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Political Source Relations JN 513/815 Political Reporting.

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Presentation on theme: "Political Source Relations JN 513/815 Political Reporting."— Presentation transcript:

1 Political Source Relations JN 513/815 Political Reporting

2 Lecture Outline 1. Primary Definition 2. News Source Influence Models 3. Journalist/Source Dance

3 Primary Definition ‘Primary definition’ – asserts a pattern of structured, differential access to media (and the power to define issues…), favouring those in elite or dominant positions and discriminating against marginal or subordinate groups Primary definers are political and economic elites who are authoritative figures and institutions that work to reproduce existing hierarchies and forms of knowledge.

4 Primary Definition News media are secondary definers. Journalists not ‘biased’ towards elite groups but rely on them because of organisational factors, as a result of the media’s structural relationships of dependence on recognised authority.

5 Primary Definition Primary definition thesis has been criticised: dominant perspectives are sometimes undermined; historical shifts in status and access occur; and political elites are not represented in single perspective but are factionalised. m/politics/2014/jan/27/vinc e-cable-attacks- ideological-cuts-uk-recovery m/politics/2014/jan/27/vinc e-cable-attacks- ideological-cuts-uk-recovery

6 News Source Influence Models Radical Approach Corporate and state sources have massive institutional and economic resource advantages that cannot be matched – restricting/enabling access to information, assisting their status as primary definers, and facilitating ‘bureaucratic affinity’. Public relations one means for the state and large corporations to control the media.

7 News Source Influence Models Public relations is linked directly to needs of capitalist democracies – universal suffrage, the rise of the mass media and the consumer society, the ongoing need for legitimation of the state and capitalist accumulation are all factors requiring increased management of public opinion.

8 News Source Influence Models Radical Pluralist Approach Radical pluralists argue that public communication more of a dynamic process of contestation and that the radical approach is: overly economic determinist; subordinates activities of journalists; assumes primary definers act in unison; and does not account for historical shifts in status and access.

9 News Source Influence Models Pluralist Optimism Approach Pluralist optimism position argues that PR less capital- dependent than other forms of public communication. News coverage is free. Strategies can be successful if they mobilize ‘public interest’. Use of social media, volunteer labour, non-professional PR labour versed in media process, use of third parties (celebrities, public figures) to generate coverage.

10 Journalist/Source Dance The metaphor of some kind of dance is invoked to describe both the interdependence of politicians and journalists and the struggle to lead in the relationship.

11 Journalist/Source Dance The symbiotic relationship between politicians, political staffers and journalists is a significant feature of everyday political communication. While politicians can employ forms of social media to communicate more directly with the public, politicians still need journalists, and the oxygen of publicity that they provide, in order to disseminate their policies and promote themselves.

12 Journalist/Source Dance Journalists need access to politicians to fulfill their ‘fourth estate’ functions in monitoring the exercise of power and also because the drama of party politics is newsworthy and a prominent and substantial feature of the daily news agenda (McNair 2000, 42-43). This ‘exchange relationship’‘can be characterized as a voluntary contractual one because it mimics a market relationship in which information supplied by government is freely swapped for publicity by journalists at the price where both sides gain equal satisfaction’ (Moloney 2001, 130).

13 Journalist/Source Dance Alternatively, politics is an inherently combative and agonistic phenomenon and the diversity of interests of politicians, spin doctors and journalists will result in something of a contest. com/world/2014/jan/29/u s-congressman-michael- grimm-threatens-reporter com/world/2014/jan/29/u s-congressman-michael- grimm-threatens-reporter

14 Journalist/Source Dance Power is manifested in the possession of knowledge and information and the means to control where and when that knowledge and information is distributed, and this fact informs practices associated with the contest model of political communication: o politicians may limit media conferences during crises; or o engage in the anonymous leaking of information to embarrass a political opponent; and o the press gallery will hound and interrogate politicians who they feel are covering up embarrassing information.

15 Journalist/Source Dance We can distinguish between structural factors over access and cultural factors regarding the meanings of the news. There are individual struggles over which events and issues are reported and then how those events and issues are reported. It may well be that authoritative political sources are able to exert their influence over journalists in the setting of the news agenda and the process of news making, while journalists have the greater power in the framing of news and its interpretative content.

16 Journalist/Source Dance Journalists are highly dependent upon the initiatives of elite sources and if conflict does not exist between political elites then a particular issue is not likely to be raised by journalists. Bennett’s theory of indexing refers to ‘the journalistic practice of opening or closing the news gates to citizen-activists … according to levels of conflict among public officials and established interests involved in making decisions about an issue’ (2005, 4).

17 References Bennett, W. L. 2005, News: The Politics of Illusion, 6 th edn., New York, Pearson. McNair, B. 2000, Journalism and Democracy: An evaluation of the political public sphere, London, Routledge. Moloney, K. 2001, ‘The rise and fall of spin: Changes of fashion in the presentation of UK politics’, Journal of Public Affairs, vol. 1, no. 2, pp Stromback, J. and Nord, L. W. 2006, ‘Do Politicians Lead the Tango? A Study of the Relationship between Swedish Journalists and their Political Sources in the Context of Election Campaigns’, European Journal of Communication, vol. 21, no. 2, pp


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