Making Reality: MSM’s embedded bias against change

Making News: A Study in the Construction of Reality by Gaye Tuchman

Please take a look at the notes below. Tuchman describes the first line of defense of the neo-liberal superstructure that controls everything around us: Main-Stream (Mass) Media.

Pg 133 “The news media are more accessible to some social movements, interest groups, and political actors than to others”

“Those who hold recognized reins of legitimated power clearly have more access to the media than those who do not. Lower-class groups in particular are cut off from the media as a resource unless they recruit middle-class supporters who have routinized media contacts (Jenkins, 1975), attack those who attract media coverage, or recruit reporters to join their cause as “advocate journalists.”

Pg 134
Social movements pass through distinct phases (Oberschall, 1973), progressing from informal groups or networks to complex voluntary organizations able to lobby corporations, unions, and legislative bodies. Inasmuch as news organizations coordinate their news nets with legitimated institutions, one would expect the coverage of a social movement to change as the movement evolves.

Pg 136
The early coverage of movements: Ostracism and Ridicule

Sometimes jokes were invented to satisfy the attitudes they attributed to their editors. Even by people sympathetic to the cause.

Pg 138
To become news, an occurrence or issue must come within either a reporter’s or a news organization’s purview. But being merely physically and temporally part of a reporter’s here and now, is not sufficient. Rather, an issue or event must be sociologically or psychologically pertinent to a reporter’s grasp of the world—and the issue or event must resonate with the reporter’s purposes and practical activities.

Public definition of the (democratic socialist) movement as something peculiar tends to limit coverage, since male editors shared that view and tended to reinforce it by their patterns of selective blindness toward socialists.

The control by men (neoliberals) of the ideological forms, which regulate social relations … is structured socially by an authority they hold as individuals by virtue of their membership in a class … as men, they appear as representatives of the power authority of the institutionalized structures, which govern the society.

Pg 156
Theorists have consistently argued that a society’s mass media necessarily legitimate its status quo. Gerbner (1972:51) suggests that today’s mass media “are the cultural arm of the industrial order form which they spring” and so are in all ways political. Enzensberger (1974) characterizes the media as “the consciousness industry” whose “main business is to sell the existing social hierarchy” (Glascow Media Group, 1976) to consumers. Enzensberger (1974) extends that metaphor, speaking of contemporary communications processes as “the industrialization of mind.” All argue that the mass media limit the frames within which public issues are debated, and so narrow the available political alternatives. Those limits may permit the expression of some dissenting opinion. But as Milliband (1969: 238) notes, the mass media “still contribute to the fostering of a climate of conformity” by containing dissent, “by the presentation of news which falls outside the consensus as curious heresies or… by treating [dissenting views] as irrelevant eccentricities which serious people may dismiss as of no consequence.”

Pg 158
Birth of mass media
“The Growth of Professionalism”
Schudson argues that the American penny press was associated with the growth of a free-market economy. Challenging the old partisan press, the penny papers rejected the structures and values of a mercantile elite and became the first press to be oriented toward a readership with which it had no face-to-face connections.

Pg 160 – 161

How do you try to sell to everyone? Get scientific…
By adapting the scientific rational of ascertaining facts through professional methods, Schudson suggests, the news media carved a new role for themselves. Instead of simply representing a democratic ideal by making information available through competitive journalism, the media and newsworkers saw themselves as arbiters of social reality. Just as scientists discovered the facts about nature by using normatively established objective methods, so, too, the news media and the news professionals would use their methods to reveal social reality to the news consumer.

Pg 161
Dahlgren (1977) argues that the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries…represent the period when the concentration, centralization, and conglomeration of capital became significant socioeconomic processes. They undercut the competitive marketplace and transformed governance, producing the state to play an ever more active role in the economy. … (The state politically supports the growth of the monopoly sector)

Pg 162
The mid-nineteenth-century distinction between “public and private” became problematic because of state-supported measures to maintain the growth of corporate capital. The government became so enmeshed with industry and with the welfare of private individuals that the distinctions between public and private, so painfully worked out in the nineteenth century, no longer hold.

“all types of societies are limited by economic factors. Nineteenth-century society alone was economic in a different and distinctive sense for it chose to base itself on a motive only rarely acknowledged as valid in the history of human societies, and certainly never before raised to the level of justification of action and behavior in everyday life, namely, gain.” (Polanyi, 1944: 46) In the nineteenth century newspapers for the first time were organized for economic gain.

Pg 163
An analysis of government’s intertwinement with the corporate sector could lead to a revolutionary challenge, especially from those lacking a vested interest in the contemporary social system. And, inasmuch as the most powerful of the news media are themselves corporations, conglomerations, and monopolies (Tuchman, 1974; Eversole, 1971), they, too, have a vested interest in maintaining the status quo, including the legitimacy of the state.”

In direct contrast to the nineteenth-century media, the twentieth-century media do not propound a new sensibility with that the previous distinctions describe the contemporary situation. They play down the heady involvement of the corporate sector and the government in one another’s activities. As we have seen, following early twentieth-century practice, news about the corporate sector and of the economy is called financial news and is segregated in a separate section of the news product. On network news shows, special visual slides, used nightly, also segregate financial or stock-market news from more general information. Of course, financial news is sometimes placed on general news pages, where it is treated with special care. This is done when government is openly intervening in major economic matters, such as developing an energy program or considering subsidizing Boeing’s plan to build an SST. At such times, economic news becomes the basis of observable governmental actions falling within defined territorial news beats, and so is presented within the nonanalytic frame of the web of facticity.

Pg 164
By maintaining an artificial distinction between public and private, the news media mask the actual organization of significant services.

Pg 169
That newsworkers claim the right to determine what is news and how it will be covered is an indication of their claim to professional expertise. But ultimately, for newspapers, “Freedom of the press is guaranteed only to those who own one.”

Freedom of speech vs. RIGHT TO KNOW

If a bank and an airline company take turns sponsoring the evening news, sponsorship may influence the ordering of stories about bank robberies and plane crashes. When there was a newsworthy bank robbery on the day the bank sponsored the NEWS program, a newsworker would call both advertisers and arrange for the airline to run its commercials that evening. And visa versa. …
Newsworker’s adherence to organization realities in these cases does not invalidate their claim to professionalism. It suggests that professional practices are encouraged so long as they uphold the interests of the news organizations.

Pg 173
Media asserts that they are to establish and present “the true account” to the public, including the views of all responsible parties to a dispute. The public is not to choose between conflicting opinions, each presented by a different newspaper or news source, as was thought proper in the eighteenth century. Instead, the methods of contemporary journalism guarantee a fair presentation and capture “a spirit of moderation…a sense of responsibility…and civility”


Pg 176
Professional practices found in media limit the access of “radical” views to news consumers, and so limit everyone’s use of the media as a political and social resource. Those practices limit the RIGHT TO KNOW

Pg 177
News limits access and transforms dissent. It legitimates the contemporary state by eschewing analysis through ahistoricity, the logic of the concrete, and an emphasis on the contingency of events rather than on structural necessity.

Pg 178
Dorothy E. Smith summarizes the problem of the situational determination of knowledge and the concomitant identification of ideology this way:
‘If the perspectives and concepts of the knower are determined not by the object of knowledge, but for example by his or her class position and…class interests, then it is argued that knowledge is irremediably ideological, and “knowledge” a term which must continually be resolved back into “ideology” (1972: 1)

If all knowledge is situationally determined, it is impossible for any individual to identify his or her knowledge as objective, non-ideological truth.

News as an ideology:
Pg 180
Ideology makes the structure of society mysterious by substituting concepts for reality: News presents terms “public” and “private” as though they described the contemporary corporate state, thus hiding the socioeconomic structure of contemporary society.

What ought to be explained is treated as fact or assumption: New stories eschew analysis, preferring instead an emphasis on the concrete and the contingency of events as well as a present-time orientation. They avoid structural linkages between events.

Ideological procedures are a means not to know: The temporal and spatial anchoring of the news net, as well as professionalism, prevent some strips of occurrences from being defined and disseminated as news events. Professional practices, as frames, dismiss some analyses of social conditions as soft-news novelties and transform others into ameliorative tinkerings with the status quo.

One may suggest that news, like knowledge, imposes a frame for defining and constructing social reality. But, as ideology, news blocks inquiry by preventing an analytic understanding through which social actors can work to understand their own fate. Ultimately, news as ideology prevents the realization of the Enlightenment model of free speech and public governance by preventing the ascertainment of truths about contemporary society, by limiting access to ideas.

Lazarsfeld and Merton speak of the emphasis on unanalyzed facts as “technological propaganda”. Habermas, Schudson, Dahlgren, Glascow Media Group, write of naïve empiricism of newswork is the “technocratic strategy” of legitimation and social control.

Pg 189
Reflexivity specifies that accounts are embedded in the very reality that they characterize, record, or structure.

Pg 196
Removed from context in which it was proposed, a procedure may become “the way to do things”; that is, it may be handed down to the world of our successors as an objective historical given. For instance, Americans take as given that news is ahistorical, atheoretic accounts of daily happenings in specific institutions, and that it employs the logic of the concrete. We take for granted the daily production of news as a consumer commodity without noting its historic association with the development of advertising by the penny press. We take for granted the embeddedness of the news net in legitimated institutions and the existence of centralized newsgathering, as handed down to us from the nineteenth century. And we fail to realize how that embeddedness militates against the emergence of new forms of news. For so long as hard news continues to be associated with the activities of legitimated institutions and the spatial and temporal organization of newswork remains embedded in their activities, news reproduces itself as a historical given. It not only defines and redefines, constitutes and reconstitutes social meanings; it also defines and redefines, constitutes and reconstitutes ways of doing things—existing processes in existing institutions.

Pg 208
“Situated actors” have at their disposal different resources, intentions, and interests. Associated with competing institutions and social classes, individuals have access to different generative rules and resources, much as members of social classes have variants of the same language accessible to them. Rules and resources, such as power, are socially distributed. Power is also unequally distributed. When the intentions and interests of situated actors conflict, some have at their disposal more resources than others do, including power, to impose their definitions of the situation. Some social actors thus have a greater ability to create, impose, and reproduce social meanings—to construct social reality. Newsworkers are one group with more power than most to construct social reality.

Pg 209
(A summary)
Frames both produce and limit meaning.
News draws on social and cultural resources to present accounts.
News is itself a social and cultural resource for its actors.
Definitions of news are historically derived and embedded.
Professionalism of news ignored the impact of the socioeconomic processes of concentration, centralization, and conglomeration on the applicability of existing ideas to economic and political life.
In fact, news organizations simultaneously participated in these processes—inventing wire services, newspaper chains, news syndicates, and radio and television networks—and sought to define conglomerates and corporations as private enterprise. By invoking eighteenth-century concepts (such as its model of free speech) and applying nineteenth-century distinctions (such as public and private rights) to twentieth-century phenomena, news limits knowledge.

pg 210

***News obfuscates social reality instead of revealing it. It confirms the legitimacy of the state by hiding the state’s intimate involvement with, and support of, corporate capitalism.***

Please stop consuming corporate media. Engage in citizen journalism. Get on Twitter. Reach out to the periphery. There are millions of us screaming to help, for help, for you, for us.


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