Friday 27 June 2008

News values and student interns

I've just posted a comment on Adrian Monck's blog, which I thought I' d reproduce below.

The background is this suggestion in The New Republic magazine that to be a successful journalism intern you need to be single-minded, strategic, have similar ambitions and come from a similar background to the journalists you work for. This results in narrow news selections because they are made by the same type of people.

This is my two pennies' worth:

I think the problem here is the institutional socialisation of news values. In order to move on in news organisations interns or students are called upon to internalise the news values of the existing senior staff.

This leads to uniformity in the selection of news. When selecting news, students have to learn what their news editor thinks is ‘a good idea’ for a news story. I know, because I’ve been there.

You might think that this makes sense because the news editor has greater experience and often this is the case. I’m not for a moment suggesting that students know it all - they still obviously have a lot to learn.

But we might well also ask how this very experience might hinder selection of stories that don’t fit with what the news editor has come to think of as ‘news’ - him- or herself a product of the organisational setting.

Apart from the obvious ‘wow’ stories, I think that if there is any method in story selection, it’s a learned institutional process, and at times there is a methodical non-method when selection of news is based on the availability of resources, time pressure, the interests of a particular news editor, ease of access - ‘we’ll use PA/PR/wires’ etc.

Some editors nevertheless continue to place faith in their ability to make what they see as objective news judgements - and they have to, in order to justify their editorial decisions.

We can only benefit from hearing stories and news selections from people who are outside of the ‘news factory’, which is why blogs are so important to the future of media and perhaps why, as a recently qualified MA journalism student, I’m already thinking about whether my future lies within a traditional news organisation.


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