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Open Access Publications from the University of California

The Emergence of Newsworthiness: Inclusion, Exclusion and Inequality in Political News and Online Media

  • Author(s): Grand, Noah
  • Advisor(s): Clayman, Steven E.
  • et al.

For over a generation, social scientists have tried to categorize the relationship between journalists and politicians. Which side holds power and influence over the other? Some scholars propose “active” theories: journalists have preferences and the power to impose them on anyone seeking media attention. Other scholars argue journalists are essentially “reactive,” dutifully writing down what politicians say with little ability to add alternate perspectives. In this dissertation, I propose both camps are extremes based on a fundamental misunderstanding of how journalists can apply their preferences on news content. Politicians and other sources provide information to reporters, bloggers and other new media writers. Each writer then chooses how to respond to this information. Journalistic power – whether we are discussing traditional media outlets or newer partisan media organizations – is best understood as a set of if : then propositions.

The empirical sections of the dissertation consist of three separate studies, each of which focuses on one set of inputs and the output from a particular set of news organizations. The first study focuses on how presidents schedule press conferences at particular times and places. I find scheduling influences how much attention journalists give a conference, which in turn influences the balance of opinion found in stories. The second study shows how journalists resist but may ultimately give in to evasive responses, by examining quotations on a statement-by-statement basis. The third study examines some of the most popular phrases from the 2008 election, comparing how a wide range of media organizations responded to the same set of political and non-political ideas. Put together, these studies offer a common theoretical framework for comparing traditional and new media organizations, allowing for commonalities as well as differences.

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