Interpreting news conventions as journalistic interventions: Exploring the changing nature of television journalism and political reporting
In March 2013 the BBC moved into a new £1bn multi-media newsroom at Broadcasting House in central London. The aim – in the BBC’s own words – was to put as many journalists “under one roof … where they sit alongside colleagues who handle the essential live and breaking news content as it comes in and alongside the television, radio and online production teams”.1 Of course, BBC journalists had previously moved between mediums – to report live for the news channel, to oﬀer opinions on evening television bulletins, to blog some analysis online or tweet the latest update to the story – but the new £1bn newsroom strikingly delivered what is known as media convergence, more fully integrating news services between diﬀerent media. While perhaps not on the same scale, the BBC is not alone in converging its newsroom. In diﬀerent parts of the world, broadcasters into the twenty-ﬁrst century have increasingly connected competing platforms of journalism in order to more eﬃciently produce news output. Since journalists are less likely to be conﬁned to one medium, the culture
in which they practise journalism appears to be changing and becoming more ﬂuid. After all, journalists today routinely multi-task, producing news in diﬀerent media, formats and styles. In doing so, this raises questions – often overlooked by commentators or scholars as the spotlight turns to the latest media technologies – about whether the journalistic practices of ‘old’ formats of news have changed and adapted to a new environment of news making. Or if they have resisted pressures to conform to the shared culture of news production and maintained their practices and principles. The aim of this chapter – and overall purpose of the book – is to establish
how these questions can be explored in respect of television news bulletins, a long-standing format that has been operating in most advanced democracies for more than 60 years. Over recent decades, however, its raison d’être has been threatened by a more competitive and faster-paced news culture. For television time bulletins – whether morning, lunch time, early or late evening – appear
at ﬁxed time slots in the schedules, programmes that deliver an update on the day so far. Whilst television channels have always run unscheduled ‘news ﬂashes’ or what are more commonly known as ‘breaking news’ bulletins today, these are extremely rare and reserved for major events, such as a terrorist attack or during election time. Up until the late 1980s, or even – for some countries – well into the 1990s, it made sense to punctuate the schedule with ﬁxed time bulletins. In the analogue age, after all, television was in a period of programme scarcity, with limited space to schedule everything from the news to comedy, soap operas and other entertainment-based formats. But since then there has been a rise of dedicated 24-hour news channels, of
rolling online news and more recently social media platforms. Thus, ﬁxed time television bulletins operate in a far more competitive media environment – beyond just radio or newspapers – where audiences no longer have to wait to see the news, they can switch channels, go online or tap an app for an immediate update. All of which, needless to say, puts considerable pressure on television news bulletins, prompting existential questions about their role and purpose in supplying news in a far more accelerated and immediate culture of news consumption and wider journalism practice. To put it another way, the media logic of ﬁxed news bulletins could have changed over recent decades as competing logics – from news channels, online and social media platforms – push television journalism in a potentially new and faster-paced editorial direction. This chapter will begin by exploring the birth of television news bulletins
and how they evolved in the post-World War II decades. It will consider how the format of television news altered and matured up until the 1980s, at which point the media environment changed markedly. New competition from an ever-expanding media marketplace has put pressure on how contemporary television bulletins operate and their underlying logic. In order to interpret whether there has been a change in media logic, debates about mediatization will be introduced and understood in the context of studying television news bulletins. In doing so, the analytical framework used to interpret the mediatization of news and political reporting will then be explored, drawing on the concept of journalistic interventionism. The chapter will propose new theoretical and empirical lines of inquiry, with the ﬁnal section methodologically explaining the research design shaping the many studies drawn upon throughout the book. Overall, this chapter will introduce the overarching analytical frame-
work for interpreting whether television news bulletins have become mediatized over recent decades used throughout the book. However, each chapter will provide more speciﬁc details and wider context about how news is analysed and interpreted between media systems and journalism cultures cross-nationally in light of debates about mediatization and journalistic interventionism.