HOW IS THE NEWS CONSTRUCTED?
HOW IS THE NEWS PRESENTED?
2.1. How is the News Socially Constructed?
News is presented in many different forms in the C21st
However, the media cannot report every event everyday that
happens everywhere. Thus, the content presented as ‘news’
has been processed, selected and constructed for the
Topic 2 Outline
2.1: What Social Factors Affect the Social
Construction of News?
2.2: How is the News Presented?
Time and Space
These factors have been categorised by Williams (2000) who
suggests the selection and presentation of news is influenced
Culture of Society
Factor 1: Owners
Owners are the people who ultimately
have the final say concerning their
newspaper or news channel. They can
influence the content of news in a
number of ways:
- Directly instruct their news editors to
present/not present an item.
- Allocation of resources, physical space
in a newspaper or news crews.
- Due to increasing competition and
concern for profits, news owners are
turning to news presentation which can
be described as ‘infotainment’ –
unthreatening, unchallenging and
inoffensive stories that often
materalise due to unethical journalistic practices e.g. phone
hacking, bribery, intrusive paparazzi etc.
REVIEW NOTES FROM 3.1. OWNERSHIP AND
Factor 2: Profit
Giving the public a ‘window into the
world’ is not the primary purpose of
newspapers and news channels,
news organisations are often owned
by global corporations and are run
predominantly to make PROFIT.
Profit is generated by selling
ADVERTISING SPACE AND AIRTIME TO ADVERTISERS.
Advertisers will only advertise if they know their advert will
reach a large audience and produce a large profit. This has
two notable effects:
As a result of this drive for profit, Bagdikian argues news
reports will be presented in such a way to avoid offending
advertisers/neglecting to report the story all together. This
non-offensive process (CONSERVATISM) also extents to
the masses of society, the news aims to appeal to everybody
and offend nobody, unless offending a few helps generate
Mass appeal has also lead to a ‘DUMBING DOWN’ OR
‘TABLOIDIZATION’ of news content. News no longer
focuses on in-depth coverage of serious issues but instead is
being replaced by stories that are interesting but not in the
public interest e.g. entertainment, sensationalism, human
interest, celebrity etc. this DAVIES (2009) argues is a
process called INFOTAINMENT. This process is not only
typical within the UK but is worldwide (Thussu 2007).
Factor 3: Globalisation, Technology and Citizen Journalism
The process of globalisation has affected the content of
news in a number of ways:
Competition: The news market is now extremely competitive,
the process of globalisation has only increased and
intensified this competition, audiences now have access to
news channels and news papers from across the world.
Access: New technology now allows audiences to access news
from anywhere anytime. The growth of personal computing
and smartphones now allow audiences to view news 24/7/365.
News organisations can no longer reply on the regular ‘daily
Citizen Journalism: New technology has not only increased
access to news but it has also allowed for a growth in news
reporting, ordinary citizens can now capture and upload
images, videos and texts pertaining to an event instantly e.g.
YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, Blogs. This growth has allowed
‘news’ to be broadcast which may otherwise be repressed.
Bivens (2008) suggests citizen
journalism through the use of mobile
phone pictures, video recordings and
blogs is transforming traditional news
journalism. This type of journalism has
been successful to expose illegal
activities carried out by politicians,
celebrities and armed forces and for highlighting many
recent current events e.g. Arab Spring and UK 2011 Riots.
Factor 4: Agenda Setting and Gatekeeping
Items in the media, especially the news, provide a discussion
point for the rest of society, if news content is selected this
means a small group of people are therefore responsible for
what society at large discusses or doesn’t discuss.
This process the Glasgow Media Group termed: AGENDA-
SETTING and has been discussed by the Sociologist Cohen
while the news media many not necessarily be
successful in telling people what to think, they are
stunningly successful in telling audiences what to think
McCombs (2004) highlights how the ‘new media’ also
propagates this process by suggesting it not only tells
audiences what to think about, but also how to think about
certain groups e.g. politicians, welfare claimants.
It is argued the media not only has the power to influence
and direct conversation, but also limit its scope, this is a
process called GATEKEEPING. The Glasgow Media Group in
the 1970s and 1980s conducted a series of studies ‘Bad
News’ and found owners, editors and journalists act as
‘gatekeepers’ influencing the knowledge the public had access
Factor 5: Norm-setting
Norm-setting is the process whereby the media emphasises
and reinforces the social norms of society and seeks to
isolate those who do not conform by making them victims in
media reports. This is achieved in two ways:
Encouraging conformist behaviour
Discouraging non-conformist behaviour
Factor 6: Political Influence
Franklin argues news outputs are influenced, controlled and
selected by governments; governments often employ a
number of ‘NEWS MANAGEMENT’ techniques e.g. ‘SPIN’ to
ensure they are able to give their preferred interpretation
Factor 7: Time & Space
The news, both on TV and in print must be fitted into a fixed
time/space. A newspaper only has limited sections/pages and
news broadcasts only have a limited time slot.
Factor 8: News Diary
Reporters do not go out looking for news, they plan their
stories using what Schleissenger (1978) terms a ‘NEWS
DIARY’. This means what is news today, was decided days ago
and involves media professionals making value judgements
concerning what constitutes news.
As discussed in the previous section, the items seen on the
news or read in newspapers are not a neutral ‘window to the
world’; the material has undergone a process (directed by a
range of social factors), been selected by media
professionals and turned into news which will appeal to an
Once this material has been selected, it is carefully
presented to have the most appeal to its target audience.
2.1. How is the News Presented?
The way the news is presented affects its influence and
response on and by the audience. There are certain features
within a story that are given emphasis by the media, this
material is selected by media professionals who hold a set of
vales and assumptions about the media’s content. Galtung
and Ruge (1965) term these: ‘NEWS VALUES’ - certain
characteristics or features of a story that deem it
Frequency: the time-span of an event
and the extent to which it 'fits' the
frequency of the newspaper's or
news broadcast's schedule.
Unambiguity: How clear is the
meaning of an event? The mass media
generally tend to go for closure. The
meaning of the story must be
Meaningfulness: How meaningful will the
event appear to the receivers of the
news? Will it provide the audience with
what they want?
Consonance: Does the event match
the media's expectations?
Journalists have a pretty good idea
of the 'angle' they want to report an
event from, even before they get
there. If the media expect
something to happen, then it will.
Composition: This is a matter of
the balance of the news. It's a
matter of the editors' judgment,
more than anything else. If there's
a lot of foreign news around, some
of it will be dropped in favour of
more domestic news. If some major
event is seizing a huge amount of
attention, there will be a 'round-
up' of less important stories.
Continuity: Once an event has been
covered, it is convenient to cover it some
more – the running story. Apart from
anything else it allows media organisations
they already put in place to cover the
Reference to élite persons: The
media pay attention to important
people. Anyone the media pay
attention to must be important.
Reference to élite nations: This relates
to 'cultural proximity'. Those nations
which are culturally closest to our own will
receive most of the coverage.
Personalisation: Events that can be
personalized and linked to individuals in
some way and can be given a human
interest angle, which some degree of
human drama attached to them.
Negativity: Bad news is good news.
Threshold: How big is an event?
Is it big enough to make it into
Galtung and Ruge conducted their study
over 40 years ago, are these values still
Recent research conducted by Harcup and
O’Neil (2001) found media professionals
still use very similar categories to deem a
story ‘newsworthy’ as media professionals
did over 40 years ago.
Harcup and O’Neil (2001): News Values
Power of Elite
In addition to ‘news values’, media professionals, especially
those who work in news broadcasting use the idea of
‘IMMEDIACY’ – the impression of being present at an
event as it unfolds to present news to their audience. This
idea has been helped by the growth of new media and citizen
journalism, who by employing technology and social media
allow audiences instantaneous, live courage of events as they
happen e.g. the Arab Spring, London Riots and Tsunami 2011.
The Neo-Marxist group: ‘The Glasgow Media Group’ has also
investigated the presentation of news and argues media
professionals (journalists, news editors) influenced by
hegemony; interpret events before presenting them to the
audience. This affects the contents of the news in many
1.) Hierarchy of Credibility: Journalists attach the
greatest importance to the views of the powerful and
influential within society e.g. politicians, business
leaders, civil servants etc. over and above the views of
ordinary individuals, this Becker (1967) terms a
‘HIERARCHY OF CREDIBILITY.’ It is thus these
people who feature predominantly as ‘experts’ within the
news and are able to define and influence the news
content – it is these views which seem most reasonable.
Hall et al (1978) terms these groups as ‘PRIMARY
2.) Political Ideology: Journalists typically adopt a
moderate, center ground political ideology and thus
dismiss or ridicule views which are extreme or radical.
3.) Churnalism: Journalists like to keep their work simple.
It is often therefore more convenient and cheaper to
rely on secondary-source information and produce
articles from information provided by news agencies,
government press releases, public relations managers
etc. rather than checking facts and finding a story
Churnalism is a term derived by BBC journalist Waseem
Zakir and defines a trend whereby journalists,
uncritically ‘churn’ out articles relying on second-hand
news agency reports/pre-packaged material from press
releases rather than chasing the story themselves.
Davies (2008) suggests 80% of stories in: The Times,
Guardian, Independent, Daily Mail and Daily Telegraph
are as a result of this process. Stories are given from
the Press Association/Public Relations activity – all of
which was promoting/encouraging the same
commercial/political interest. Only 12% of stories came
from reporters themselves.
IS THE NEWS JUST A MANUFACTURED
: Propaganda Model: Herman and Chomsky (2002): The
mainstream media news is shaped by and propagandized by
the powerful elite that controls them ‘structural factors’
e.g. market forces, dependence on advertisers and
ownership, create a shared network of interests and
relationships between whose who make the news and those
who have the power to define it.
: Edwards and Cromwell (2009): In agreement with
Herman and Chomsky, Edwards and Cromwell argue media
professionals are nothing more than cheerleaders for
government, business and war and are engaged in the ‘dark
art’ of smearing anybody or anything than
challenges/threatens the dominant ideology of society and
the existing social structure.
: Pluralism: The media must attract audiences so must
challenge and expose injustices in government and business
it is therefore not always in the hands/pockets of the
: Citizen Journalism: Mason suggests CJ has given
ordinary people the power to create their own news, using
sources outside the ‘hierarchy of credibility’ free of the
dominant values of the ‘primary definers’.