SCLY3 Mass Media - News and Current Affairs Notes

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News and Current Affairs
Theoretical Perspectives and the influence of news values
Do we receive a balanced view of the world or is the news we receive systematically biased?
Journalists and editors
If asked would probably argue the news media provides an accurate reflection on what is happening in the
world. Few would deny bias in news coverage but would argue there is wide variety of sources for us to
check authenticity of news reports. They would also draw distinction between News and Comment: News
Reportage ­ involves journalists reporting honest and accurate account of event. Comment- involves
interpretation & evaluation of that event.
Pluralist Theories
Views of Journalists & Editors closely coincide with pluralist theories ­ media gives people what
they want & this applies to news and current affairs. Pluralists emphasise wide variety of options
available to news consumers.
Development of 24-hour news channels & Internet increased this choice ­ news must reflect values
and interests of consumers or they won't buy (market argument)
Pluralists also point to safeguards ­ Law of libel (people can seek compensation if defamed) Press
complaints commission, advertising standards authority etc.
Marxist Theories
Argue media is part of ISA pushing values and interests of ruling class.
News is presented to transmit and support ruling-class ideology.
News media decide what is important and how issues are treated ­ Gatekeepers (e.g. editors)
ensure news fits in with style of newspaper or programme ­ making sure news reportage follows
policies from owners and managers.
GUMG ­ showed mass media's representations of industrial conflicts are ideological ­ Language used
demonstrates bias (Trade unions make `Threats and demands' while bosses and managers make `offers
and pleas'.
News Values
News Values: criteria used by journalists to decide if a story is newsworthy. (Values vary between different
papers e.g. what The Sun considers newsworthy may not be covered in Daily Telegraph.
General News Values:
Drama: Disasters e.g. earthquakes, plane crashes and wars are `good' news stories. GUMG ­ `bad
news is good news.
Human Interest: Human interest stories popular; may be stories of personal tragedy, survival aginst
the odds and human relationships.
Personalities: Important people & Celebs make good news ­ often combined with human interest.
E.g. sex, drugs and violence stories of Amy Winehouse, Kate Moss & Britney Spears make good
Sensationalism: Extraordinary stories attract attention and encourage public to buy or watch e.g.
The Sun "Freddie Starr ate my hamster"
Proximity: News stories focuses on Britain and places we have close ties with e.g. Europe, Us,
Australia. Stories of developing world are rare (usually only about wars or disasters)
Cohen & Young (1973) ­ by emphasising bad news about these countries, makes people feel
Western Capitalist world is superior (Marxists ­ prevents social discord amongst lower classes)
also, negative reporting on ethnic minorities divides working class on racial grounds (white working
class blame immigrants for lack of jobs & crime diverting attention away from capitalist companies
and state that are to blame.

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Visual Impact: Dramatic film or photographs make story more reportable. E.g. story of pensioner
being mugged more newsworthy if there is graphic pictures of her injuries.
Study ­ Uttley (1999) despite globalisation, broadcasting of world events in US decreased by half.
Complex Changes
Dumbing Down: The idea that news has become more populist and more sensational ­ less intelligent &
less informative.
Narrative: The idea that news stories should have beginning, middle & end. Journalists & editors try to fit
news stories to this structure.…read more

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Financial Considerations: Finance is an influence on news, especially foreign news ­ it is expensive to
maintain team in a faraway country. So news media rely on 2nd hand information from news agencies e.g.
Reuters. News media is subject to budgetary constraints ­ if too much is spent on one story, they have to
scrimp on another. E.g. BBC spent a lot covering protests and suppression by Chinese government and did
not have enough to give full coverage when the Berlin wall fell.…read more


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