We should not blame the canvas, but the color palette

Although Bantz’s, McCorkle’s and Baade’s article is over thirty-something years old and the technology outpaced the researchers, it’s still interesting to reconsider their arguments. Some critiques are still used and others demonstrate the status of journalism in modern times. The authors of ‘The News Factory’ (1980), did research by observing a television newsroom. From this, they stated five critiques that strengthen their conclusion that there is a trend towards ‘routinization of newswork’ (1980:46). If we zoom in and compare the five ‘factors’ with modern times, we see how journalism overcomes these critiques in modern times.

  1. ‘The structural growth [of news staff] produces more specialized responsibility […], producing greater control and routinization of the news organization’ (Ibid.:47) – We’ve learned at our Bronnen-course that routinization is common to every journalist that works under pressure. A yearly reflection on the own staff is possible, VOX shows. The same reflection on the content, specified on routinization, should not be an insurmountable problem.
  2. ‘Technology has increased the need for role specialists and coordinative activities in the newsroom.’ (Ibid.:48). – Nowadays technology is more and more reliable. It even increases possibilities in journalism. Dutch start-up Blendle has ‘role specialists’ who change headlines for their online kiosk to make articles more attractive for other target groups.
  3. ‘[…]news stories ran from 75 to 105 seconds. […] the activities or reporters […] produced only enough film and copy to fill that time’ – This makes journalism products to the point. Also, news programmes multiplied in numbers, but also in the duration of items. Journalists working for the NOS now have the choice to make an item for the regular news or for Nieuwsuur, which is focused on background content.
  4. The authors barely make an argument with the ‘profit-factor’.
  5. The ‘product-factor’, that the organization is focused on the deadline but also on ‘a news show that the organization defines […] as good‘ (Ibid.:51) is barely a critique. You can assume that the top of the organization consists of the best people. If not, internal critique will rise.

Okay, long story. The point I want to make is that the critiques are focused on the canvas of journalism. Nowadays the problem that journalism (especially television newsrooms) faces, is the diversity in editors. Employees are the colour palette for a newsroom, the richer the diversity, the more colourfull the painting. Not only in ethnicity, but recruiters in journalism should also focus less on people who resemble themselves.

 

Mark Middel

References:

Bantz, Charles R., McCorkle, Suzanne and Roberta C. Baade. “The News Factory.” Communication Research 7.1 (1980): 45-68.

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