News And The Public Sphere


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Slides taken from MAC201 Media Studies 1 session on the 'public sphere'

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News And The Public Sphere

  1. 1. News and the Public Sphere MAC201
  2. 2. <ul><li>Jurgen Habermas and the public sphere </li></ul><ul><li>Testing the political public sphere </li></ul><ul><li>Levels of coverage </li></ul><ul><li>Newspaper discourse </li></ul>
  3. 3. News & political responsibility <ul><li>To disseminate accurate information and political intelligence that is of general interest </li></ul><ul><li>To contribute to an informed political culture </li></ul>
  4. 4. 1 - Jurgen Habermas <ul><li>Internationally renowned philosopher and social scientist </li></ul><ul><li>The public sphere </li></ul><ul><li>The realm of our social life from which “public opinion” emerges </li></ul>
  5. 5. Public sphere <ul><li>Civic space in which private citizens could meet to discuss matters of political importance </li></ul><ul><li>Work towards the formation of a collective opinion for the benefit of the citizenry </li></ul>
  6. 6. Conditions for the public sphere <ul><li>Free from the influences of: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>the market place </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>the state </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>the family </li></ul></ul>
  7. 7. <ul><li>‘ bourgeois public sphere’ </li></ul><ul><li>London coffee houses (mid-17th century) </li></ul><ul><li>Frequented by aristocrats and merchants </li></ul><ul><li>Forums for debate </li></ul><ul><li>Emergence of ‘public’ culture </li></ul>
  8. 8. <ul><li>Public sphere = public opinion </li></ul><ul><li>‘ the critical state of a democracy can be measured by taking the pulse of the life of its political public sphere’ </li></ul><ul><li>(Habermas, 2004) </li></ul>
  9. 9. <ul><li>Now, we have a re-feudalised public sphere (i.e. left with the mass media and its power relations) </li></ul><ul><li>No independence - corrupted by: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Ownership and control of the media industry </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Advertising revenues </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Public relations and ‘spin culture’ </li></ul></ul>
  10. 10. The Media as Public Sphere <ul><li>Nicholas Garnham (1992) “The media and the public sphere”, in C. Calhoun, Habermas and the Public Sphere </li></ul>
  11. 11. <ul><li>The media should inform democratic decisions by helping ‘citizens learn about the world, debate their responses to it and reach informed decisions about what course of action to adopt’ </li></ul><ul><ul><li>(Dahlgren, 1991: 1) </li></ul></ul>
  12. 12. 2 - Testing the political public sphere <ul><li>See Higgins, 2006 (on WebCT) </li></ul><ul><li>Debate surrounding the 1999 election to the newly formed devolved Scottish parliament. </li></ul><ul><li>Scottish press coverage vs UK coverage </li></ul>
  13. 13. All broadsheet newspapers or ‘quality’ titles (Bromley: 1998) from 3 day period: 5th-7th of May Scottish papers UK papers The Herald The Guardian The Scotsman The Independent The Press and Journal The Times
  14. 14. 3 - Levels of coverage <ul><li>Scottish papers = 84,160 words </li></ul><ul><li>UK papers = 19,246 words </li></ul><ul><li>‘ The Scottish papers therefore assume the greater role in the political public sphere around the election simply by offering substantially more coverage than the UK papers’ </li></ul><ul><li>(Higgins, 2006: 29-30) </li></ul>
  15. 15. Distribution of words
  16. 16. 4 - Newspaper discourse <ul><li>4 types: </li></ul><ul><li>News </li></ul><ul><li>Feature coverage </li></ul><ul><li>Opinion </li></ul><ul><li>Editorial </li></ul>Informative Evaluative
  17. 17. Types of News Coverage <ul><li>Evaluative: </li></ul><ul><li>There is a greater emphasis on evaluation and comment when an issue falls within the remit of a public sphere </li></ul><ul><ul><li>i.e. on matters in which the public should be informed, the press serves as a means by which important issues are highlighted. </li></ul></ul>
  18. 18. 2 types of coverage <ul><li>Informative types </li></ul><ul><li>News to be factual </li></ul><ul><li>Feature articles go ‘beyond the reporting of facts to explain and/or entertain’ without being explicit in offering a judgement or opinion ( Hicks, 1998: 118). </li></ul><ul><li>Evaluative types </li></ul><ul><li>Offer overtly subjective appraisal of current events or issues </li></ul><ul><li>Heavy use of the personal pronouns ‘I’ and ‘we’ (Fowler, 1991: 64; Allan, 1999: 92 </li></ul>
  19. 19. Word count by discourse type
  20. 20. The Scottish papers…. <ul><li>demonstrate a significantly greater quantity of election coverage </li></ul><ul><li>‘ present a pattern consistent with voter deliberation by providing the bulk of election material when it is able to inform democratic action’ (Higgins, 2006: 39) </li></ul><ul><li>attempt to engage via an emphasis on feature and opinion coverage whereby ‘the greater stress of informative material [comes] at a time where it can be used to substantiate voting decisions’ (ibid). </li></ul><ul><li>place their coverage in the most prominent parts of the paper. </li></ul>
  21. 21. Conclusion <ul><li>Democratic society needs some kind of space in which the important issues of the day can be discussed so that the public can make informed decisions. </li></ul><ul><li>Cultural proximity impacts upon how information is presented to the public </li></ul><ul><li>Higgins suggests that the ‘public sphere’ that Habermas identifies is manifest in the civil institution of the press. </li></ul>
  22. 22. News as social and political agent? <ul><li>Should we think of the business of news as reporting facts or seeking out and bringing us material we should know about? </li></ul><ul><li>Is it a role of the news to make us more socially and politically aware, or to distract and entertain us? </li></ul><ul><li>Can it do both? (Think of the role of news values.) </li></ul>
  23. 23. Points for discussion <ul><li>In your judgement, is the media as a public sphere driven by consideration of: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Political and democratic responsibility on the part of the media institutions and journalists? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>The need to appeal to a given audience? </li></ul></ul>
  24. 24. Bibliography <ul><li>Allan, S. (1999/2004) News culture. Buckingham: Open University Press. </li></ul><ul><li>Bell, A. (1991) The language of news media. Oxford: Blackwell. </li></ul><ul><li>Bromley, M. (1998) ‘The ‘tabloiding’ of Britain: ‘Quality’ newspapers in the 1990s’, in M. Bromley and H. Stephenson (eds) Sex, lies and democracy: the press and the public, pp. 25-38. London: Longman. </li></ul><ul><li>Dahlgren, P. (1991) ‘Introduction’, in P. Dahlgren and C. Sparks (eds) Communication and citizenship: journalism and the public sphere, pp. 1-24. London: Routledge. </li></ul><ul><li>Deacon, D., M. Pickering, P. Golding and G. Murdock (1999) Researching communications. London: Arnold. </li></ul><ul><li>Fowler, R. (1991) Language in the news: discourse and ideology in the press. London: Routledge. </li></ul><ul><li>Franklin, B. (1997) Newszak and news media. London: Arnold. </li></ul><ul><li>Franklin, B. (2004) Packaging politics, 2 nd edition. London: Arnold. </li></ul><ul><li>Galtung, J. and M. Ruge (1973) ‘Structuring and selecting news’, in S. Cohen and J. Young (eds) The manufacture of news: deviance, social problems and the media, pp. 62-72. London: Constable. </li></ul><ul><li>Garnham, N. (1992) ‘The media and the public sphere’, in C. Calhoun (ed) Habermas and the public sphere, pp. 359-376. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. </li></ul><ul><li>Habermas, J. (1989) The structural transformation of the public sphere. Cambridge: Polity Press. </li></ul><ul><li>Habermas, J. (2004) ‘Public space and political public sphere – the biographical roots of two motifs in my thought’, Commemorative Lecture, Kyoto, November 11. </li></ul><ul><li>Hartley, J. (1996) Popular reality: journalism, modernity, popular culture. London: Arnold. </li></ul><ul><li>Hicks, W. (1998) English for journalists, 2 nd edition. London: Routledge. </li></ul><ul><li>Higgins, M. (2006) ‘Substantiating a political public sphere in the Scottish press: a comparative analysis’, in Journalism , Vol. 7, No. 1, pp 25-44. </li></ul><ul><li>Livingstone, S. and P. Lunt (1994) Talk on television: audience participation and public debate. London: Routledge. </li></ul><ul><li>Negrine, R. (1998) Parliament and the media: a study of Britain, Germany and France. London: Pinter. </li></ul>