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Theories of News & Newswork

In order to organize the variety of research and concepts in his text-reader Social Meanings of News, Dan Berkowitz uses a conceptual scheme that highlights key topics about news and newswork. Theories and practices of mass communications are the core of the book, and Berkowitz arranges the various readings and concepts into three broad topics. The third topic, Part III of the book is, according to editor Berkowitz, a "macrolevel of analysis." News texts are examined "in relation to society and culture, portraying news as both the result of social cultures and the maintainer of those cultures" (p. xiv).

The first section in Part III examines news as social narrative, or news as familiar stories. Five chapters make up this section from Robert R. Smith's "Mythic Elements in Television News" to Jack Lule's "The Rape of Mike Tyson: Race, the Press and Symbolic Types." The chapters on media mythology are the most engrossing.

Smith's research method utilizes literary criticism techniques to analyze the content of 20 TV newscasts, and then relate "the news narratives to traditional narrative categories taken in part from literary criticism and in part from the literature of psychiatry" (p.326). His research question is whether the news responds to spontaneous events or preplanned events. He concludes that because TV news is a medium for the communication of myths, news content interprets "in fictive terms perceptions of our social environment" (p. 332). His overall conclusion is that TV news is cast less often than expected in traditional mythic forms.

S. Elizabeth Bird and Robert W. Dardenne also explore the narrative qualities of news in "Myth, Chronicle and Story." They attempt to discover "what constructing 'stories' actually means" (p. 333). Their basic premise is that the news genre is a kind of symbolic system, and that journalistic objectivity is secondary to the more enduring symbolic system; audiences feel more comfort...

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