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Journalism Practice 2009: Contents and Abstracts

Contents and Abstracts of December 2009

(Vol 3 - No 4)



Wages of Synergy

Elizabeth Hendrickson & Lee Wilkins

In the current economic environment, message synergy may result in a perceptible manifestation of ownership’s impact on media content. That influence raises ethical issues: journalistic independence and access to the media marketplace for a variety of messages. This project analyzes the “soft news” content of the two most popular morning television news shows, The Today Show and Good Morning, America during November 2007 sweeps.

The analysis demonstrates that “soft news” story topic selection appears to be strongly influenced by economic connections to the parent corporation. The potential impact of this distortion of the cultural public sphere for journalists, viewers, creative artists and advertising at the institutional level are analyzed. The wages of synergy include a restriction of journalistic autonomy, confining viewers to a role that is exclusively consumption oriented, and, at the institutional level, jeopardizing the credibility of news programming which could have a long-term impact on advertising revenues.

Journalism Curiosity and Story Telling Frame: A comparative study of Australian and Danish newspapers

Ebbe Grunwald & Verica Rupar

This comparative study of journalism practices in Australia and Denmark explores the interplay between two concepts relevant for journalism’s meaning-making activity: a curiosity seen as an action meant to close an information gap, and a story telling frame seen as a form of structuring information which helps to define what is known of a topic.

Using the newspaper coverage of events following the discovery of a ‘mysterious sickness’ in the previous home of a group of Tasmanian devils sent to Copenhagen Zoo as a christening gift for the baby of the Danish royal, the article examines how the epistemological and organisational dimension of frames relates to the process of meaning-making. We suggest refining the concept of frame in journalism studies by making a distinction between a frame (an epistemological category) and an angle (a textual organisation category). Our investigation shows that this distinction better serves the analysis and understanding of the mechanisms behind journalism in comparative contexts.

‘Mosquitoes Dancing on the Surface of the Pond’: Australian conflict reporting and technology

Fay Anderson

This article examines the impact of technology on Australian conflict reporting using the experiences and insights of the practitioners themselves. There is a prevailing belief that war and foreign correspondents are more liberated and the audience better informed as technology permits immediate communication from the frontline.

The article considers the challenges faced by previous generations of war correspondents and the contrasting experiences of reporting in Iraq, analysing how technology has impacted on newsgathering, military management and reporting. I argue that the magnitude of the technological changes has been considerable, and in some cases immensely positive, but in other ways technology has not mitigated past challenges in the realm of censorship, syndication, resources and competition.
At the same time the journalists articulate new difficulties with instant deadlines, 24-hour news, increased syndication and, editorial expectations caused by the imperatives of infotainment and compounded by technological advancement.

Managing Vulnerability: Job satisfaction, newsroom morale and journalists' reactions to violence and trauma

Randal A. Beam and Meg Spratt

The notion that journalists can develop emotional problems after being exposed to violent or traumatic events has only recently become part of the dialogue about sound newsroom management. This study, based on a national survey of 400 U.S. news people, examines issues related to journalists’ coverage of tragic events. It also explores their views about management attitudes toward news workers who are experiencing profound emotional reactions after covering violent or traumatic events. It finds that when journalists see managers as empathetic on these matters, job satisfaction and perceived morale are higher, and journalists also are more likely to remain committed to their careers.

Reporting Buddhism in Taiwan

Chiung Hwang Chen

Through analyzing news coverage of Buddhist events and utilizing interviews with key actors in media and Buddhism, this paper explores the implications of the increasing prominence of Buddhism in Taiwan. Specifically, the paper assesses both the position of Buddhism in contemporary Taiwanese society and the media/Buddhism relationship.

I argue that the social power of Buddhism has shaped how Buddhist events are covered in the news media and how the portrayals have shaped (or been shaped by) people’s understanding of the religion. I also argue that the symbiotic relationship between the media and Buddhism in recent decades has seriously undercut journalistic professionalism in Taiwan.

‘Terrorism’ in War Zones: Political violence in news of democratic nation-states

Amani Ismail and Smeeta Mishra

This paper investigates how a mainstream American newspaper (New York Times) and an Indian counterpart (Times of India) construct political violence within the American occupation of Iraq, and how they reconcile notions of democracy and occupation.

For both newspapers, Saddam Hussein’s execution is the reference point to guide news selection. Findings indicate some differences in the two papers’ coverage, partly explained by the countries’ military involvement in the conflict and their history with Iraq.


Book Reviews

Notes on Contributors

Contents and Abstracts of August 2009

(Vol 3 - No 3)

Video Review


The Conflicting Israeli-Terrorist Image: Management of the Israeli-Palestinian narrative in the New York Times and Washington Post

Robert Lyle Handley

This study employs the conflicting images concept and literature on the norms of professional journalism to explore how two elite U.S. papers managed the narrative of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict when an Israeli citizen committed a terrorist attack against Palestinians living in the occupied territories.

It concludes that violations of ideal expectations can interact with the norms of professional journalism to disrupt a narrative, facilitate a narrative’s “repair,” and, contradictorily, retard that same repair work: The New York Times and Washington Post grappled with the meaning of the event to assess its compatibility with their narrative. The study calls for research to determine under what conditions, if any, conflicting images lead to narrative revision.

Blogging at the ‘world’s most trusted news organisation’

Alfred Hermida

Blogging has shifted from an activity largely taking place outside established media to a practice appropriated by professional journalists. This study explores how BBC News has incorporated blogging in its journalism, looking at the internal debates that led to the adoption of blogs and charting how they became a core part of the corporation’s news output. Using a case-study approach, it examines the impact of blogging on BBC editorial values and considers how journalists have sought to maintain their authority in a digital media environment by integrating a new form of journalism within existing norms and practices.

The BBC offers a unique case study as its long-standing editorial values of accuracy, impartiality and fairness appear at odds with the notion of blogs as immediate, uncensored and unmediated. The research reveals that blogs emerged initially as an activity peripheral to the main newsgathering functions of the organisation and were rapidly transformed into key mechanisms for communicating analysis and commentary to the public. It contends that, for now, blogging has had a greater impact on the style, rather than substance, of BBC journalism. While the systems whereby journalists deliver information have evolved, the attitudes and approaches have, so far, remained relatively static.

Newsroom Integration in Austria, Spain and Germany: Models of media convergence

Jose A. Garcia Avilés, Andy Kaltenbrunner, Daniela Kraus, Klaus Meier, Miguel Carvajal

Convergence is reshaping the landscape of journalism in a variety of ways. This comparative study was targeted on integrated newsrooms, which combine at least two platforms: print and online, in some cases also television and radio. Research was conducted in six media companies which are undergoing some degree of newsroom convergence in Austria, Spain and Germany. Descriptors for different levels of cross-media production and the process of convergence were established –avoiding technological determinism and the typical mindset in the industry that regards full integration as the necessary final step of any convergence project.

As a result of the transnational comparison of six case studies, a convergence matrix for analysis and comparison of integrated newsrooms was outlined. The matrix is related to four essential areas of development in a media convergence process: project scope, newsroom management, journalistic practices, work organization. Based on this matrix, three models of newsroom convergence were drawn: full integration, cross-media and coordination of isolated platforms.

The Thirst to be First: An analysis of breaking news stories and their impact on the quality of 24-hour news coverage in the UK

Stephen Cushion and Justin Lewis

This article explores the growth and character of breaking news on two 24- hour news channels in the UK, Sky News and News 24. Our purpose is to examine, in detail, the nature and role of breaking news and, more generally, its impact on the quality of television news journalism. We draw upon a series of content analyses of news programming conducted in 2004, 2005/6 and 2007, and compare the elements of a breaking news story with more conventional news items.

Our findings indicate that ‘breaking news’ has become an increasingly important part of the 24-hour news bill of fare. This growth means that the typical breaking news story is becoming increasingly predictable and routine. Moreover, by most measures, breaking news items are less well informed and feature less independent reporting than conventional news items. As a consequence, we argue, the decision to cover more breaking news stories impoverishes the quality of journalism.

More Stories, More Readers? Feature writing in Slovene newspapers

Sonja Merljak Zdovc 

Many studies reveal that quality journalistic writing in the form of well-written feature stories is one of the few true journalistic tools that help newspapers in their struggle against declining readership. In Slovenia, however, there is little acknowledgement of this. Academic research illustrates that readers want well-written sophisticated feature stories, but they are offered poorly written elementary feature stories.

One of the reasons for this discrepancy might be the tradition of the latter in Slovene press; besides few practicing journalists are familiar with the theory of journalistic forms, and most of them are not aware of the advantages of quality, sophisticated feature stories. Feature stories are undervalued in Slovene press to such an extent that as a genre they are rarely examined in commercial readership surveys. Thus, the readers’ preference for them remains vague and ambiguous. Such surveys do not help the newspaper publishers determine what kind of articles their readers really want and in what form/genre they want them.

Literacy Problems Within Skill Solutions: Index, Contexts, and Critical Journalism Education

Ralph J. Beliveau

This discussion of education and media questions the assumptions made about types of literacy and their reproduction in journalism practice classes. The first part concerns the idea of “skills” in communication. Are “skills” classrooms becoming “de-skilled” themselves, as important critical questions are decided from above and removed from the active classroom? Secondly, is there a way of re-conceiving literacy that can respond to this problem, a literacy that goes beyond communication “skills” into developing critical reflective practitioners? Examples from a classroom ethnographic study are included.

Online News Users’ Sense of Community: Is geography dead?

Rachel Davis Mersey

The idea of geography is fundamental to local newspapers, both in the sense of community news and news from a community perspective. It has been suggested that “geography is dead.” This idea was tested through a self-administered mail survey of a sample of adults living in Maricopa County, Arizona, using geographic and online senses of community measures to determine the importance of geography in today’s Internet-rich environment and determine if geography is really “dead.”

The analysis focused on evaluating the mean sense of community measures among groups, and examining the use of newspaper Weblogs in light of the print newspaper’s coverage of a particular geographic area. Results rebuff suggestions that geography is “dead” and indicate that respondents are still attached to their geographic communities. In the struggle to find new models of journalism, newspapers must find a way to remain geographically relevant in print and on the Web.


Journalism Forum: Alistair Cooke: Reporting America, Reporting Britain

Philip John Davies and Bob Franklin (with Chris Elser, Martin Kettle, Stephen Sackur, Dominic Sandbrook)

A discussion to celebrate Alistair Cooke’s legacy and the ways in which reporting in America and Britain has changed in the years since he first began delivering his ‘Letters from America’, was held at the British Library on 13 October 2008. Chaired by Dominic Sandbrook of the London Evening Standard, it featured contributions from Martin Kettle who writes for The Guardian and was the paper’s US Bureau Chief from 1997-2001, Stephen Sackur of the BBC who was the BBC’s Washington correspondent from 1997-2002 and Chris Elser from Bloomberg News.

Contents and Abstracts of April 2009

(Vol 3 - No 2)

Video Review


The Reality of a Fake Image: News norms, photojournalistic craft, and Brian Walski’s fabricated photo

Matt Carlson

A few weeks into the start of the Iraq War in 2003, the front page of the Los Angeles Times featured a large photograph depicting a dramatic scene in which a British soldier motions to Iraqi civilians to stay down while a father carrying a child creeps across the dirt. The image ran in several US newspapers before it was discovered to be a composite of two different images cobbled together by the veteran photographer, Brian Walski, on his laptop in Basra. The Times immediately fired Walski and, along with other journalists, commented publicly on the wrongness of his actions while reasserting the soundness of their reporting.

In keeping with paradigm repair, many in the US journalistic community eschewed questions surrounding the complex practices of photojournalism to instead insist on the principle of objectivity as a guiding news norm. This view omits much, including the importance of craft and the role of aesthetic criteria in photojournalism. Especially in war, journalism privileges the dramatic image to communicate conflict. From this perspective the Walski incident raised issues related to the proliferation of digital photography and editing software, the visual representation of war, and the uneasy relationship between images and reality.

Conventionalization in Feature Photography: A study of winning photographs in the pictures of the year international competition

Keith Greenwood and C. Zoe Smith

A sample of award-winning feature photographs over the life of the Pictures of the Year International competition was analyzed to identify the themes used by photographers to tell stories effectively. Results of similar studies of other types of photography suggest photographers communicate through a limited number of themes. The results of this analysis indicate feature photographs rely on fewer themes than are apparent in some other types of photographs. The authors offer suggestions for the predominance of these themes. The Pictures of the Year International competition is held annually at the University of Missouri – Columbia.

Addressing The Effects Of Assignment Stress Injury: Canadian journalists’ and photojournalists’ recommendations

Patrice Keats and Marla Buchanan

The purpose of this article is to present the results of a qualitative study on assignment stress injury within journalism. Thirty-one Canadian journalists and photojournalists participated in the research study. The focus of this article is on recommendations offered by our participants to address the effects of traumatic stress within their profession.

Repurposing of Content in Multi-Platform News Production: Towards a Typology of Cross-Media Journalism

Ivar John Erdal

One of the characteristics of convergence journalism is the prominence of repurposing of content. This article analyses news production processes at the Norwegian public service broadcaster, NRK, through the concepts of genre and adaptation. Convergent, or cross media, news journalism involves media content travelling across media boundaries. As different media platforms use different sets of sign systems, (audio, video, writing, images and graphics), this requires some form of translation or adaptation.

This article analyses some examples of audiovisual content that travels across media platforms; mainly from television and radio to the web, but also between radio and television. News content made for a specific programme on a specific platform, with a characteristic rhetoric, is adapted in part or as a whole to be republished on a different platform with a different rhetoric. In conclusion, the article outlines a typology of different forms of repurposing in cross media news journalism, expanding on those found in Dailey et al.’s (2003) ‘convergence continuum’.

The Mojo In The Third Millennium: Is multimedia journalism affecting the news we see?

Peter Martyn

Digital technology has revolutionized the journalist’s toolkit with affordable miniaturized still and video cameras for producing high-quality multimedia, and connection equipment enabling that content to be transmitted via satellite from almost anywhere on the globe for publication on the Internet.

Two results have been the advent of news production by an innovative type of lone, multimedia reporter, known as a “mojo” (mobile journalist) or “sojo” (solo journalist), and an increasing focus on “hyper-local” news on media websites. In an era of heightened newspaper and television competition driven by steadily declining North American readership and viewer numbers, many media managers have embraced with enthusiasm the solo journalist – able to move fast and travel light, at lower cost than traditional news teams. This paper surveys the impact that developments in multimedia publishing have had on the news produced by such solo journalists.

It finds evidence of degradation of the genre in some, but not all, cases and concludes that since the Pandora’s box of mojo journalism has been opened, if used judiciously by journalists with sufficient experience, there is some hope that the new modalities may result in responsible journalism enriched with multifaceted storytelling.

Recovery From Disaster: How journalists at the New Orleans Times-Picayune understand the role of a post-Katrina newspaper

Nikki Usher

This paper examines how journalists at the Times-Picayune in New Orleans understand the role of the local newspaper during the recovery stage of Hurricane Katrina. Qualitative one-on-one interviews were conducted in New Orleans to gain the perspectives of these journalists. These interviews were analyzed in the context of theories of news production. Two key findings emerged. First, journalists saw their role as “objective” recorders of events complicated by their personal experience. Second, journalists saw the newspaper as an advocate for the city. These findings suggest that theories about news production and about objectivity should be considered more contextually.


Practice Review

Photojournalism: Do people matter?  Then photojournalism matters

Julianne H. Newton

Book Reviews

Notes on Contributors

Contents of February 2009

(Vol 3 - No 1)


The News Readability Problem

Linden Dalecki, Dominic L. Lasorsa and Seth Lewis

Online Feature Journalism: A clash of discourses

Steen Steensen

Informing, Entertaining, Empowering: Nordic journalists’ (re)negotiations of their tasks

Jaana Hujanen

Video News Release Policies and Usage at U.S. Television News Stations: Deontological implications for the newsroom

Edward Lordan and Burton Saint John

The Hierarchy of Journalistic Cultural Authority: Journalists’ perspectives according to news medium

Kimberly Meltzer

Look Who's Talking: Use of sources in newspaper coverage in Sweden and the United States

Daniela Dimitrova and Jesper Strömbäck

Journalism Education in Slovenia: Editors’ views on the stereotyping of journalism graduates as incompetent theorists and socio-political workers

Melita Poler Kovačič and Vesna Laban


Photojournalism: Arthur Fellig (Weegee) and Homai Vyarawalla

David Finkelstein


Feature Review

Book Reviews

Notes on Contributors