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Journalism Studies 2008: Contents and Abstracts

Volume 9 Number 1 February 2008


A Compromised Fourth Estate? UK News Journalism, Public Relations and News Sources

Justin Lewis, Andrew Williams and Bob Franklin

The suggestion that the activities of public relations professionals and news agencies help to shape news content in national and local news media is increasingly commonplace among journalists, academics and public relations professionals. The findings from this study provide substantive empirical evidence to support such claims. The study analyses the domestic news content of UK national "quality" newspapers (2207 items in The Guardian, The Times, the Independent, the Telegraph and the mid market Daily Mail) and radio and television news reports (402 items broadcast by BBC Radio 4, BBC News, ITV News and SkyNews), across two week-long sample periods in 2006, to identify the influence of specific public relations materials and news agency copy (especially reports provided by the UK Press Association) in published and broadcast news contents. The findings illustrate that journalists’ reliance on these news sources is extensive and raises significant questions concerning claims to journalistic independence in UK news media and journalists’ role as a fourth estate. A political economy analysis suggests that the factors which have created this editorial reliance on these ‘information subsidies’ seems set to continue, if not increase, in the near future.

From Religiosity to Consumerism: Press Coverage of Thanksgiving, 1905 to 2005

Bonnie Brennen

This research looks at the coverage of Thanksgiving during the past 100 years on eleven daily urban newspapers published in the U.S. in an effort to assess journalistic practices related to the coverage of routine news stories and to understand how through its coverage newspapers represent and interpret social, political, and economic change. The Thanksgiving holiday was chosen because it has been a traditional news story consistently covered each year in the press and an analysis of the coverage provides insights into the basic routines of journalism including news conventions, journalistic values, and norms over the past 100 years.

What the American People Deserve from American Journalism During Wartime: A First Amendment View Abetted by Semiotic Analysis

Arnold S. Wolfe, Jeromy Swanson & Stacy Wrona

From a First Amendment theoretical perspective, the freedoms constitutionally guaranteed the U.S. media are bound to expectations that they will deliver the "widest possible dissemination of information from diverse and antagonistic sources" (A. P. v. U.S. 1945, p. 20). Analyses of two 2005 reports on the Iraq War posted on the Internet by two prominent U.S. news organizations, however, show that they are presenting Americans with pro-Bush administration, anti-"insurgent," pro-war readings of the events reported. In light of these analyses, the "performance" of the U.S. texts in meeting First Amendment obligations is discussed.

Information/Transformation: the Strategic Predetermination of Information Events

Samantha Lay

This paper argues that news is the end product in a series of transformations that occur across five stages. At each stage distinct but related information events are constructed to suit the needs of communicators and their intended audiences. During this process information events are strategically predetermined in order to define, frame, limit, and shape information. This approach is applied to a case study on the reporting of BSE and variant CJD in the UK. This paper suggests that an effective way to understand news and how stories come to be reported can be obtained through a combined approach that marries a weak constructionist epistemology to a realist ontological perspective. This paper contends that while reality as a concept should always be open to question and contestation, it is vital that as scholars, journalists and news consumers we do not abandon the concept of reality altogether.

Television News and the Symbolic Criminalisation of Young People

Mike Wayne, Craig Murray, Lesley Henderson, Julian Petley

This essay combines quantitative and qualitative analysis of six UK television news programmes. It seeks to analyse the representation of young people within broadcast news provision at a time when media representations, political discourse and policy making generally appear to be invoking young people as something of a folk devil or a locus for moral panics. The quantitative analysis examines the frequency with which young people appear as main actors across a range of different subjects and analyses the role of young people as news sources. It finds a strong correlation between young people and violent crime. A qualitative analysis of four ‘special reports’ or backgrounders on Channel Five’s Five News, explores the representation of young people in more detail, paying attention to contradictions and tensions in the reports, the role of statistics in crime reporting, the role of victims of crime and the tensions between conflicting news frames.

Facing "the fabulous monster": the traditional news media’s defensive innovation culture in the development of online news

An Nguyen

This paper presents a critical review of the evolution of online news since the 1990s, mapping its development into two stages that are driven by the same factor: the fear-driven defensive innovation culture among traditional media. Being threatened by the penetration of the Internet, traditional media hastily established their online presence in the 1990s but then, under the many uncertainties resulting from this rush online and the urge to defend rather than expand markets, have been reluctant to and/or unable to invest resources into developing an online news artefact which achieves its full potential. Online news has been ‘shoe horned’ into the same professional and business model that is at odds with its remarkable potential. Industrial developments in 2005 and 2006, however, suggest that as the Internet has established itself as a major news medium, traditional media – now even more threatened and urged to take actions to make up lost time – are on the verge of a new, more vigorous and rigorous development stage of online news.

The South Wales Argus and Cultural Representations of Gwent

David Berry

The local/regional press in the United Kingdom is so often overlooked as a subject matter in which to study representation and cultural production, which are normally the preserve of national and/or global media contexts. With this in mind this paper critically engages and assesses how the South Wales Argus, a local/regional newspaper in Wales, reproduces the idea of Gwent through the production of cultural representations in local news discourse. It is argued that cultural representations are ‘survival strategies’ that are produced to maintain a monopolistic market position in Gwent. It is also argued that cultural representation is the product of the paper’s perceptions of community and that cultural representation is also a product of myth.


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