News and News Sources: A Critical Introduction
Publication Year: 2001
News and News Sources offers a fresh introduction to the sociology of news. News and News Sources: reviews new research in the rapidly expanding field of political communication, drawing upon material from Britain, Europe and the USA; provides a clear introduction to the processes of news production and the implications of the rise in global electronic news communication; and assesses the various theoretical frameworks available for analysing these developments including fuctionalism, pluralism, Marxism, political economy, hegemony theory, discourse theory and postmodernism.
- Front Matter
- Back Matter
- Subject Index
- Chapter 1: Why Worry about the Sources of News?
- Chapter 2: Theorising News Media and News Sources
- Chapter 3: Journalists and News Production
- Chapter 4: Proprietors, Corporations and Politicians
- Chapter 5: Political Élites, the State and Categories of Knowledge
- Chapter 6: Considering the Powerful and the Politically Marginal
- Chapter 7: News Media Politics and the Politically Marginal
- Chapter 8: News Audiences and News Sources
© Paul Manning 2001
First published 2001
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, transmitted or utilized in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without permission in writing from the Publishers.
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[Page vii]For Winnie[Page viii]
The main aim of this book is as a contribution to the development of a framework for analysing the relationship between news sources and news media in contemporary liberal democratic, capitalist societies. A decade ago the question of news source activity was given scant attention by researchers. Now the literature is growing and we know more about the experiences of environmental activists, trade unions, penal reform groups, and other campaigning organisations in trying to develop news media strategies. There is a paradox in our experience of the news media: we suspect that the powerful have a very considerable ability to set agendas and control the supply of information to the public domain and yet, on a regular basis, we find news stories emerging which serve to highlight the inability of corporate organisations and governments to prevent information damaging to their interests from seeping out. As the range and variety of news media outlets expands in a multi-channel, ‘media-saturated’ world, there appears to be greater diversity and openness in news coverage, yet we as a public grow ever more suspicious of the ways in which news may be spun and controlled by the powerful.
This book suggests that we must look, in part, to the interaction between particular news sources and the organisations engaged in the various processes of news commodification, for an understanding of the nature of these paradoxes. In other words, both the model of a monolithic power structure controlling all news media from the centre, and the most naïve versions of pluralistic openness in news communication are wide of the mark. The institutional arrangements of corporate capitalism, government and the state allocate many of the best cards but not all the cards to the powerful, in the struggle around news agendas. The less powerful and the politically marginal do get a look in, but how and to what extent are empirical questions. This book tries to offer a framework for thinking through and exploring these issues. It is a framework which rests upon certain theoretical assumptions. Most important, it is assumed that interaction between news sources, journalists and news organisations involves a struggle to control information flows. Those involved may resort to coercion, implicit bargaining or even formal negotiation. Resources, both material and symbolic, are deployed in an effort to shape or control the information flows sustaining news production. Within the sociology of journalism, these sorts of themes have been traditionally approached through a variety of interactionist, ethnomethodological or organisational perspectives. However, if by political economy we mean the study of the ways in which material and symbolic resources promote or constrain action and are deployed to secure interests or advantage, then the [Page x]study of the engagements between news sources, journalists and news organisations is an appropriate topic for a political economy. Such an approach is helpful, I think, because it reminds us that the battle to control information flows is a struggle around resources (material and symbolic) and, secondly, because it reminds us that all these micro-engagements occur in the context of the larger political–economic environment – market pressures, proprietorial interests, the formal and informal regulative capacities of government, and so on.
The first aim of this book, then, is to explore the nature of news source–news organisation interaction within a framework which could be described as political–economic. In doing this, the book reviews a wide range of evidence, including some important and well-known studies, but it tries to offer more than merely an introductory review. While some of the evidence is drawn from established work, other evidence is drawn from original research, or other original sources. The theoretical frameworks deployed, particularly in Chapters 6 and 7, draw upon several influences but try to offer a distinctive approach for theorising the activity of news sources.
A second aim of the book is to provide an accessible guide to the ways in which sources and news organisations interact to produce news, within the constraints imposed by markets, ownership structures and political institutions. Hopefully, students will find the book useful as a guide to the sociology of news sources, even if some of the material contained within strays from the familiar paths. I have tried to make the style and use of terminology as accessible as possible.
Chapter 1 serves as an introduction but does so by emphasising the importance of the question of news sources for the health of the public arenas that sustain the discussion and debate vital to democracy. Chapter 2 reviews the range of theoretical approaches available for analysing the relationship between news sources and news media. Chapters 3–5 deal with aspects of the political economic environment within which news is produced and news sources seek to operate. Chapter 3 explores the changing nature of news journalism and the organisation of the news room; Chapter 4 considers the constraints of markets, advertising, proprietorial power and the structures of capital, and Chapter 5 deals with the formal and informal controls over information flows at the disposal of governments and state. In each case, I have tried to draw examples and evidence from beyond the United Kingdom, though given the partisan nature of the English press and the preoccupation with spin which has characterised recent British governments, it is impossible not to dwell at some length upon the experience of the United Kingdom. Chapters 6 and 7 consider the position of news sources seeking to secure access to the news media. The central question concerns the extent to which politically marginal groups can find ways of countering the power and advantages associated with the material and symbolic resources at the disposal of corporations and state institutions, in the struggle to control or influence information flows. Chapter 8 returns to more familiar terrain by reviewing the available evidence concerning audiences for political [Page xi]communication. Does all the effort invested in news media work by the powerful or politically marginal signify among the public? Evidence from nearly five decades of audience research is hardly conclusive but it is now possible to describe the nature of public responses to political communication and news media work with some degree of confidence. There are signs that a sceptical public is growing ever more disillusioned with spin and political public relations. There is certainly evidence to suggest that political audiences are prepared to think critically and sceptically about the messages they receive providing they can draw upon alternative sources of evidence or information. It would be ironic if the political spin industry faced a terminal legitimation crisis produced by the very slickness of its own practices but such an outcome would not be a cause for regret among those who would welcome a politics prepared to acknowledge real social divisions and some awkward choices, rather than pay so much attention to presentation.
Many people have helped in various ways in the writing of this book. My colleagues in the Sociology Department at De Montfort University have provided encouragement in generous measure. Julia Hall at Sage has been equally patient and supportive. Although not in any way responsible for the ideas set out in this book, I should thank Professor Peter Golding for his invaluable guidance while I served my academic apprenticeship and for playing no small a part in securing the opportunity for this book to be written. De Montfort University granted study leave for one semester which allowed a start to be made. I am also grateful to the editors of Media Culture Society (Sage) and Ashgate Publications for permission to draw upon some evidence which has appeared in earlier publications. As always, my deepest thanks go to my family, Winnie, Michael, Peter and Dan, together with Barbara Manning, for their cheerful love and support.
AFL-CIO American Federation of Labor-Congress of Industrial Organisations AFP Agence France-Presse AP Associated Press AEU Amalgamated Engineering Union AEEU Amalgamated Engineering and Electrical Union BBC British Broadcasting Corporation BECTU Broadcasting, Entertainment, Cinematograph and Theatre Union CGT Confédération Générale du Travail CNN Cable Network News COHSE Confederation of Health Service Employees EC European Commission GIS Government Information Service GMB General and Municipal Workers Union ITC Independent Television Commission NALGO National Association of Local Government Officers NASA National Aeronautics and Space Administration NHS National Health Service (Britain) NUPE National Union of Public Employees TGWU Transport and General Workers Union TUC British Trade Union Congress UPITN United Press International Television News WTN Worldwide Television News WWFN World Wide Fund for Nature
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