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Wk4 – Ideology and news - News and society


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Wk4 – Ideology and news - News and society

  1. 1. WK4 – “NEWSPAPERS: NEWS SOURCESAND IDE0LOGY” – SG2051 NEWSAND SOCIETY Dr. Carolina Matos Lecturer in Media and Communications Department of Sociology City University London
  2. 2. Core readings • Required: • Herman, E. & Chomksy, N. (1988) Manufacturing Consent in Tumber, H. (ed.) (1999) News: A Reader, Oxford University Press, pp.166-179 • Manning, Paul (2000) “Theorising News Media and News Sources” in News and News Sources: a Critical Introduction, London: Sage • Additional: • Hall, S. et al (1978) Policing the Crisis: Mugging, the State and Law and Order MacMillan in Tumber, H. (ed.) (1999) News: A Reader. Oxford University Press, pp. 249-256 • Hall, S. (1977) “Culture, the Media and the Ideological Effect” in J Curran et al Mass Communication and Society, Arnold • Schudson, M. “Discovering the News: a Social History of America Newspapers (excerpt)” in Tumber, H. (eds.) (1999) News: a Reader, Oxford University Press, p. 291-297
  3. 3. Key themes • Chomsky’s propaganda model • Criticisms to the propaganda model and its view of the media • The hegemonic model • Hall and the primary definers of news • The “ideological” function of the media • The political economy tradition • News and news sources (Manning, 2000) • Rise of different narratives of journalism: citizen journalism • Conclusions • Video: Citizen Kane – How to Run a Newspaper • Seminar activities for week 4 • Readings for week 4
  4. 4. The hegemony, political economy and propaganda approaches (in Manning, 2000) • Regarding the control of information in the media, three key approaches have been influential: • Propaganda model - Herman and Chomsky (1988) emphasise the consequences on news of the impact of corporate control, advertising and the dependency on official governmental sources. • Using an expression coined first by Lippman, the authors argue that the mainstream media (the US media) “manufacture consent” through the filtering process, which involves editorial decision-making and the relationships between government and business elites and experts (approved by these primary sources) • Hegemonic perspective – There is a battle for consent, and here the ideas of the dominant classes come to be regarded as “common sense” • Influential from the 60’s and 70’s – the news media text is seen as a site of struggle. The powerful might want to secure hegemony, but the subordinate might resist and oppositional readings might surface.
  5. 5. “Dominant ideological” frameworks in the media* • Studies emerged which looked at how news tended to displace critical views, privileging “dominant ideological frameworks” (i.e. the work of the Centre for Cultural Studies in Birmingham) • I.e. The marginalization of militant trade unionists in TV current affairs (Morley, 1976) and the discourse of “law and order” in crime reporting (Hall et al, 1978) • I.e. The Glasgow University Media Group stressed the distortion of industrial coverage in mainstream TV (1975), as well as the privileged access to interviews by the powerful • News contains competing frameworks, but also devices which allocated more authority to the interpretation and views of the powerful • Sociological studies have also turned their attention to new sources. I.e. The model of primary definition (Hall et al, 1978) • Term “ideology” has been substituted by “discourse” (i.e. Foucault’s power and discourse)
  6. 6. Herman and Chomsky’s APropaganda Model • Within a political economy tradition, Herman and Chomsky (1988) believe the news must pass through successive 5 filters of constraints (size and ownership; advertising; sourcing; flak and their enforcers and anticommunism). • For the authors, the “objectivity” of journalists operates within these constraints: • “They fix the premises of discourse and interpretation, and the definition of what is newsworthy in the first place….The elite domination of the media and the marginalization of dissidents that results from the operation of the filters occurs so naturally that media news people, frequently operating with complete integrity and goodwill, are able to convince themselves that they…interpret the news “objectively”…. Within the limits of the filter constraints, they often are objective; the constraints are so powerful, and are built into the system…., that alternative bases of news….are hardly imaginable.”
  7. 7. Herman and Chomsky’s APropaganda Model What are the consequences of this for news? • “The five filters narrow the range of news that pass through the gates, and even more sharply limit what can become “big news”….” Media will allow stories that are hurtful to powerful interests to disappear from public debate, suspending critical judgement • “A propaganda approach to media coverage suggests a systematic and highly political dichotomization in news coverage based on service- ability to important domestic power interests seen in the choice of stories and….quality of coverage.”
  8. 8. 1 – Size, ownership and profit orientation of the mass media • Concentration of the media is found amongst the top tier that supplies much of the national and international news to the lower tiers of the media, and this goes to the general public • Television is the main source of news for the public • The pressures of stockholders to focus on the bottom line are powerful, especially at a time when media stocks have become market favourites • Rules limiting media concentration, cross-ownership and control by non-media companies have been abandoned in an increasing de- regulated media environment • The media giants also maintain close relationships with the mainstream of the corporate community through boards of directors and social links. Many boards are dominated by bankers.
  9. 9. Media giants • 1) Television networks – ABC, CBS and NBC; • 2) The leading newspaper empires: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times (Times-Mirror), Wall Street Journal (Dow Jones), Knight-Ridder, Gannett, Hearst, Scripps-Howard, Newhouse (Advance Publications) and the Tribune Company; • 3) The major news and general-interest magazines: Times, Newsweek, Reader’s Digest, TV Guide (Triangle) and US News and World Report; • 4) Major book publisher (McGraw-Hill) • 5) Other cable-TV systems of large and growing importance: those of Murdoch, Turner, Cox, General Corp…..and Group W (Westinghouse). • I.e. The Tribune Company has become a large force in television as well as newspapers
  10. 10. 2 – The Advertising License to do Business Advertising has played an important role in increasing concentration: • Advertising as the primary source of the mass media • From the time of the introduction of press advertising, working-class and radical papers have been at a serious advantage • According to the authors, advertising also served as a powerful mechanism weakening the working-class press • An advertising system will tend to drive out of existence the media companies that depend on revenue from sales alone • Thus, the advertiser’s choices influence media prosperity and survival. They gain a quality edge which allows them to weaken their ad-free rivals • It is affluent advertisers that spark advertiser’s interest today.
  11. 11. 3- Sourcing mass media news • Refers to the reliance of the media on the information provided by government, business and “experts”, funded and approved by the primary sources and the agents of power • Due to economic pressures, resources are concentrated on significant areas where news often occurs, such as the main governmental institutions • Government and corporate sources have the merit of status and prestige • Reliance on official and primary sources supports their claims of being “objective”, and reduces expenses with investigative journalism • Critical sources may be avoided by the mass media so as not to offend the primary sources and the powerful groups
  12. 12. 4 – Flak and the Enforcers • Understood as a means of disciplining and controlling the media • Flak refers to a negative response to a media statement or pronouncement • Flak has grown with business’ growing resentment of media criticism and the corporate offensive of the 1970s/1980s • The ability to produce flak, especially flak that is costly and threatening, is related to power • The government is a major producer of flak, ….”correcting” the media • Powerful groups can thus complain to their own constituencies about the media as well as fund political campaigns and help into power conservative politicians
  13. 13. 5 – Anti-communism as control mechanism • Seen as a national religion and a mechanism of control • The ideology of anti-communism helps to mobilize the populace against an enemy • The concept is fuzzy and can be used against anybody advocating policies that threaten property interests or other forms of reduction of inequality • This ideology also contributes to weaken and fragment the labour and left movements, and can be seen as a political form of control • Liberals at home (US) are in a constant defensive, for being either too pro-Communist or insufficiently anti-Communist • Occasional support for social democrats can break down when they are not harsh enough on their own indigenous radicals • Some critics argue for a substitution of this to the “anti-terrorism” rhetoric
  14. 14. Some criticisms 1- Has invited criticism of a “conspiracy theory” of the powerful against everyone else 2- The media as platform for a “unified elite” is contested by some. Media are a site of contested struggle and conflict (i.e. Hallin, 2000) 2- The market and the state with the same interests? Not always. Too much focused on the US. In some new democracies, the market has pushed for democracy 3- Ignores other dimensions, such as the impact of journalism ideologies, journalism autonomy and the importance of resistance 4- The are also various forms of internal/external conflicts and contradictions that exist in newsrooms and in the media system (in Matos, 2008)
  15. 15. “Ideological” function of the media and news sources
  16. 16. “Culture, the media and the ideological effect” (Hall, 1977) • Points to the importance of the role of ideology in the production of news: • The Marxist perspective: “Marx insisted not merely that men live their relations to their real conditions of existence ‘in ideology’, but that in the capitalist mode of production, they will ‘think’ those conditions in general within the limits of a dominant ideology….” • What role does the mass media play in relation to these processes?: • The winning of ideological hegemony according to Gramsci: “Hegemony depends on a combination of force and consent. Hegemony cannot be won in the productive and economic sphere alone: it must be organised at the level of the state, politics and the superstructure….This means that the definitions of reality, favourable to the dominant class….come to constitute the primary ‘lived reality’ as such for the subordinated….Hegemony is accomplished through….– the family, education, the church, the media and cultural institutions….”
  17. 17. Functions of the modern media (Hall, 1977) • “The ideological role of the media is by no means their exclusive function… 20th century advanced capitalism, the media have established a decisive and fundamental leadership in the cultural sphere. ….the production and consumption of ‘social knowledge’in societies of this type – depends upon the mediation of the modern means of communication.….This is the first of the great cultural functions of the media: the provision and the selective construction of social knowledge…..through which we perceive the ‘worlds’, the ‘lived realities’of others…. The second function of the modern media is to reflect and reflect on this plurality….Here the different types of ‘social knowledge’are classified and ranked and ordered…the third function of the media is to organise, orchestrate and bring together that which it has represented and selectively classified.”
  18. 18. The coding model and the preferredreading (Hall,1977 and Hall et al 1978) • Hall’s encoding/decoding model – audiences are capable of interpreting texts through a process of negotiation. They can either take on the hegemonic reading (the preferred meaning of the text); or they can make a negotiated (pick some things, disregard others) or a resistant reading (reject totally the preferred meaning) • “…encoding (Hall, 1974) means precisely that – selecting the codes which assign meaning to events, placing events in a referential context which attribute meaning to them. There are different…ways in which events… can be encoded. The selection of codes, those which are the preferred codes in the different domains, and which appear to embody the ‘natural’ explanations which most members of the society would accept…” • Events gain a meaning within the “dominant ideology”: “ …though events will not be…. encoded in a single way, they will tend to draw from a very limited ideological or explanatory repertoire…. making things ‘mean’ within the sphere of the dominant ideology.” (Hall, 1977, 344).
  19. 19. The social production of news: the primary and secondary definers (in Hall et al, 1978) • Events are made to mean something within an overall consensus shared by society. Authors emphasise how the routine structures of news production come in fact to ‘reproduce’ the definitions of the powerful. • Distinction between primary and secondary definers of social events: “Two aspects of news production – the practical pressures of working against the clock and the professional demands of impartiality and objectivity – combine to produce a systematically structured over-accessing to the media of those in powerful and privileged institutional positions. The media tend.. to reproduce symbolically the existing structure of power in society’s institutional order. “ • Structured preference given by the media to the opinions of the powerful - the ‘hierarchy of credibility’–
  20. 20. News sources: the primary and secondary definers (Hall et al, 1978 and Schlesingerand Tumber, 1994) • Hall et al, 1978: “The primary definition sets the limit for all subsequent discussion by framing what the problem is. Arguments against a primary interpretation are forced to insert themselves into its definition of ‘what is at issue’. • Schlesinger and Tumber (1994) point how Hall’s et al analyses of the media is “based on a theory of ideological power grounded on a Gramscian conception of the struggle for hegemony between dominant and subordinate classes in capitalist societies….The media are seen to be structurally biased towards….privileged sources….” • Criticisms: Hall’s et al understanding is seen as ahistorical, assuming the media as inherently passive recipients of information • Does not explain the role of non-official sources or less powerful sources that leak documents to the media on governmental activities, or of investigative journalism. Access for “alternative” viewpoints also differs between different mediums (TV and print) and companies.
  21. 21. Source-media analysis (Schlesingerand Tumber, 1994) • Hall’s concept of the “primary definition” has been open to criticisms: • 1) the notion of primary definition is problematic; 2) long-term shifts in the structure of access and 3) the supposed passivity of the media as recipients of information from news sources. • Hall’s structuralist approach does not consider that “sources may engage in ideological conflict prior to…..the appearance of ‘definitions’ in the media. It tends to ignore questions about how contestation over the presentation of information takes place within institutional and organizations reported by the media…” (1994,260) • Schlesinger and Tumber’s (1994) work aims to focus on the source-media relation from the standpoint of the sources as well as from that of journalists. • Authors underline the inequalities of access among the privileged themselves. Their aim is to extend how news organizations work.
  22. 22. Sources (Manning, 2000) • “Information is deployed through a variety of social practices and more or less consciously devised strategies. Information flows can be influenced not only by the conscious intentions of social actors but also by the existence of certain dominant social structures.” • Attempts to capture and understand “the real” (i.e. modernism) • Sociologists versus journalists - “Journalists described what happened ‘out’ there in the real world just as sociologists could develop theory which captured, illuminated and even explained ‘reality’ of social processes.” • Sociology of news production: • “…to study the position of journalists within news organizations or the attempts by news sources to gain access to the news encoding process is also to consider one of the classic preoccupations in sociological theory – the problem of the interface between action and structure.”
  23. 23. The Political Economy tradition • What does it have to say regarding the media? • Critical political economy is worried with the ways “news is structured by the relations between press proprietors and editors or their sources, to the way TV viewing is affected by the organization of domestic life and power relations within the family. • Critical political economy is thus especially interested in “the ways communicative activity is structured by the unequal distribution of natural and symbolic resources.” • Chomksy’s propaganda model – Authors see this analysis as being partly right: “Governments and business elites do have privileged access to the news; advertisers do operate as a…licensing authority….: media moguls can determine the editorial line and cultural stance of the papers and broadcast stations they own.”
  24. 24. Concerns with ownership and constraints on media messages • Media concentration and the worries with abuse of power • Concerns with the diversity of the public sphere, and with editorial intervention and choice of media personnel • Increase of synergies between companies in a new era of media convergence • Although increasing commercialization, new technologies, deregulation policies and convergence have resulted in more media outlets and vehicles in the “marketplace of ideas”, the political economy tradition reminds us they might be more variants of the same messages and themes than a real democratization, diversity and expansion of ideas • Era of convergence – cultural production flows between and across media in an increasingly fluid way.
  25. 25. Citizen journalism: what is it? (inAllan et al, 2009) • “While citizen journalism has existed in forms through letters to the editor, “man on the street” interviews and call-in radio or television shows, the widespread penetration of the Web has promoted the citizen journalist to a new stature. With new technology tools in hand, individuals are blogging, sharing photos, uploading videos and podcasting to tell their firsthand accounts of breaking news so that others can better understand. What we did is the future of news, except its happening now.” (cited in WebProNews, 06/09/05). • South Asian tsunami of December 2004 was a decisive moment when citizen journalism became a prominent feature on the journalistic landscape. • Was attacked at first by print journalism. Situation began to change in 1995, when the West “fell in love” with the Internet. • This form of “amateur journalism” heightened a sense of personal engagement for “us” with the distant suffering of “them”.
  26. 26. Role of citizen journalism in the online reporting of the Iraq war (Allan, 2004) • For many commentators, the attack on Iraq represented the “coming of age” of the Internet as a news medium. Others pointed to the ways in which online news was consolidating its position as a primary news source. • Argues that online reporting provides alternative spaces for acts of witnessing (i.e. mentions the case of the Baghdad Blogger) • “Iraq was becoming to be seen as the Internet war, in the same way that World War II was a radio war and Vietnam was a TV war” (cited in Hewitt, 2003). • “From the moment news of the first attacks launched so-called ‘Operation Iraqi Freedom’ on March 19, 2003, was reported, Internet traffic to online news services surged dramatically.” • I.e. Sadam Pax documented the life on the ground in Baghdad
  27. 27. Conclusions • The propaganda model has been influential in highlighting the impact of business and governmental elites in shaping the production of news • It has also been highly criticised for ignoring elite conflict and their competing interests, for implying a “conspiracy theory” and for being more applicable to the coverage of issues regarding US foreign policy • The Gramscian hegemonic model has looked at the media as a site of contestation, of struggle for hegemony and for “consensus” • The political economy tradition has been concerned with the media’s reproduction of power inequalities in society, and with the impact of media concentration on the diversity of opinion’s reflected in the media • The possibilities of achieving “consensus” in our current post-modern society, global and media saturated society are more difficult than ever (“multiple public spheres”) • In spite of the widely shared assumption that news is socially constructed, there is still a notion of the “real”, and that news can reflect a balanced of views and accounts that are “closer to the truth”
  28. 28. Citizen Kane – How to Run a Newspaper •
  29. 29. Seminar questions and activities • Part I • What is the relationship between news sources, ideology and power? Who are the primary and secondary definers of news? • What does the political economy tradition have to say about the media? • What is the propaganda model largely concerned with? What are its limits? • Why has the sociology of news sources focused attention on news sources? • What perspectives did the functionalist theory offer? What is understood by the hegemonic model? • Part II • From the readings that you choose to discuss in groups, summarise the key intellectual arguments and critically review the text to your peers.
  30. 30. Seminar activities for week 4 • Choose from one of the additional readings. Discuss it in groups, summarising the key intellectual arguments of the text and making a critical review of it: • Hall, S. et al (1978) Policing the Crisis: Mugging, the State and Law and Order MacMillan in Tumber, H. (ed.) (1999) News: A Reader. Oxford University Press, pp. 249-256 • Hallin, Daniel (2000) “Commercialism and Professionalism in the American News Media” in Curran, J. and Gurevitch, Michael (eds.) Mass Media and Society, London: Arnold • Manning White, D. (1950) “The ‘Gatekeeper’: A Case Study in the Selection of News” in Tumber, H. (ed.) (1999) News: A Reader. Oxford University Press. pp. 66- 72 • Manning, Paul (2000) News and News Sources: a Critical Introduction, London: Sage, chapters 1 and 3 • Schudson, M. “Discovering the News: a Social History of America Newspapers (excerpt)” in Tumber, H. (eds.) (1999) News: a Reader, Oxford University Press, p. 291-297 •
  31. 31. Required readings for week 5 • Required • Carroll, Susan J. and Schreiber, Ronnee (1997) “Media Coverage of Women in the 103rd Congress” in Norris, Pippa (eds.) Women, Media and Politics, Oxford University Press, 131-149 • McNair, Brian (1998) “Why journalism matters” in News and Journalism in the UK, London: Routledge • Additional: • Allan, S., Adam, B. and Carter, C. (eds.) (2000) Environmental Risks and the Media, Routledge, Introduction, (plus chps 1--‐6, 13) • Matos, C. (2008) Journalism and political democracy in Brazil, Maryland: Lexington Books • McCombs, M., and Shaw, D. L. (1972) “The agenda setting function of mass media” in Public Opinion Quarterly, 36, pp 176-187. • Thussu, D. K. (2007) News as Entertainment: The Rise of Global Infotainment. London: Sage, chapter 5
  32. 32. Seminar activities for week 5 • Choose a particular issue in the news to discuss. Collect newspaper articles for this and bring to class next week. Select a theory and/or theories to discuss. • Questions to guide your analysis for next week’s seminars: • What is the issue being discussed? • Who are the sources? Could there have been others? • Is the story “objective”, or is it balanced enough? • What are the theories that you can apply to this (i.e. propaganda model, hegemony, etc)? • In your view, what is the “ideology” behind the story? Is there a particular angle being emphasised against another? Which voices have not been heard or are marginalised?