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  2. 2. 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 audience. Topic 2 Outline 2.1: What Social Factors Affect the Social Construction of News? 2.2: How is the News Presented? Social Factors Affecting the Social Construction of News Owners Profits Globalisation Agenda Setting & GatekeepingNorm-setting Political Influence News Diary Time and Space
  3. 3. These factors have been categorised by Williams (2000) who suggests the selection and presentation of news is influenced by:  Media Professionals  Organisation  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 CONTROL.
  4. 4. 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: Effect 1 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 profits. Effect 2 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).
  5. 5. 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 news slot.’ 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.
  6. 6. Factor 4: Agenda Setting and Gatekeeping Agenda Setting 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 (1963): 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 about. 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. Gatekeeping 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 to.
  7. 7. 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 of events. 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.
  8. 8. 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 audience. 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 ‘newsworthy’.
  9. 9. 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 immediately identifiable. 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 original event. Reference to élite persons: The media pay attention to important people. Anyone the media pay attention to must be important.
  10. 10. 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 the news? Galtung and Ruge conducted their study over 40 years ago, are these values still relevant today? 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  Entertainment  Bad News  Magnitude  Celebrity  Surprise  Relevance  Follow up - P
  11. 11. 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 ways: 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 DEFINERS.’ 2.) Political Ideology: Journalists typically adopt a moderate, center ground political ideology and thus dismiss or ridicule views which are extreme or radical.
  12. 12. 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 themselves. 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.
  13. 13. IS THE NEWS JUST A MANUFACTURED PRODUCT? : 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 powerful. : 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’.