DECIDING WHAT'S NEWS: A Study of CBS Evening News, NBC Nightly News, Newsweek and Time by Herbert J. Gans

DECIDING WHAT'S NEWS: A Study of CBS Evening News, NBC Nightly News, Newsweek and Time

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Sociologist Gans' study of ""how America is reported"" by the leading networks and news magazines contains little that's incisive, newsworthy, or constructively critical. News, he states turgidly, ""is about the economic, political, social, and cultural hierarchies we call nation and society."" Most domestic news, his survey of its content discloses, is about people near the top of the social scale who hold important jobs, about their routine office activities, and about disorders, which tend to feature people near the bottom. With local media eliminated, who will dispute him? But Gans, ignoring the special nature of his sampling and its inherent constraints (mass audience, corporate sponsorship), goes on to propose a ""multiperspectival journalism"" which would ""enable all sectors of the nation and society to place their actors and activities--and messages--in the symbolic arena."" Most of his research was done in the late 1960s, and merely updated in 1975 and 1978, and since then the situation that concerns him has gotten both better (women's lib, post-Vietnam and -Watergate skepticism), and worse (more entertainment/less content); but it has not been stable. On the plus side, his examination of the news organizations does demonstrate how stories are selected, but here too there are few surprises or, for that matter, shocks: topics are chosen because of their interest and importance, or because of considerations such as space, time, sources, competition, and audience. A codification, then--with academic appurtenances--of what is largely common knowledge.

Pub Date: March 30th, 1979
Publisher: Pantheon