JOURNALISM

On any given night, CTV's " National News" draws 1.3 million viewers.

What is news? Famous Newscaster Chet Huntley declared "News is what I decide is news". Journalists are not autonomous in their decision making about the news process although they are given a tremendous amount of Independence on how to report the news.

JOURNALISTS PERSONAL VALUES

The journalistic ideal is to be "unbiased", seeking truth and an unvarnished telling of it.

Yet as human beings, journalists have personal values that influence all that they do, including their work.

COMMITTEMENT TO DEMOCRACY AND CAPITALISM

Journalists follow the ideal of serving the public interest. Report on corrupt government officials, conflict and bureaucratic malfunction.

Journalists also report business and misbehaviour as 'aberrations' thus supporting a more capitalistic point of view.

SMALL TOWN PASTORIALISM

Journalists often romanticize rural life.

SOCIAL ORDER

Journalists cover disorder, earthquakes, floods, industrial catastrophes, protest marches, the disintegrating nuclear family and transgressions of laws and mores.

The coverage does not glamourize disorder but helps society to find ways to restore order.

This journalistic commitment to social order is also evident on how heavily reporters rely on persons in leadership roles as primary sources of information.

JOURNALISTIC BIAS

Critics of the news media comes from various backgrounds, with conservatives being the most vocal, charging that news reporters slant the news to favour liberal causes.

However, in a 1971 survey, more than 84% of journalists considered themselves middle of the road. Pamelin Wallin, Host of her own interview show on CBC, never even voted, feeling she could not do any political reporting and remain impartial if she exercised her opinion by committing to a political party.

ETHNOCENTRISM

Journalists see things through their culture's eyes, which colours news coverage. This ethnocentrism creates problems as the news media becomes global.

During the Persian Gulf War in 1991, CNN discovered that the use "foreign" meant non-American to most Americans viewing news footage, but confused audiences in other countries. Ted Turner substituted the word "international" and threatened firing anyone who used the word "foreign".

CONCENTRIC MODEL

From Page 21 of

Vivian, John and Peter, Maurin (1999). " Journalism". The Media of Mass Communication. Allyn and Bacon Canada, Scarborough, Ontario.

The Shannon-Weaver information Model can be applied to all communication, but it misses some things unique to mass communication.

In 1974 scholars, Ray Hiebert, Donal Ungurait and Thomas Bohn presented a new model - a series of concentric circles with the encoding source at the centre. One of the outer rings was the receiving audience. In between were several elements that are important in the mass communication process, but less so in other communication processes.

GATEKEEPERS: Mass communication is not a solo endeavor. Dozens, sometimes hundreds of individuals are involved. Anyone who can stop or alter a message enroute to the audience is a gatekeeper.

REGULATORS: The concentric circle model also recognizers regulators as a force that shapes and reshapes mass communication messages before they reach the mass audiences. Regulators are non-media institutions that influence media content. The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission is a government agency that serves as a regulator.

FILTERS: Herbert, Ungurait and Bohn (1974), note that receivers are affected by a variety of filters in decoding a message. They call the language or symbols used for message information filters. Physical filters exist when a receiver's mind is dimmed by fatigue or noise. Psychological filters would be a male and female experiencing the same film but having two different interpretations of the movie.

EFFECTS: A decoded message can do more thsasn proimpt verbal feedback. I can affect how someone votes, to how they dress or even provoke a riot. In terms of violence, it can make people actually feel ill or disgusted.

AMPLIFICATION: The mass media have the ability to amplify, which is related to gatekeepers. Amplification is a process by which mass communication confers status to issues and personalities merely covering them. For example, Barbara Walters or Diane Sawyer or Connie Chung, Peter Jennings, Noltan Nash etc.

Status conferral is not limited to news personalities but to music, videos, TV personalities, films etc. The 1960 movie "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner" helped keep racial integration on the American Agenda.

COLONIAL PERIOD

1733 John Peter Zenger started a paper in New York in competition with the existing crown-supported newspaper.

Zenger's success against the Crown foreshadowed the explosive colonial reaction after Parliament passed a stamp tax in 1765. The colonies did not have elected representatives in Parliament and cried "No taxation without representation".

The newspapers won and the tax was withdrawn.

www.personalweb.smctv.edu/dmindich/jhistory.htm

Traditions from the Colonial Period:

  • The news media, both print and broadcast, relish their independence from government censorship and control.
  • The news media, especially newspapers and magazines, actively try to mold government policy and mobilize public sentiment, mostly through the editorial page.
  • Journalists are committed to seeking truth
  • The public comes down in favour of independent news media when government becomes too heavy-handed.
  • In a capitalist system, the news media are economic entities that sometimes react in their own self-interest when profit-making ability is threatened.

PARTISAN PERIOD

After the American Revolution, newspapers divided along partisan lines for fifty years.

Traditions of the Partisan Period:

  • Government should keep its hands off the press
  • The news media are a forum for discussion and debate
  • The news media should comment vigourously on public issues.
  • Government transgressions against news media will ultimately be met by public rejection

 

PENNY PRESS PERIOD

1833, 22 YEAR OLD Benjamin Day started a newspaper that changed North American journalism. A penny a copy, the SUN was within the reach of just about everybody.

Several Social and Economic Factors from the Industrial Revolution made the Penny Press Possible:

  • Industrialization: Hundreds of copies of newspapers could be made an hour.
  • Urbanization: Workers were concentrated in the city.
  • Immigration: Waves of immigrants arrived from impoverished part of Europe.
  • Literacy: As immigrants learned English, they hungered for reading material.

Traditions of the Penny Press:

  • Inverted Pyramid story structure.
  • Coverage and writing that appeals to a wide audience.
  • A strong orientation to covering events.
  • A commitment to social improvement
  • Providing information quickly to readers.
  • A detached, neutral perspective in reporting events.

THE YELLOW PERIOD

While not as important in forming distinctive journalistic traditions as the earlier penny papers, yellow newspapers were significant in contributing to the growing feeling of nationhood in the United States, especially among diverse immigrants arriving in massive numbers.

During the Yellow Period, publishers tried to reach out to the widest possible audience by trying to find a common denominator and that turned out to be the human interest story.

JOURNALISM IN CANADA

1981 Kent Commission observed that Canadian journalists report from a mix of American and British influences and work under a libertarian press system.

This ideology of social responsibility for journalists is evident in the myriad press councils and press codes in Canada today.

www.newswatch.cprost.sfu.ca

The Canadian Association of Journalists

www.eagle.ca/caj

THE NEWS HOLE

A variable affecting what ends up being reported as news is called the news hole.

In TV broadcasting the news hole is consistently 23 minutes, which is what is left over after commercials are placed in a 30 minute broadcast.

NEWS FLOW

The flow of news varies from day to day. A story that might be played prominently on a slow news day can be passed over entirely in the competition for space on a heavy news day.

AVAILABILITY OF MATERIAL AND PHOTOS

The availability of photographs and video play important factors in what ends up in being news, especially in television.

Canadian court reporting is the most difficult as, unlike in the United States, TV cameras are not allowed in a courtroom. Must rely on an artist's rendition of the visual aspects of a trial.

In radio news, use background sound.

COMPETITION

One trigger of adrenalin for journalism is landing a scoop, or being the first to uncover a story.

Example: Charles Eng, North America's Most Wanted Criminal and the shoot out at The Bay in downtown Calgary (1984).

EXECUTIVE ORDERS

The people in charge have the final word on matters big and small.

It is publishers and general managers or story editors who are in charge. Some of these executives make self-serving decisions on coverage that gall journalists who work for them.

Example: Coverage of West Edmonton Mall on Boxing Day.

There is a strong chain of command, and journalistic autonomy is sometimes threatened by the need to please advertisers.

Rarely do media owners acknowledge that they manipulate the news coverage for their own economic interests.

Journalists who are bothered by wrong-headed news decisions have three choices:

  1. They can persuade wayward owners of the wrongness of their ways.
  2. They can comply with their directives.
  3. They can quit and go work for a respectable journalistic organization.

Example: The movie "The Insider".

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Source:

Abridged version of Chapter Eight:

Vivian, John and Peter, Maurin (1999). " Journalism". The Media of Mass Communication. Allyn and Bacon Canada, Scarborough, Ontario.