The other side of media literacy
Osborne, Kimberly D.
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The purpose of this study was to understand how power relations and interests influence the decision-making process in the production of television news. The research questions guiding this study were: 1.) What is the decision-making process in the production of the broadcast? 2.) How do interests shape the decision-making process? and 3.) How do power relationships shape the decision-making process? Data for this qualitative case study were collected through observation, interviews and document analysis. The observation lasted for one news cycle. A site pre-visit and a pilot study were also conducted. Interviews were conducted with the entire news staff including the news director, associate producer, and three reporters, and they spanned three days immediately following the observation. This study mapped the process by which news is created including the selection of the stories, organization of the stories, reporting of the stories, writing and editing of the stories, and broadcasting of the program. In this process, four interests were uncovered by using the constant comparative method of data analysis. The first interest is the pursuit of profitability, which includes generating income by attracting and retaining an audience as well as curbing expenses by limiting resources. Other interests include the reinforcement of prevailing cultural norms and values, reinforcement of the rural narrative, and maintaining an appearance of objectivity. Last, three significant areas of power relationships were identified and discussed including economic, legal/governmental, and social. Three conclusions can be drawn from the findings of this study. First, by way of the calculated construction of the broadcast by the participants, viewers are presented with a picture of their community that is widely accepted by the majority of the audience base in the area, and as a result, hegemony influences the decision-making process. Second, power relationships and interests frame the participants’ decision making in the production of television news content. Finally, in spite of a dedication to the appearance of objectivity, television news defines the educational needs of its audience by selectively presenting certain stories in a certain order to organize the viewers’ attention and channel debate.