they need to be politically active 2. Their primary purpose is public service and political education -Profit is the bottom line for news and media organization, therefore headlines are meant to attract viewers rather than create more engaged citizens -As an advertising-supported format, it’s primary purpose is to sell audiences to advertisers. 3. News is a real thing you can “go out there and get” -News is largely obtained from the ‘wire’, not from beat reporters & investigative journalism -Also obtained from pre-digested content, already in the form of a story: PR -Made versus gotten news: News is not a thing but a process of crafting and making 4. Reporter interpretation is an obstacle to effective news-making -Subjectivity vs. objectivity -Reporter’s interpretation in narrative is very important (ex: choices of quotes) 5. Myth of competition -Relative lack of diverse news media ownership and competition -Also, it’s wrongly assumed that quality is assured by quantity of competing newspapers.

1. Presentation of conflicting possibilities – stories often written with 2 sides but there are always more than two sides. Also, each side not necessarily treated in the same way or given equal attention. 2. Judicious use of quotation marks – reporter finds experts to validate information (also called sourcing) – but experts are not always objective or bipartisan 3. Structuring information in an appropriate sequence – INVERTED PYRAMID – Fact checking is not necessary, rather what is important is whether sources are quoted accurately. -Appropriate sequencing makes editor’s job easier and saves time. MAIN POINT: Objectivity allows reporter or journalist to maintain a professional distance from the story

1. Political distance – By being objective, the newsperson is never seen as partisan. Hence, we are supposed to trust them. 2. Expertise – Reporters have special training and skills that are specific to the trade. 3. Factuality – Reporter only has to quote people accurately; it is not always necessary to check facts. 4. Rules replace ethics MAIN POINTS: Objectivity is impossible because all statements of fact imply a value statement. One cannot remove oneself from the process. It is impossible to write without a point-of-view AND We wrongly assume that without objective reporting democracy will collapse. Other countries papers are overtly interpretive and it even worked in our own past. People may be capable of evaluating different interpretations.

Fallacious notion that news media is inherently liberal. Reporters are generally liberal on social issues and conservative on economic issues; the same is true with print and editorial policies. BUT… Journalism is stridently CENTRIST in its orientation. For example, journalists try to remain aloof when something bad comes out about a political candidate, they rarely criticize politicians for “lying,” etc. The critique of journalism as liberal masks the fact that news media are primarily owned by millionaires with conservative political agendas. More broadly, news has very specific ideological assumptions that shape the ways in which stories are told…or whether they are told at all (see chap 5 on news & ideology). For example: war, economics, environmentalism, and the so-called ‘war on terror’ are all covered in ways that severally limit the range of debate.

The dominant model of free speech: A person speaking in public and giving handbills to passers-by is exercising free speech. A person needs protection from government intervention -Role of government in free speech is just not arresting people for saying stuff -Their role is to more or less stay out of issues concerning free speech. An economic free market produces a free market of ideas No concern over private restraints on free expression Freedom of the press is available to those who can afford to own media outlets No worries about the free market, only worries about government. Mass mediated communication is identical to person on a soapbox

Noam Chomsky and Edward Herman argue that the Hyde Park model is BAD because it is an inaccurate model of free speech. In fact, they argue that mass media functions much like a propaganda system, inasmuch as there are filters that prevent genuine free speech. They are: Size and Ownership of the Mass Media -News media are BIG corporations with a strong profit imperative, as well as formal & informal social networks connecting them to other big corporations -International trade: policies must be favorable with vested interest in federal media policy 2. Advertising -If your news doesn’t bring in a large commodity audience that is a problem because broadcasters make $ via indirect payment -Advertisers have political positions and this influences the news -Buying mood stories – shows that don’t threaten your worldview Sources -Reporters have deadlines and therefore, must find ways to make their jobs easier (PR and news releases) -People with official positions are more likely to be quoted – credibility is instant -If you alienate your source they won’t talk to you 4. Flak -Direct responses from people in positions of authority and businesses who complain about reporters and stories NOT from individuals calling or writing letters. Flak is organized and institutional. 5. Ideological Premises of the system -If a position is caste in a certain light we can ignore it. -If there is a connection made to socialism and communism, for example, it renders ideas and positions as invalid, and therefore eliminated from public debate. MAIN POINT: These help filter out certain things/ideas from getting into the news. They are large-scale structural factors – not attributable to individual journalists. It’s a sifting process.

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