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Lecture 13

Lecture Thirteen: The Organization of Media Work

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McMaster University
David Young

The Organization of Media Work: Work within News Organizations October 21, 2013 – October 24, 2013 Rationalization, Conventions and News Work • The rationalization of news work has contributed to the emergence of conventions in news work • Weber and Rationalization o Rationalization involved the movement away from trying to understand the world through religion and toward understanding the world through the systematic evidence o Starting in the 19 century, evidence gathered through empirical science provided the basis for governments or companies to identify and calculate efficient, predictable courses of action or forms of control o Therefore, rationalization involves efficiency, calculability, predictability and control • News Rationalization o Media sociologists have pointed out how news organizations apply the principles of efficiency, calculability, predictability and control to news production o The process of news gathering and news reporting – both became subjected to the four principles o Conventions permit the rationalization (a.k.a. the four principles) o Example: News organizations would not want journalists going out each morning and spending hours endlessly searching around for any stories that seem possibly interesting  They do not want to waste time and money  Conventions emerged – instead of letting journalists look for news stories, conventions for news gathering were established  These conventions for news gathering tell journalists where to look for news each day  Furthermore, there is going to be predictability – same routines, same conventions to find the news o How do journalists learn these conventions?  They learn them through the process of professional socialization  First of all, they learn things in journalism school – a lot of journalists go to school and spend two to four years learning how to do their work  They also learn conventions in the workplace Gaye Tuchman (Making News: A Study in the Construction of Reality) • Tuchman addresses two conventions that are associated with news gathering: 1. The News Net o Tuchman developed the concept to explain the standard practice through which news organizations gather news o This notion of the news net draws an analogy to an actual net o News organizations throw a net over wire services and other news sources and they throw the net in an effort to catch news worthy events o Like any net, the news net has holes in it and when news organizations throw the net over these news sources, they will catch only the biggest stories – the smaller stories are going to slip through the holes in the net o As this implies, what gets caught in the net really depends on how the net is constructed – it is going to depend on how big the holes are o The news net depending on how big or small the holes are acts as an initial filter in determining the most news worth events 2. The News Beats o News Beats: important types of news that are gathered by journalists through visits to associated locations and contacts with key players o Different types of news beats: City Hall beat, sports beat, business beat, etc. o Imply that there are certain places to gather the news o Example: The journalist on the City Hall beat will gather news by going to City Hall, interview politicians and the journalist will also get information from the media relations staff at City Hall Mark Fishman (Manufacturing the News) • The importance of beats o Argues that beats are important because they help journalists to detect important events o This is because it brings them into contact with relevant locations and key players – makes it much easier for the journalists o While these beats are specialized, there is still a lot of ground to cover – all kinds of different locations
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