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Unformatted text preview: PART III. SPECIFIC MEDIA PROFESSIONS Chapter Thirteen NEWS GATHERING AND REPORTING The newsgathering business is undergoing major and perhaps irreversible changes in the digital age. Some observations on the process of news gathering and reporting in 2010 Surveys suggest that overall trust in the news media is declining; young people are turned off by news; and audiences for newspapers, newsmagazines, and broadcast news programs are declining. In the annual Gallup polls on honesty and ethics in various occupations, both TV and newspaper journalists rank low. Last month ABC News announced plans to cut onefourth of its news staff by the end of 2010; CBS News is also going through a round of layoffs. Deciding what's news (information about public events) Before anything becomes news, it must be filtered through the eyes and ears of a journalist. What, exactly, does the occupation known as "journalist" mean--especially in our online world? Two facts: In the U.S., no legal definition of news exists; news is whatever a journalist says is news. Anybody can identify himself or herself as a journalist. Why is it this way? The First Amendment and press freedom The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution established the tremendous freedom of expression that we enjoy in our country. The Framers of our Constitution envisioned journalists as the Fourth Estate of government. Legislative Judicial Executive Press (Congress) (Courts) (President) (Journalists) One role of a journalist is to provide voters with truthful information about elected officials. This role of journalism is known as the watchdog function of the press (mass media). The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution specifically prohibits courts from determining what is or is not newsworthy who is or is not a journalist Deciding what is newsworthy is not an exact science, but instead a value judgment formed by each newsgathering andreporting organization on the basis of traditions and policies (e.g., The Wall Street Journal features financial news reported from a probusiness perspective) economic pressures when owners of media companies aggressively seek profits and increasing stock prices (e.g., some newspapers and TV stations emphasize reports of scheduled events because they are inexpensive to cover) industries (e.g., what is considered newsworthy has broadened as the number of newsmedia delivery platforms has increased) competitive pressures from increasingly segmented media News values are also influenced by advertisers The marketing concept is now well established among news executives. Gatekeepers tailor both the content of news, and the way news is presented, to attract audiences that are desirable to advertisers. Most news media are advertiser supported. Pressure from advertisers sometimes influences gatekeepers to be less aggressive than they might otherwise be when reporting on local business communities. Journalists tend to agree on five core elements that characterize newsworthy events. Timeliness: News is a perishable commodity with a short shelf life Proximity: News happens close by, both spatially and psychologically Prominence: News is about important people and events Consequence: News is about things that matter to a great many people Human interest: News includes emotionarousing items about ordinary people in circumstances with which audiences can identify News reporting in the digital age has brought six additional changes to our traditional conception of news values. Online distribution systems of news, grouped into general Internet sites that originate content (e.g., CNN.com) Internet news aggregators that offer a digest of news from other content originators (e.g., Google) specialized Internet sites that originate content that is tightly focused (e.g., ESPN.com) Blogs (online personal journals; since late 2001) provide a grassroots check on traditional media sources give journalists an outlet to explain why they reported a story a certain way Citizen journalism: A "proam" (professionalamateur) costsaving blend of reader contributions and traditional reporting community or zip code, mostly via Web sites journalists who do it all (recall our earlier discussion of device convergence) Online sources facilitate access to government documents and databases Hyperlocal news: A focus on a small The converged journalist: Backpack Computerassisted reporting (CAR): Three major categories of news Hard news emphasizes routine reporting about news events. For print and online distribution, journalists use the invertedpyramid form for hardnews stories. In a news story written in invertedpyramid form, the informational level declines as a story proceeds. Invertedpyramid form benefits reporters, editors, and busy readers. For broadcast distribution of hard news, the informational level remains the same throughout the story (i.e., square form). Broadcast writing style must be conversational, and simple enough to be understood after a single exposure. Soft news or feature stories emphasize humaninterest angles of events. Because hardnews events are not evenly distributed throughout the week, feature stories are typically distributed on weekends. Some syndication companies provide feature stories for local TV stations. Investigative reports emphasize information about matters of public importance obtained by nonroutine reporting methods. These can be both expensive to produce, and hazardous--more to come . . . The wire services The term wire originated during the 19th century when the telegraph was the fastest way to share information (i.e., telegraph wire). inauguration of transcontinental telegraphy in 1861 and transatlantic telegraphy in 1866. leading wire service with about 240 bureaus worldwide. Collective reporting of news grew rapidly following Today, the Associated Press (AP) is the world's The AP a cooperative owned by 1,500 newspapers employer of 3,000 journalists in 97 countries sells news to more than 15,000 organizations worldwide Many daily newspapers pay more than $1M annually for AP news. More than half of the people in the world see an AP story each day. Over time, journalists have developed four common practices designed to enhance the credibility of their news stories among audience members. truthfulness (attribution of information to specific sources) accuracy (verification of information) balance (even handedness when covering disputes) fairness (absence of conscious bias and personal comment) Media differences in news coverage Newspapers and news magazines are organized in terms of space. + good for indepth reporting + good for long narratives + good for complex analysis (ability to reread difficult and complicated parts of a story) criticized for being dull, oldfashioned, and no longer timely compared with electronic distribution systems Television is organized in terms of time. + good for stories with visual appeal criticized for shallowness, especially with regard to editorial decisions influenced by visual technologies (e.g., cameras in helicopters) criticized for emphasis on the appearance and personality of oncamera reporters Online media are organized in terms of space, but can be updated continuously. + Any type of news story can be distributed online. Online media are criticized because of the easy entry into the status of "online journalist." What about radio? Local allnews radio stations are found only in major markets. In some large to medium markets, local companies provide outsourced news, weather, and traffic reports to multiple stations. In small markets, radio stations continue to be important sources of bulletinboard information about community events, and daily obituaries. Although a few major noncommercial broadcasters remain (e.g., Wisconsin Public Radio, an 18station statewide network operated by the University of Wisconsin), many jobs at noncommercial stations are filled by students and volunteers. In a recent Harris poll, respondents rated National Public Radio (NPR) the most trusted news organization in the U.S. Are Americans losing interest in news? The number of Americans going online for news every day continues to increase. It appears that the Internet will eventually become our primary source for news. The number of Americans getting news every day from sources other than the Internet is declining. Although TV remains the primary source of news for most Americans in 2010, the average age of the typical newscast viewer is around 60. Regardless of delivery platform, where do most news stories originate? By some estimates, more than 80 percent of original news is first reported by community newspapers. Newspapers are still the organizations that have the resources to send skilled reporters to knock on doors, rummage through documents, and cover events. Perspective: Studies of content in various news media reveal that bloggers and citizen journalists largely recycle information first disseminated by newspapers. Future models for news Some newspaper executives believe news organizations made a possibly fatal mistake by giving their content away for free via the Internet. Media companies that did not charge for their content, and allowed everybody to copy or link to their content, are now in serious financial difficulty. Can journalism recover and thrive in an online world? Possibilities: Newspapers might become like universities, with independence underwritten by charitable endowments. In the past, many of the nation's largest and most important newspapers were owned by wealthy families who believed in the importance of journalism. Some online journalists think the future of news should be supported by online advertising. But advertisers are unwilling to pay the same rates for online ads as they do for traditional media (print and TV). The New York Times derived $200M annually from Internet ads in 2009, but nevertheless eliminated 100 newsroom jobs by the end of that year. Journalism could become a volunteer effort. Anybody interested in working for free? Some foresee a return to the partisan press model of the late 18th and early 19th centuries, where future journalists emphasize advocacy. But what about the ideal of the honest, disinterested watchdog journalist seeking truth? Most likely scenario Subscription model for online access to content originators (e.g., New York Times). Whether journalism is a profession, a trade, or simply an occupational category has been debated for more than 100 years. Three requirements for a profession (Bureau of Labor Statistics): prescribed educational standards licensure enforcement of performance standards by the profession itself CAREER OUTLOOK Go to www.bls.gov for current employment data. ...
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