Selection & Presentation of the news

Topic 3 from the Mass Media topic of AQA A level Sociology


The social construction of the news

The media obviously cannot report all events happening every day in the world. This means that rather than simply being out there waiting to be collected what counts as the news is constructed by social influences

The influence of owners

Media conglomerates can use their power to impose their own views on audiences by giving direct instructions to news editors where they have little option to disagree. An example of this is the first British newspaper interview with Donald Trump which had Rupert Murdoch supervising meaning it would be positive due to their friendship. Journalists avoid being critical of Trump as he has control over them and can ban them such as with the Mini Trump story which portrayed Trump as relatable and with children

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The social construction of the news

Making a profit

The media has the aim of making a profit through mainly advertising. This dependence explains why so much concern is expressed about ratings and advertisers will only advertise to a large audience such as entertainment prime time programmes like The X Factor. In order to attract the biggest audience it is important not to offend anyone leaving Barrett & Gaber to suggest that such pressures lead to a less critical approach to reporting politics. However, the BBC do not have advertisements so can be used to criticise this

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The social construction of the news

Globalisation, new technology & citizen journalism

Globalisation means there's a whole range of new technology whch allows us to instantly access news anywhere and anytime such as through Twitter. This means news providers need to compete to survive by keeping up to date and to tailor their media offering. This new technology has also created greater opportunities for citizen journalism such as videos shot on mobile phones and then uploaded to YouTube meaning ordinary people and not just media companies are involved in collecting and spreading news. These alternative sources can help to overcome bias such as in Israel where assasinations were being ignored

Organisational constraints

Most people gain their news from social media such as Twitter which has 316 million users who are exposed to news in 140 characters or less. News stations like BBC News 24 have to release breaking news 24 hours a day and summarise information which is easy to read in order to keep up

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The social construction of the news

Agenda setting

McCombs suggests that the news media now increasingly not only tell us what to think about, but also how to think about as they have the power to control what goes into the news. The GMG found that the media acted as a forum for public grumbles but rarely explore solutions to the problems such as in the global banking crisis where the media focused on the greed of the bankrs but failed to explore solutions to the issue. Some news items are ignored for fear of offending owners, audiences and advertisers

Norm setting

This describes the way media emphasise conformity to social norms and is achieved by encouraging conformist behaviour such as not going on stike by rewarding people and discouraging non conformist behaviour with the sensational treatment to stories about murder etc. 1/4 of pensioners are choosing not to claim benefits due to negative stereotypes

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The social construction of the news


Owners, editors and journalists construct the news by acting as gatekeepers, influencing what knowledge the public gains access to. News will be either selected based on what they find as important or what they think will be entertaining to audiences. An example is the headline 'Immigration soars in 20% in a year' which is something of concern to the people. An example of gatekeeping is the idea that the media often chooses to report on strikes negatively while issues such as health and safety law infringements are never reported on causing more public concern on stopping future strikes whuch actually causes less damage than health and safety infrigements

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The social construction of the news

The presentation of news

The way news items are presented may be important in influencing how people are encouraged to view stories. The news often ignores good stories instead focusing on negative events where it is reported in a sensational way. Some issues may not be covered at all especially if there are no pictures or videos available. Images are also just a snapshot so could be biased as well as the use of emotive language

Inaccurate and false reporting and the creation of moral panics

False reporting through either completely making up stories or inventing a few details and exaggerating events is common in Red Top newspapers such as The Sun. This can cause a moral panic such as the Mods and Rockers . Deviance amplification spiral is the way the media make deviance worse by distorted reporting. News values could be made out of date because news is now focused on more stories and the media has in general become more shocking such as with films like the Human Centipede

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News values and newsworthiness

Millions of news worthy events occur every single day meaning only a small selection of these stories can make it to the daily news. Journalists have a criteria which includes:

Continuity - Events that are likely to have a continuing impact meaning the paper can do a running story such as with the 2 year EU Brexit negotiations

Elite nations - Western European and American news will take preference with news surrounding politicians and celebrities

Negativity - Bad news is nearly always rated above good news such as front page headlines about murderers like Dr Shipman

Threshold - Stories that impact a large amount of people are more likely to make the news such as health related reports

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The activities of journalists & rise of churnalism

Hierachy of credibility - Greater importance is attached by journalists to the views and opinions of those in positions of power such as politicians

Primary definers - Powerful individuals whose positions give them greater access to the media in order to defend their position. An example is Theresa May who as Home Secretary at the time was intervewed about the London Riots. Most journalists tend to be moderate so tend to ignore extremist or radical views such as the BBC limiting the number of BNP interviews

The rise of churnalism

This is a term used to describe the trend whereby journalists were uncritically churning out articles based on second hand news agency reports with Davies finding 80% of major newspapers were partially constructed from secondhand material. Medialens check the media's version of events against credible facts with the aim to raise awareness of the failure of the media to report the world honestly

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