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Deciding What
Deciding What's News
A Study of CBS Evening News, NBC Nightly News, Newsweek, and Time

"Herbert J. Gans is the Robert S. Lynd Professor of Sociology at Columbia University." --Book Jacket.


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quote It is not what [the executive] will do or will veto, but what we expect that he will do or veto; that's his influence. 94 on 6/7/2019, 4:04:59 PM

quote Every writer has a working knowledge of what his editor wants. Unless he's incorrigibly stubborn or independently wealthy, he tries to give it to him. 102 on 6/7/2019, 4:10:11 PM

references Air time on 6/7/2019, 4:13:36 PM

excerpt The magazines are as much concerned with upgrading the "quality" of the readership -- its income and purchasing power-- as they are with increasing readership size. Added circulation raises revenue, but it also raises the ever higher cost of mailing issues to subscribers. 216 on 6/7/2019, 4:20:07 PM

excerpt Most journalists generally pay little attention to audience size, although top editors and producers are kept informed, and their staffs know generally whether the numbers are rising or falling. 217 on 6/7/2019, 4:22:20 PM

excerpt Channel preference is even more difficult to alter , for it is actually a mixture of three viewer decisions: (1) habitual preference for a network; (2) an involuntary choice, based on which channel viewers can receive most clearly on their television screens; and (3) a decision to stay with a channel because of preference for the preceding program, a phenomenon called audience flow. 218 on 6/7/2019, 4:25:28 PM

excerpt Still, most journalists can ignore commercial considerations. Nonetheless, they are communicators who need an audience; and while they are reluctant to treat it as a source of income, they must take the audience into account. 220 on 6/7/2019, 4:28:41 PM

quote The single common mood that runs through the Time's mail is indignation... from mild annoyance to almost incoherent outrage ... split between those readers disturbed by the Time's reporting and those whose indignation stems from the events themselves. 228 on 6/7/2019, 4:32:33 PM

excerpt I was surprised to find, however, that they had little knowledge about the actual audience and rejected feedback from it. Although they had a vague image of the audience, they paid little attention to it; instead, they filmed and wrote for their superiors and for themselves. 230 on 6/7/2019, 4:35:40 PM

excerpt Top producers and editors keep up with the ratings and circulation reports, but they pay only cursory attention to the audience studies that come across their desks and the remaining journalists never see them. 231 on 6/7/2019, 4:38:19 PM

excerpt But their is a third reason for the journalists' rejection of research: they are reluctant to accept any procedure which casts doubt on their news judgement and professional autonomy. When a network audience-research unit presented findings on how a sample of viewers evaluated a set of television news films, the journalists were appalled because the sample liked films which the journalists deemed to be of low quality, and disliked the "good stories." ... The journalists were so involved in judging the films from their own perspective, however, that they did not notice that the viewer sample applied a very different one. 323 on 6/7/2019, 4:43:37 PM

excerpt At present, executive and professional intuition remains dominant; but should commercial considerations become more urgent, the researchers may find themselves with sufficient funds to demonstrate whether they can enhance the corporate balance sheet. 234 on 6/7/2019, 4:46:17 PM

excerpt In short, they fear that if audience wants were considered, journalistic news judgement would go by the wayside. These fears are not unreasonable either, for while journalists may underestimate the demand for gossip, a significant portion would opt for more personally relevant news and less of the current product. Journalists who argue for fewer Washington stories reflect these audience preferences, but even they reserve the right to decide what stories are most important and interesting. Nor do they look for research evidence to support their "news philosophy," for once audience wants become relevant, then journalistic news judgement must be complemented by audience news judgement, and journalists would then have to surrender some of their control over the news. 235 on 6/7/2019, 4:51:02 PM

quote "the conception of our audience is a reflection of ourselves" 237 on 6/7/2019, 4:52:57 PM

excerpt audience hunger 236 on 6/7/2019, 5:34:37 PM

excerpt Magazine journalists work with the knowledge that subscribers are bound to them for at least a year. 237 on 6/7/2019, 5:35:56 PM

excerpt In one sense, journalists strike a bargain with their audiences, especially the uninterested one. They want viewers and readers to pay attention to important news because "people should know whats going on in the world"; in exchange, they will supply interesting stories to please them. 241 on 6/7/2019, 5:40:01 PM

excerpt The national journalists have been able to maintain a kind of cultural hegemony because they are a national professional elite. The audience has accepted their hegemony, either because it does not care sufficiently to try to alter its present lack of choice; or because it believes that in order to be informed, it must by supplied with news about and by people of superior status. 248 on 6/7/2019, 5:45:35 PM

excerpt Advertisers are restrained by the glare of national publicity that only national journalists can create. 257 on 6/7/2019, 5:47:46 PM

excerpt Journalistic efficiency is not the rationally calculated commercial or industrial kind associated with profit calculation or time-and-motion studies; nor is it merely a means to the highest profit at the lowest cost, if only because news firms are not conventional manufacturers of conventional products. ... Efficiency is thus a function of the deadline, for while no one knows whether the audience wants the latest news or whether it would pay for less efficiently produced news, the news must be on the air or in the reader's mailbox at the prearranged time. 283 on 6/7/2019, 5:52:18 PM

excerpt Without a large audience, the news media could not exist in their present form. A smaller audience would lead to smaller budgets; and if the audience were too small, news organizations would consist of freelance writers, as they do at the journals of opinion. 283 on 6/7/2019, 5:53:50 PM

excerpt As professionals who deem themselves entitled to autonomy, journalists cope with the realities of power by incorporating it into news judgement. They work with apolitical source considerations that are nevertheless sensitive to political power; they apply product considerations that professionalize the commercial imperatives of their firms; they practice value exclusion that similarly professionalizes the avoidance of judgement which could upset the powerful; and in the processes, they hide the existence of power even from themselves. 284 on 6/7/2019, 5:58:51 PM

excerpt Suppose the news media chose to end the competition, with each network or magazine deciding to go its own way. ... Value exclusion could be waived; indeed, more personal opinions in the news would probably increase the interest and perhaps the size, of the audience. Such a change would likely stimulate debate about the news, but it might also intensify protest from people holding other opinions. Eventually, the opinions held by the vocal audience would dominate the news media, and journalists with diverging ones would be dismissed. 286 on 6/7/2019, 6:04:06 PM

excerpt If journalists could alter the audience considerations, they would presumable devote most of their attention to the interested audience; yet, this might result in the departure of the rest of the audience to newly minted firms and entrepreneurs who woudl invent, and quite profitably so, a more dramatic and entertaining set of news media with it in mind. 287 on 6/7/2019, 6:07:26 PM

excerpt *The "competitive bind."* News organizations work within a competitive bind that encourages them to offer virtually the same news. Although successful news organizations occasionally break out of the bind and come up with successful innovations, these are often the result of desperation; firms that are on top rarely try something new but risky. Furthermore, rivals do not want to be too different from each other, for an innovation that is not likely to be successful leaves them defenseless against their competitors. 289 on 6/7/2019, 6:10:41 PM

excerpt The moral roles journalists play are sometimes deemed religious. Gerbner has, in fact, argued that television itself is a secular religious institution. Kelly has also resorted to a religious metaphor: watching television news is a ritual, with the anchor person as shaman. 293 on 6/7/2019, 6:13:31 PM

excerpt In other words, multiperspectivalism may be relevant to a future America, and one which I believe is likely to come into being. Neither I nor anyone else can now predict its coming, the exact shape it will take, or what news and news media it will need. 335 on 6/7/2019, 6:19:44 PM

cites Tube of plenty on 6/7/2019, 6:20:17 PM

cites Silent politics: polls and the awareness of public opinion on 6/7/2019, 6:21:16 PM

cites Decline and Fall on 6/7/2019, 6:23:04 PM

cites Public Opinion on 6/7/2019, 6:24:38 PM

cites The Agenda-Setting Function of Mass Media on 6/7/2019, 6:25:22 PM

cites The newscasters on 6/7/2019, 6:27:17 PM

authored-by Herbert J. Gans on 6/7/2019, 6:29:32 PM


Deliberative, agonistic, and algorithmic audiences: Journalism’s vision of its public in an age of audience transparency. references Deciding What's News on 6/3/2019, 6:40:22 PM

Gans argues that multiple factors play a role in journalists’ relative disconnect from their audience—an inability to intellectually imagine an audience of millions of people, a distrust of audience news judgment, and the division between the editorial and marketing departments (creating a situation in which business personnel and news editors create a buffer between journalists and their audience). The key values in tension in Gans’ study were thus professional incentives versus commercial imperatives. Journalists, adds Gans, are reluctant to accept any procedure that casts doubt on their professional autonomy. Within the boundaries of his study, professional values remain strong, and the preferences and needs of the audience were largely neglected during the news-making process. 530 references Deciding What's News on 6/3/2019, 6:41:21 PM

Quantified Audiences in News Production cites Deciding What's News on 6/5/2019, 9:25:01 PM

The Traffic Factories: Metrics at Chartbeat, Gawker Media, and The New York Times cites Deciding What's News on 6/6/2019, 6:46:37 PM

Between creative and quantified audiences: Web metrics and changing patterns of newswork in local US newsrooms cites Deciding What's News on 6/7/2019, 12:37:01 PM