The World of Communications and Journalism

by TarikA on April 23, 2014 - 7:44pm

Recently, I’ve expressed an interest in trying to examine more closely the issue of how the news media and journalists communicate ideas and perceptions to the general public. As I’ve written a great deal of news summaries and sought out a great deal of different sources (mostly on the web) during my time in this class, I felt it would be appropriate if I tried to understand, more thoroughly, the underlying rules that go into producing news and how practices within this field impact the information that we, as the viewer or reader, consume.

With that in mind, the book that I’ve decided to read in order to perhaps elevate my understanding of what “journalism” really is, is entitled “Mass Communication in Canada.” Written by Mike Gasher, David Skinner and Rowland Lorimer, the book, which was published in 2012 (seventh edition), essentially serves as a basic resource tool in explaining the world of communications (it’s key audience is evidently students). The chapter that I concerned myself with reading is entitled “Journalists as Content Producers” and it aims at trying to provide information on the rather broad subject of journalism and reporting. The chapter explores journalism from various perspectives: as a “content” producing profession; as a way to turn the medium of language into a representational tool of the world; and as a ‘socio-cultural’ institution. Though this does offer a wealth of information on the subject, my interests lie purely in the sections of the chapter that do the job of defining the practices that make up journalism and the ideal of objectivism in journalism.

In terms of the ‘practices’, the chapter devotes a section towards defining the roles that journalists, editors and news organizations assume when trying to create and bring to life a news story. This process is defined with the use of two clear, analogous terms: gate-keeping and framing. The former refers to the act of filtering through the myriad news stories that ring throughout the world daily (i.e. the allusion to being a gate-keeper), while the latter deals with one of the most talked about metaphors in journalism – the act of deciding what to ‘fill up’ a news bulletin or front page with. Both of these terms, and their mention, help illustrate the restrictions that are systematically imposed on the seemingly banal effort of telling a news story. In essence, this section of the chapter serves of particular interest to me, as it does the job of illustrating more clearly the logistical requirements of putting a news story together. It somewhat helps demystify the ambiguous nature of news production and helps reinforce the notion that a single journalist is not the sole architect of a piece of news.

In terms of the ideal of ‘objectivism’ in journalism, one section of the chapter deals extensively with the idea of objective reporting and the popular interpretations that go along with the notion. Interestingly, the chapter brings up the opinion of two communications scholars, Robert A. Hackett and Yuezhi Zhao, who both affirm a rejection of the traditional ‘positivist’ model of objectivity, which is the model that assumes that truth is simply the product of “direct observation and accurate recording.” In essence, Hackett and Zhao reject this model, which asserts that the only thing that stands between accurate and biased reporting is good journalistic practice, due to the fact that they believe a great deal of other factors contribute to making a news piece ‘fair’ (i.e. language used by the journalist, social background, etc.). With that said, Hackett and Zhao also reject the “postmodern position” on objectivity, which decrees it as being “unattainable” due to the fact that the real world cannot be perceived directly without the use of both language and the people who supply the descriptions of the realities that we do not witness with that language. Choosing a happy medium, Hackett and Zhao instead propose their own approach to objectivity, a “critical-realist” one, wherein they acknowledge the limitations of positivism and postmodernism all while asserting that the “real world” can be “accessible, knowable and describable.” The issue of objectivity in journalism is one that still satiates a great deal of debates between media scholars, therefore the need to voice those opinions is something that I’m greatly interested in and this section provides a great start to further information about the academic aspect of the profession. 

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