Saturday, 8 October 2011

Reminicences (10)

This weeks lecture covered "News Values", or what a media outlet would value and prioritize over other information. To present all information to be interpreted in the public sphere is impossible, as everything that happens in one day would take more than one day to produce. Therefore, what the audience wants to hear/read about must be preempted by editors, especially as that interest is (usually) what funds the production of such selective information. Harold Evans, the editor of the Sunday Times (67-81) was quoted as saying "'A sense of news values' is the first quality of editors as they are the 'human sieves of the torrent of the news' even more important even than an ability to write or a command of language." It could be argued that this concept of "news value" is not what the public value, but what the media perceive the public to value. So to what extent is salience of issues in the media the result of a top down relationship where editors limit information available to the consuming public? Or is it more of a bottom up relationship, where commercial pressures from an audience dictate what a media outlet can publish?

The 12 stated news values as assessed by Galtung and Ruge (65) were as follows.
Bad news- pessimism and negativity, as a tool to command attention, disasters, conflict, ect.
Closeness to home - issues that can be seen to directly relate to the audience will be prioritized. Issues that will not be understood in the local context often fail to meet this criterion. For example local sport stories often gain priority over distant human suffering.
Recency- As news outlets compete with one another for capital, the one with the most recent information will be consulted (with relevance to a specific issue) first. Whilst this promotes up to the minute updates (the 24 hour news cycle and the restructuring of news invoked by online mediums) it isn't particularly helpful with issues that necessitate hindsight in order to understand.
Currency- This is the application of "hindsight" to an issue, but can also be interpreted as a outlets cashing in upon a concept/issue that has proven itself to be a profitable item to promote and reproduce (for example Daniel Morcombe or Michael Jackson) regardless of any actual change in the scenario.
Continuity- Anything that can be perceived to necessitate updates of information in installments, such as a sporting event, or a issue that will generate more information with the passing of time (high profile court cases, ect)
Uniqueness- Anything that can be considered out of the norm, that would generate interest simply for being unusual
Simplicity- Issues that conform to the upside down pyramid model of reporting (who, what, where, why, how) and can be explained and understood without much mental rumination.
Personality- an attempt to put a human face upon an issue by showing how it impacts an individual. This can be distorted to a point where certain people become deified by the media simply because there is interest in their existence. They become commodities that the media sell to gain leverage over their competitors (celebrity cameo's in reality TV for instance)
Expectedness (predictability)- If an issue can be predicted, then the media can get there and record the occurrence much easier than if it is spontaneous. This explains the existence of such concepts as the "press conference" to cater for the medias need to be where information is available
Elite nations or people - There is a hierarchy of people, and of nations, within the media. A developed country will receive more attention than a developing one, and a prominent celebrity or figure will attract more attention than who is considered less relevant to a medias desire to generate an audience.
Exclusivity- Competition dictates that if one outlet can outmaneuver another for information, it will gain strategic advantage over its competitors. The outlet with the most relevant "exclusive" becomes the only source that can be referred to about that specific issue/concept.
Size (the threshold)- whether there is enough significant relevance within an issue to constitute as a valuable issue to promote. The "threshold" dictates whether or not an issue is worth publishing (eg no of people affected, the amount of money involved, or relevance to the public's conceptions)

Ultimately the more criterion an issue fills, the more salient it will become. Land mines as an issue within Cambodia did not constitute as relevant news on the international arena until princess Diana used her name to promote it. After her death, the issue has largely passed into obscurity. For an issue to become worthwhile, those who have the resources to buy audience demand will have an advantage . What is considered news, therefore, can be predicted by organizations that need media salience to advance their cause. Journalism, as weakened by commercial practice ('grocer logic' and the rise of 'churnalism' Nick Davies) can be collaborated (or exploited, depending upon your personal conceptions) with by Public Relations to advance partisan interests. "News cartels" are perceived as swaying the salience of issues to benefit certain unseen parties (Rowse). Whether or not this was happening is arguable. A threat to this model was presented by a statement from Jay Rosen (05, Head of the Journalism School in New York) which suggested that with the ability to publish their own information through online mediums, a one way relationship between the audience and the media did not exist anymore. I would argue that it doesn't matter how much "realer" ( amateur writing as a threat to professional writing) you can make the public, the fact remains that lucid writing is a skill that takes years to develop, and can continue to be a commodity so long as readers/viewers recognize that training is necessary to develop this talent.

No comments:

Post a Comment