International Association for Media and Communication Research (IAMCR) edition:11 location:Dublin, Ireland date:25-29 June 2013
The journalistic profession today is strongly criticized, for being biased, for bringing more and more trivial news and for being less critical on sources. This paper investigates journalism culture in Flanders. It argues that the selection and framing of domestic news by newspaper journalists is the outcome of a leveled playfield of interrelated factors. The gatekeeping model of Shoemaker and Reese is adopted as a framework for examining the relative impact of different levels of news influence on journalistic choices. The concept of news values is added as a tool to examine why certain choices have been made. To build a bridge between news selection and news treatment, the framing approach helps this study to investigate the way the news is brought.
In framing research, only a few articles studied the production process. What factors influence how the news is framed remains largely unexplored. One can learn from sociological news production studies. However, many of the classic news ethnographies are criticized because of a narrow focus on ‘bureaucratic’ journalistic routines and because they leave little room for the agency of the individual journalist. In this era of journalistic change, characterized by media concentration and synergy between newsrooms, they are considered to be outdated. This study looks at the journalist as an active agent as well as examines higher influences than those of the individual journalist.
In Flanders, a small number of media groups own the main newspapers. In order to grasp the influence of the media organization level, this study collects material from four newsrooms, belonging to two different media groups (Corelio, De Persgroep), each with a quality newspaper (De Standaard, De Morgen) and a popular newspaper (Het Nieuwsblad, Het Laatste Nieuws). For a six-week period, the output of 20 journalists was content analyzed. Regularly semi-structured interviews, supplemented by newsroom observations and logbook analysis, lead to a reconstruction of the production of 680 articles. The focus of the interviews was on the selection of the subject, the use of sources and the ‘angle of view’ of the article.
The results show that a multilevel analysis is a useful way to determine the relative impact of different levels of influence on the way newspaper journalists select and frame the news.