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  • 266

    CONCLUSION

    Introduction

    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

  • 267

    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

  • 268

    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

  • 269

    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

    newsworthiness.

    Ho

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