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Journalism Practice 2008: Contents and Abstracts

Contents and Abstracts of February 2008

(Vol 2- No 1)


The Social Characteristics of Journalists and Their "Best Work"

Randal A Beam

Research on the sociology of news has tended to de-emphasize the impact that the social characteristics of journalists may have on news content. This study suggests that more attention should be paid to the link between these individual-level characteristics of news workers and the content that they produce. The study is a secondary analysis of short narratives from 327 reporters who worked with a high degree of newsroom autonomy. They were asked to give a recent example of their “best work". The topics of the stories that they cited varied systematically according to some of the reporters' social characteristics. This finding suggests that certain individual-level factors may have a stronger link to the production of news than is generally believed.

Keywords: content; journalists; news; production of news; sociology of news

Satellite TV & Arab Democracy

Lawrence Pintak

The red and white banners of Lebanon’s anti-Syrian protests in the spring of 2005 were a testament to the transformational power of the Arab media revolution. Without al-Jazeera and the new constellation of Arab satellite broadcasters, it is unlikely there would ever have been a “Cedar Revolution,” as a Bush Administration official quickly dubbed the spontaneous protests that ended Syria’s 29-year military presence in Lebanon. However, television did not drive out the Syrians, any more than it gave birth to some new form of Lebanese democracy. TV cannot alone create change. It is an agent of change – more specifically, a tool used by the architects of change. Arab television is providing a level of cover to those who seek democratic change and it may even be supplanting at least some of the traditionally more bloody battlefields of the Middle East by allowing confrontations to play out through the camera rather than the gun. Yet an emerging corporate feudalism, in which the majority of semi-independent media outlets are owned by individuals who are part of, or close to, the ruling families of the region, means that red lines still exist which constrain journalists and limit the pace of change.

Keywords: Arab; Arab journalism; Arab media; democracy; journalism; Middle East; satellite television

Four Rumours and an Explanation: a Political Economic Account of Journalists’ Changing Newsgathering and Reporting Practices

Justin Lewis, Andrew Williams and Bob Franklin

Our analysis of 2207 domestic news reports in a structured sample of UK ‘quality’ (The Guardian, The Times, The Independent and The Telegraph) and mid market (Daily Mail) newspapers, revealed journalists’ extensive use of copy provided by public relations sources and news agencies, especially the UK based Press Association (P.A.). A political economic explanation for this reliance on news stories produced ‘outside the newsroom’, draws inspiration from Gandy’s notion of information subsidies and presents findings from a substantive content analysis of selected UK national newspapers, interviews with journalists working on national titles and news agencies, as well as detailed archival analysis of UK newspaper companies’ annual accounts across twenty years to deliver information about newspapers’ profitability, their expansive editorial pagination as well as the number of journalists they employ. The argument here is that this reliance on public relations and news agency copy has been prompted by the need for a relatively stable community of journalists to meet an expansive requirement for news in order to maintain newspapers’ profitability in the context of declining circulations and revenues.

Keywords: Journalism practice; journalists; news agency copy; newsgathering and news reporting; profitability; public relations

Structural Change and its Impact upon Journalistic Practices: Xinhua News Agency in the early 2000s

Xin Xin

This paper examines structural changes to Chinese news organizations in the new millennium and their impact on journalism practice, with a particular focus on the Xinhua News Agency. The paper attempts to understand the complexity of these changes and their implications for journalism, media and communications studies.

Keywords: Chinese media; journalism practice; media transformations; structural change; Xinhua News Agency

Journalism and blogging: A test of a model of occupational competition

Wilson Lowrey and Jenn Burleson Mackay

Adopting a “systems” framework from the sociology of occupations, this study proposes a model to explain the vulnerabilities of journalism in the face of challenges from blogging, and the conditions under which journalists are likely to change their practices to address these vulnerabilities. A test of this model shows that editors’ awareness of local blogging activity corresponds to increased use of blogs as sources, discussion of blogs in planning meetings and adoption of the blogging form on news Web sites.

Keywords: blogging; Internet; media sociology; news organizations; news profession; occupational control

New Age Radio Journalism: A Hybrid News Discourse

Karmen Erjavec

The purpose of this paper is to uncover the most significant elements of New Age beliefs, which are overtly drawn upon in hard news discourse. This paper also illustrates the usefulness of the expanded version of Fairclough's concept of discursive practice and combines a textual analysis with ethnographic methods, in this case in-depth interviews and participant observations. The textual analysis of interdiscursivity reveals how New Age journalists incorporate discursive elements of New Age ideology through textual devices (perspective, choice of sources, lexis, and implicit meanings). The analysis of the journalistic ideology displays the way in which New Age journalists use their journalistic profession for spreading New Age beliefs.

Keywords: New Age, journalism, radio, Slovenia, critical discourse analysis

Re-examining 'Gatekeeping': How journalists communicate the truth about power to the public

Leo Bowman

Journalists in the “new media” era confront important questions as to whether, or how, they adapt their professional practices to a new interactive on-line form that allows citizens to become involved in the news making process. This paper seeks to re-establish the relevance of traditional journalism practices in the modern era and suggests that they will remain very much a part of the “new journalism” beyond the digital divide. It does so through examining how broadcast journalism interviews challenge authorities in the “public interest”, and suggests, in conclusion, that such practices remain undiminished by the technical, and accompanying social, changes that are driving the “new media”.

Keywords: gate watcher; gatekeeper; interviews; neutrality; new media; objectivity

The Internet, Mobile Phone Video and Blogging: How New Media is Transforming Traditional Journalism

Rena Kim Bivens

This research examines adaptations within traditional journalistic practice that are a result of the varied use of new media among both journalists and the public. Observations in newsrooms and 40 interviews with journalists from eight major news organisations in the UK and Canada highlight three significant changes: 1) shifts in traditional news flow cycles; 2) heightened accountability; and 3) evolving news values. Rising public documentation via mobile phones inserts a new element into traditional news flow cycles while material from bloggers acting as ‘citizen journalists’ occasionally aids reporting of contested topics or regions fraught with accessibility issues. Elevated public scrutiny also obliges news organisations to contend with increasingly effective flak-producers. Some journalists have modified their daily routines to reflect the opportunities enabled by new media but altered organisational notions of immediacy significantly constrain time spent gathering the news, particularly within 24-hour programmes. Largely as a means of securing audiences, organisations are turning to their websites to offer interactivity and transparency.

Keywords: accountability; blogosphere; news flow; new media; news values; transparency

Journalism Lives

Investigative Journalism: Elena Poniatowska (1932- ) and Anna Politkovskaya (1958-2006)

David Finkelstein