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The thesis has demonstrated that newsworthiness is so heterogeneous that the very
idea of objective news values can be rejected on empirical grounds. As shown,
newsworthiness does not exist out there but rather: it is the effect of accreditation processes
in specific cycles of credit (Chapter 5); it includes the enrolment of non-human actants and
interplay between human and non-human actors (Chapter 6); in newsworthiness construction
it involves readership but there are different degrees of the objectification of readership in
different newspapers (Chapter 7) and there exist complex associations although in the
smallest news organisations in this study (Chapter 8). The main contribution of the thesis is
that it provides an example of how ANT can be deployed as a supplement to a qualitative
research project. Here, ANT offers interesting concepts that help to trace heterogeneity and
highlight the role of non-human actors, but it has not embraced its polemical style which is
always presented as a radical alternative (Hemmingway 2007, Latour 2005).
Why is such an approach important in the quest to understand news? This is actually
an attempt to study newsworthiness to achieve what has been called intrinsic
contextualisation (Strathern 2002), where, in previous studies based on object-driven and
subject-driven news values, this has not able to prevail. The problem of extrinsic
contextualisation is that it has been the predominant form in studying news, in which media
and communication studies have dealt with factors beyond the empirical aspects of their
research. This happens when context is being evoked as lying beyond the field of the actors
themselves. In this case, the actors cannot see the context and thus need a social scientist to
point it out to them. The social scientist does so on the basis of a priori concepts, because the
context also lies beyond his or her own experience. This however has been the dominant
approach in studying news as discussed in Chapters 2 and 3, and similarly, these views,
especially the political economy approach, have been the most dominant way of studying
news in Malaysia (Zaharom 2000). Other contexts related to developmental journalism
(Herbert 2001) and Asian journalism (Masterton 2005, Xu 2005) have also been the main
ways of explaining newsworthiness in Malaysia.
Thus, as these approaches do not explain newsworthiness based on practice, they are not able
to bridge the gap of knowledge generated from the academy and knowledge about how events
become news in the newsroom. Thus, this study has generally attempted to answer the general
question How is newsworthiness construction achieved in Malaysian newspapers? through
the influence of ANT in its analysis.
In a more specific way, this study has presented the empirical findings of the question
in Chapters 5-8 by posing these questions:
(i) What is newsworthiness and how are news values established?
(ii) How are news angles deployed as a means to trace identity?
(iii) How are readers taken into account in newsworthiness construction?
(iv) How are associations between an opposition newspaper and the state made, and to
what extent do these interrelate with newsworthiness construction?
However, these questions have generally been answered from the object-driven and
subject-driven news values, which emphasise the importance of how the nature of events can
determine newsworthiness (object-driven news values) and the influence of contexts in news
making (subject-driven news values).
News Value Theories and Dominant News Studies Paradigms
In the study of news, there are mainly two ways to explain What is news? which
first, can be from the nature of the event and second, from the external forces that influence
newsworthiness (Brighton and Foy 2007). Object-driven news values are derived from objects
which are events or happenings that become news. It is the nature of events that determines
newsworthiness, where the more qualities the event has, the more the possibilities it has to
become news. Here, the qualities of the event are independent from the organisations and
other forces that can influence newsworthiness.
The most influential study from this approach is by Galtung and Ruge (1965), and
recently, a book-length study was conducted by Brighton and Foy (2007). The benefit of
using this approach is that it has a strong explanatory power that is useful to explain the
complex process of what makes news (ONeill and Harcup 2009) and to know the pre-
determined criteria that can become news (Braun 2009). By explaining news based on the set
of criteria, explanations about news are easier to understand, and news becomes predictable
because there are objective criteria which serve as the ingredients of news (Shoemaker and
Cohen 2006, Ghersetti 2009, Schwarz 2006). With this strength, many recent researchers have
deployed this story to study other types of media such as television (Maier and Ruhrmann
2008) and international news flow (Weber 2010). From here, journalists also use news values
to determine news angles.
However, the main weakness of this approach is that news value theories are not able
to explain in detail what a category of news value means. For example, the news criterion of
elite people, as suggested by Galtung and Ruge, can be questioned in terms of its
operationalisation, that this cateogry is not able to distinguish between a celebrity and a
politician (Harcup and ONeill 2001: 268-269). The criteria are also not able to capture
changes of news values over time (Brighton and Foy 2007, Stephens 2005), such as the
exclusion of good news in Galtung and Ruges list, where more recent news shows a large
amount of good news (Harcup and ONeill 2001). Besides that, news value theories are also
unable to provide explanations about news values in different types of media because the list
will become very long and endless (OSullivan et al. 1983). It is thus difficult to predict news
(Kepplinger and Ehmig 2006) because not all events become news as Galtung and Ruges
hypothesis assumes the more an event contains news criteria, the more possibility it has to
become news. However, in reality, this does not always happen (Hartley 1982) especially in
publishing human interest news.
Furthermore, object-driven news values also depend too much on the nature of news
until it forgets the influence of gatekeepers in news production, thus oversimplifying
understanding of newsworthiness construction (McQuail 2000), as if news exists out there
and is ready to be reported by reporters (McQuail 2000, ONeill and Harcup 2009). This
makes explanations provided by object-driven news values decontextualised from the
complexity of news production (McChesney 2000), uncritical (Braun 2009, Clayman and
Reisner 1998) and a one-sided approach to understanding news (Harrison 2006).
Besides studies on traditional news, despite their weaknesses, news value theories are
also used to study the new media (Jorge 2008, Gladney et al. 2007) but they also realise that
the main weakness of the approach is that it is unable to recognise the influence of external
forces in newsworthiness construction (Braun 2009), which is the main strength of subject-
driven news values.
As compared to object-driven news values, subject-driven news values are an
approach that take into account subjectivity involved in news production including
subjectivity at individual, organisational, political and cultural levels. Various approaches are
used to explain this subjectivity, for example in valuation among journalists, they always see
that newsworthiness is based on gut feelings (Hall 1981, Randall 2000) and depends a lot on
experience (Evans 2000, ONeill and Harcup 2009) and informal study of how events
become news (Park 1940) over time. These then become the factor of subjectivity among
editors offered by the theory of gatekeeping (Manning 1950/1997). But this is also one of the
levels of subjectivity that has not been examined by Brighton and Foy (2007) that has been
criticised in Chapter 2, in their attempt to bridge the gap in understanding about news from
object-driven and subject-driven news values.
What Brighton and Foy have also neglected is the existence of literature about subject-
driven news values that explain newsworthiness from political economy, cultural and
organisational perspectives. These dominant perspectives in news studies have been discussed
in Chapter 3, and generally they share a similarity in terms of seeing context (thus identity)
in influencing the production of news. The political economy perspective for instance, sees
political and economic influence in news production determine what becomes news. Besides
that, (generic) culture and organisational culture are seen as influential in determining news
based on cultural studies and organisational studies perspectives. Thus, these views generally
argue that the external factors (contexts) of news production determine newsworthiness
construction, which generate the kind of extensive contextualisation data to explain