The sociology of news


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A brief presentation based on the book Michael Schudson's 'Sociology of News'

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The sociology of news

  1. 1. The Sociology of News by Michael Schudson Sneha Subhedar, DMM, Ruia 07/10/11 Sneha Subhedar, Co-ordinator, DMM, Ramanarian Ruia College
  2. 2. Sneha Subhedar, DMM, Ruia 07/10/11 Sociology of news Defining journalism, Does news matter, media bias, where news came from, the problems of news in our day News in the market place, News sources, Political culture of news Audience of news News as literature and narrative Law, democracy and news
  3. 3. <ul><li>A sociological understanding of journalism should comprehend the blend of chance and intention, normality and catastrophe, instrument and accident, expectation and surprise, narrative and interjection that makes up the news. </li></ul>Sneha Subhedar, DMM, Ruia 07/10/11
  4. 4. Defining journalism <ul><li>Business or practice or producing or disseminating information about the contemporary affairs of general public interest and importance </li></ul><ul><li>The function of journalism is broad: communication. </li></ul>Sneha Subhedar, DMM, Ruia 07/10/11
  5. 5. <ul><li>News is a product of journalistic activity of publicizing. </li></ul><ul><li>It is a dominant force in the public construction of common experience and a popular sense of what is real and important </li></ul><ul><li>It is a rhetorical form </li></ul><ul><li>News is manufactured good, the product of a social set of social, economic and political institutions and practices </li></ul>Sneha Subhedar, DMM, Ruia 07/10/11
  6. 6. Does News Matter? <ul><li>An illusion of power: people tend to overestimate the power of the media for the simple reason that the media are the visible tip of the iceberg of social influences on human behaviour </li></ul><ul><li>The people do not distinguish the media’s power from the power of the people and the events the media cover </li></ul><ul><li>It is it not clear whether the media exercise much freedom or autonomy in producing news or simply relay to the general public what truly powerful forces do. </li></ul>Sneha Subhedar, DMM, Ruia 07/10/11
  7. 7. <ul><li>News is not so much a cause as a common locus for three distinct facets of a cultural message, each of which may have some causal force. </li></ul><ul><li>First, information distributed to a large audience, may be a causal factor in human affairs. </li></ul><ul><li>Second, there may be force in news that is not in the information itself but the fact that it is presented in a prestigious and public location. </li></ul><ul><li>Third, the causal agent may be not information or its public sanctification, but instead the slant, frame, or bias with which it is presented. </li></ul>Sneha Subhedar, DMM, Ruia 07/10/11
  8. 8. <ul><li>The media organize not just information, but audiences. </li></ul><ul><li>They legitimize not just events and the sources that report them, but also readers and viewers. </li></ul><ul><li>They have a capacity to publicly include things </li></ul>Sneha Subhedar, DMM, Ruia 07/10/11
  9. 9. Media Bias <ul><li>News is not a mirror of reality </li></ul><ul><li>It is representation of the world and all representation is selective </li></ul><ul><li>Bias in news reports means that the reporter, editor or news institution owner knows what the real event looks like, but will colour it to advance a political, economic or ideological aim </li></ul>Sneha Subhedar, DMM, Ruia 07/10/11
  10. 10. <ul><li>Frames in the media are principles of selection, emphasis and presentation composed of little-implied theories about what exists, what happens and what matters. </li></ul><ul><li>A theoretical assumption on framing of bias reveals that the decision inherent in the manufacture of news have more to do with the marketplace, the nature of organisations and the assumptions of news professionals than with individual bias. </li></ul>Sneha Subhedar, DMM, Ruia 07/10/11
  11. 11. <ul><li>What’s important to keep in mind is that the influence of news is cultural. </li></ul><ul><li>It can relay a certain body of information and a set of attitudes towards that information to people who are open to receiving it, but it cannot reward or punish the audience for taking the information to heart </li></ul><ul><li>This does not make news unimportant </li></ul><ul><li>It simply makes the news a subtle, cultural influence on human affairs, not an overt force controlling society </li></ul>Sneha Subhedar, DMM, Ruia 07/10/11
  12. 12. Where news came from? <ul><li>Large part of explanation of what we are present lies in the past </li></ul><ul><li>Guttenberg revolution </li></ul><ul><li>Patriotic press </li></ul><ul><li>Penny press </li></ul><ul><li>Commercialization of the press </li></ul><ul><li>News as a product (equivalent to a soap or a toothpaste) </li></ul>Sneha Subhedar, DMM, Ruia 07/10/11
  13. 13. Recent Changes in Journalism <ul><li>Towards infotainment </li></ul><ul><li>Increasing cynicism </li></ul><ul><li>Moving from thematic coverage to episodic coverage of news events. </li></ul>Sneha Subhedar, DMM, Ruia 07/10/11
  14. 14. <ul><li>Part II </li></ul><ul><li>THE COMPONENTS </li></ul><ul><li>OF NEWS MAKING </li></ul>Sneha Subhedar, DMM, Ruia 07/10/11
  15. 15. News in the Marketplace <ul><li>When should a profit seeking newspaper seek fewer readers? </li></ul>Sneha Subhedar, DMM, Ruia 07/10/11
  16. 16. <ul><li>When the readers it loses, have on an average, less income than the readers it keeps. </li></ul><ul><li>Newspapers make a lion’s share of their income – typically around 80% - not from subscription but from advertising. </li></ul><ul><li>Advertisers are attracted to the perceived quality , not just the quantity , of the newspaper’s circulation. </li></ul><ul><li>With a higher average income among its readers, the newspapers would be more attractive to upscale advertisers. </li></ul>Sneha Subhedar, DMM, Ruia 07/10/11
  17. 17. <ul><li>The issue of market driven censorship, rather than state censorship, is made urgent by troubling evidence that news judgment is growing less and less protected from commercial concerns across the globe </li></ul><ul><li>The other trend is the move from family ownership to publicly traded corporation, i.e. local ownership to chain or group ownership. </li></ul>Sneha Subhedar, DMM, Ruia 07/10/11
  18. 18. <ul><li>These owners keep moving the top management from city to city as they wish, making it plain that the editors are beholden more to the national organisation than to the newspaper’s local community. </li></ul><ul><li>The influence of this pattern of ownership is not clear, but it is widely believed that these chains can harm the news product by a more rigid commitment to high profit margins than independent papers typically have. </li></ul>Sneha Subhedar, DMM, Ruia
  19. 19. <ul><li>Corporatisation of the media has also led to the employment of executives from business outside journalism. </li></ul><ul><li>The profit motive is a major factor in shaping share of the news content around the world. </li></ul>Sneha Subhedar, DMM, Ruia
  20. 20. News Sources <ul><li>They are the deep dark secret of the power of the press. </li></ul><ul><li>This power is exercised not by the news institutions themselves but by the sources that feed them information. </li></ul><ul><li>News is not what happens, but what someone says happened or will happen. </li></ul><ul><li>News is a product of transactions between journalists and their sources. </li></ul><ul><li>News represents who are the authorised knowers and what are their authorised versions of reality. </li></ul>Sneha Subhedar, DMM, Ruia
  21. 21. <ul><li>Government officials, agencies </li></ul><ul><li>PR </li></ul><ul><li>Corporate houses </li></ul><ul><li>Grapevine </li></ul>Sneha Subhedar, DMM, Ruia
  22. 22. <ul><li>Studies of sociology of news tend to view news making as a reality constructing activity governed by the elites. </li></ul><ul><li>A study showed that the world is bureaucratically organised for the journalists. i.e. the organisations of the beats is such that the reporters get the largest share of their news from official government agencies. </li></ul>Sneha Subhedar, DMM, Ruia
  23. 23. <ul><li>The consistent finding that official sources dominate the news is invariably presented as a criticism of the media. </li></ul><ul><li>If the media were to fulfill the democratic role, they would offer a wide variety of opinions and perspectives to encourage citizens to choose among them in evaluating public policies. </li></ul><ul><li>If the media allow politicians to set the public agenda, they may unduly narrow public discussion and diminish democracy. </li></ul>Sneha Subhedar, DMM, Ruia
  24. 24. <ul><li>W. Lance Bennett calls this phenomenon ‘indexing’ function of the press. </li></ul><ul><li>He adds, that the media ‘tend to index’ the range of voices and viewpoints in both the news and editorials according to the range of views expressed in mainstream government debate about a given topic. </li></ul>Sneha Subhedar, DMM, Ruia
  25. 25. The Political Culture of News <ul><li>People want to know what impact media have on politics. </li></ul><ul><li>Political institutions and media institutions are deeply intertwined that it is not easy to distinguish where one begins and the other leaves off. </li></ul><ul><li>The media have grown more visible and more independent of traditional power centers, such as the parties. </li></ul>Sneha Subhedar, DMM, Ruia
  26. 26. <ul><li>Today what we see is a range of changes in the government, media, the private sector and the broad political culture. </li></ul><ul><li>These changes all interact to create a system in which the role of media is central – not supreme – but indispensable. </li></ul>Sneha Subhedar, DMM, Ruia 07/10/11
  27. 27. <ul><li>Today, Public Opinion is the prize sought through the media. </li></ul><ul><li>1oo years ago politicians made little effort to court public opinion but today these same politicians seek to pressurize their party or government through public opinion. </li></ul><ul><li>Today, we have politicians going public </li></ul>Sneha Subhedar, DMM, Ruia 07/10/11
  28. 28. <ul><li>The place of media in society depends on the rules of the political scenario at a given place and time. </li></ul><ul><li>These rules vary from country to country </li></ul><ul><li>New efforts have been made to articulate a view of ‘Civil Society’ in which media holds a vital place and attain a degree of autonomy from both state and market. </li></ul>Sneha Subhedar, DMM, Ruia 07/10/11
  29. 29. The Audience for News <ul><li>It is not easy to say know what people do with news. </li></ul><ul><li>Newspaper readers may quickly scan headlines, glance at the weather, check the scores, read a few paragraphs of a columnist, read a movie or a book review…. </li></ul><ul><li>The many uses and tastes for using television news are likewise varied. </li></ul>Sneha Subhedar, DMM, Ruia 07/10/11
  30. 30. <ul><li>Any news consumer has a range of consumption habits, a large repertoire of the ways he/she finds use and pleasure in news. </li></ul><ul><li>Readers and viewers vary tremendously in the intensity of their engagement with news, even from one moment to the next. </li></ul>Sneha Subhedar, DMM, Ruia 07/10/11
  31. 31. <ul><li>The news media do find and respond to an existing audience; they create one. </li></ul><ul><li>News is one form that does not require our constant concern. </li></ul><ul><li>A useful distinction has emerged in studies of the books and reading that may be applicable here in terms of extensive and intensive reading. </li></ul><ul><li>Historians believe that there has been a shift in the patterns of reading because of the availability of different kinds of media, especially the newspapers </li></ul>Sneha Subhedar, DMM, Ruia 07/10/11
  32. 32. <ul><li>News is often welcomed as an escape from the dullness of life in the richness it has to offer in the form of human interest content. </li></ul><ul><li>People also use the paper as respectable resource of entering into social conversation </li></ul><ul><li>Berelson, suggests that newspapers are a ‘ritualistic and near compulsive’ habit. </li></ul>Sneha Subhedar, DMM, Ruia 07/10/11
  33. 33. <ul><li>Newspapers increasingly rely on consultants to tell them how to cater to the public. </li></ul><ul><li>Herbert Gans in his research found that the reporters and the editors ‘had little knowledge about the actual audience and rejected feedback from it. </li></ul><ul><li>They assumed that what interested them would interest the audiences. </li></ul><ul><li>Journalists often write as much to impress their colleagues as to influence a broader audience. </li></ul><ul><li>Reporters who are too eager to please their audience are called the ‘quacks’ </li></ul>Sneha Subhedar, DMM, Ruia 07/10/11
  34. 34. <ul><li>News, to a degree is designed for insiders and is written almost in code. </li></ul><ul><li>The general reader may not know who the ‘ highly placed source to the chief Minister’ is but it is the kind of phrase that the officials in the Mantralaya will be able to decipher. </li></ul>Sneha Subhedar, DMM, Ruia 07/10/11
  35. 35. <ul><li>The newspapers have handsome profits but they are losing their audience to television and new media. </li></ul><ul><li>This move away from print is seen as a cultural decline </li></ul>Sneha Subhedar, DMM, Ruia 07/10/11
  36. 36. News as Literature and Narrative <ul><li>A news story is both a news and story. </li></ul><ul><li>It is story because readers expect it to have a beginning , a middle and an end and to operate by some standard conventions of narrative prose. </li></ul><ul><li>And because it is a true story, it is responsible to a faithful rendering and even a verifiable rendering of what people really happened. </li></ul><ul><li>The reporter learns to tailor the facts to a form and format in which relationships will come to make sense. </li></ul>Sneha Subhedar, DMM, Ruia 07/10/11
  37. 37. <ul><li>Finding the most important element of the narrative is a subtle part of the task of story construction. (lead) </li></ul><ul><li>A reporter constructs a story for a particular day’s edition of the news, but will it be an ongoing story? (legs) </li></ul>Sneha Subhedar, DMM, Ruia 07/10/11
  38. 38. <ul><li>Journalists tell stories professionally, they make use of all possibilities when telling them. </li></ul><ul><li>Sometimes they write to soothe, sometime to enliven, sometimes to honour and commemorate and sometime to embolden and impassion…. </li></ul>Sneha Subhedar, DMM, Ruia 07/10/11
  39. 39. <ul><li>Most understanding of news generation merge two ideas: a cultural view which centres around storytelling, and the various social organisational views of news manufacturing. </li></ul><ul><li>A cultural account of news media - of predatory stockbrokers, hooch drinking labourers – that transcend structures of ownerships. </li></ul><ul><li>The media operate within the culture and are obliged to use cultural symbols. </li></ul><ul><li>The ‘what’ of news is equally a product of cultural presuppositions. </li></ul>Sneha Subhedar, DMM, Ruia 07/10/11
  40. 40. <ul><li>Journalists do not need to read a handbook to know when to shift from declarative reporting to emotive prose when they do human interest reporting. </li></ul><ul><li>They move from neutral interpreters to hometown celebrators to guardians of social consensus and back again. </li></ul><ul><li>They are a part of large culture and they play their appointed role. </li></ul>Sneha Subhedar, DMM, Ruia 07/10/11
  41. 41. Sneha Subhedar, DMM, Ruia 07/10/11
  42. 42. Law, Democracy and News <ul><li>News and news institutions exist even where democracy does not. </li></ul><ul><li>News in places like Russia, China, North Korea may have various settings. </li></ul><ul><li>It may recruit people to national purposes, rally support for the government, or provide a common text for subversive deconstruction & the reading between the lines. </li></ul><ul><li>News everywhere is democratic only in the sense of being anyone who wishes to attend to it. </li></ul><ul><li>It does not necessarily promote active and empowered citizenship </li></ul>Sneha Subhedar, DMM, Ruia 07/10/11
  43. 43. <ul><li>News can take people to task, this has been its most critical role in a democracy. </li></ul><ul><li>Press is important to democracy but in itself it is not democracy and does not create democracy. </li></ul><ul><li>It has coexisted with undemocratic, authoritarian and repressive regimes. </li></ul><ul><li>There is media present in these regimes but not journalism. </li></ul>Sneha Subhedar, DMM, Ruia 07/10/11
  44. 44. <ul><li>Habermas emphasised how journalism was vital to the opening of a public sphere where private persons could freely discuss and debate public issues of the day. </li></ul><ul><li>It is the place for news in fostering democratic politics. </li></ul><ul><li>Benedict Anderson stated that it promotes mass attention to a common set of stories, it builds a sense of locale, region and nationhood. </li></ul><ul><li>News becomes a part of the daily rethinking and reconstructing of a common social world. </li></ul>Sneha Subhedar, DMM, Ruia 07/10/11
  45. 45. THE END Sneha Subhedar, DMM, Ruia 07/10/11