In Journal: Foxifying British TV news, community journalism and newsroom change

Selected articles from the April 2009 issue of Journalism of possible interest to the journalism community:

Towards a `Foxification’ of 24-hour news channels in Britain?: An analysis of market-driven and publicly funded news coverage, by Stephen Cushion and Justin Lewis

Drawing on three media content analyses between 2004 and 2007, we examine the differences in news coverage between BBC News 24 (a public service broadcasting channel) and Sky News (a commercial provider). We explore this longitudinal data in the context of recent claims that 24-hour news channels in the U.K. are succumbing to the kind of decline in news standards exemplified by the Fox network in the USA. While there are some signs of `Foxifixation’, the existing public service regulations in U.K. broadcasting and the presence of a full-blown public service broadcaster like the BBC act as a break on `Foxification’ in commercial providers like Sky. Although Fox and Sky are both Murdoch channels, Sky conforms to some of the expectations of public service broadcasting in a way that Fox does not.

Making good sense: Transformative processes in community journalism, by Michael Meadows, Susan Forde, Jacqui Ewart, and Kerrie Foxwell

Around four million listeners in an average week tune into community radio stations around Australia, primarily to hear local news and information — evidence of a failure by mainstream journalism to meet their diverse needs. This discussion draws from the authors’ landmark national qualitative audience study of the Australian community broadcasting sector to explore the role being played by community journalism. The authors argue that journalism at the level of the local is playing a crucial role in the democratic process by fostering citizen participation in public life. This suggests a critique of mainstream journalism practices and the central place of audience research in understanding the nature of the relationships and processes involved. The authors argue that the nature of community journalism aligns it more closely with the complex `local talk’ narratives at community level that play a crucial role in creating public consciousness.

Broader and deeper: A study of newsroom culture in a time of change, by David M. Ryfe

This essay offers an ethnographic analysis of The Daily Times, a mid-sized American corporately owned newsroom. During the period under study, a new editor changed the way that reporters produced the news. In particular, he asked his reporters to attend less closely to the public agencies that composed their beats. Over time, his reporters alternately expressed confusion and indignation about the new rules. I explain their reaction in terms of conclusions drawn from the original ethnographic studies of newsrooms conducted in the 1970s. These studies showed that journalistic practices like routine visits to public agencies serve important functional and symbolic needs for journalists. The changes introduced by this editor threatened several of these needs, and this ultimately led the reporters to reject the new rules. This case study shows that journalists rely on a deeply embedded culture of professionalism to respond to the experiments taking place in their newsrooms.

From gospel to news: Evangelicalism and secularization of the Protestant missionary press in China, 1870s—1900s, by Yong Z. Volz and Chin-Chuan Lee

By cross-examining a large volume of original sources, we investigate the social context in which the Protestant missionary press in China changed its primary orientation from gospel to news. Furthermore, by focusing on the case of the Globe Magazine , we argue that the missionary press provided an important foundation for the rise of the indigenous Chinese press at the end of the 19th century. Protestant missionaries in China invented certain journalistic practices and secularized their publications to appeal to Chinese readers. These innovations were not necessarily in line with mainstream western journalism, but they inspired Chinese editors who later came to model themselves after the language, content and format of the missionary press. The Chinese elite press was receptive to the missionary press model partly because both shared the goal of enlightenment and held business profit in contempt.

Review Commentary: Is the BBC biased?: The Corporation and the coverage of the 2006 Israeli—Hezbollah war, by Ivor Gaber, Emily Seymour, and Lisa Thomas

In the light of the findings of the BBC’s 2006 impartiality review of their coverage of the Arab—Israeli conflict, and the fact that most of the accusations of bias against the BBC continue to come from pro-Israel lobbyists, this research sought to investigate whether their claims of anti-Israel bias during the BBC’s reporting of the 2006 Israeli— Hezbollah war could be validated. Using ITV News as a control group, these claims were measured against the BBC’s revised editorial guidelines for covering the Middle East. The article demonstrates that, whilst certain aspects of the coverage were problematic, BBC journalists broadly adhered to the Governors’ revised editorial guidelines, and covered the conflict more or less impartially — if there was any bias it was towards, rather than against, Israel. ITV News coverage was more problematic but still achieved a significant degree of impartiality.