Academic journal article Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media

Trends in Network News Editing Strategies from 1969 through 2005

Academic journal article Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media

Trends in Network News Editing Strategies from 1969 through 2005

Article excerpt

Typically produced by teams of videographers, producers, reporters, editors, and graphics experts prior to a newscast's airtime, pre-produced news stories have for decades been the dominant news-information vehicle within network newscasts. TV journalists can use several layers of recorded audio with previously shot video imagery drawn from a variety of times and places to convey the sights and sounds, as well as the more complex thematic statements, that form the "contents" of edited news reports. To do this, network journalists draw upon many of the conventions developed in feature film and newsreel production, along with interviewee soundbites, graphics, and overlaid reporter narration.

Schaefer (1997) notes that formal study of the craft of editing television news appears to have suffered from a lack of a conventional vocabulary for describing and analyzing structural techniques used in what is primarily an audio-visual phenomenon, maintaining that television journalists have traditionally learned the evolving art of news shooting and editing through an immersion process that does not readily lend itself to conscious articulation of forms. Hence, it should not be too surprising that discussions of the evolution of trends in journalistic editing are often based on scant anecdotal evidence.

This study attempts to address this dearth of formal analysis by tracking some of the editing practices evident in samples of U.S. commercial network newscasts from 1969, 1983, 1997, and 2005. As such, it determines how those techniques have evolved over a 36-year period when the dominant field technologies changed from 16mm film to analog videotape to digital video.

Literature Review

Although many video production and editing texts (e.g., Browne, 1997; Dancyger, 2002; Fairservice, 2001; Zettl, 2000) deal with the development of the more expansive and the far more artistically licensed techniques of fictional video editing, the trends evident in the more restrictive evolving conventions and practices of broadcast journalists have received little scholarly attention.

Fang's (1985) early television news texts typically provided a few short paragraphs devoted to the concepts of montage and continuity editing. More recent broadcast news primers (Boyd, 2003; Keller & Hawkins, 2002) offer entire chapters on contemporary journalistic shooting and editing techniques. These texts convey considerable guidance for videographers and editors, as well as reporters and producers, on continuity sequencing techniques and advice on avoiding jump cuts and keeping from crossing the axis. These sections in broadcast journalism texts are consistent with the even more detailed continuity guidelines found in the aforementioned video production and "editing" texts written for non-journalists.

But in spite of the careful pedagogical attention paid to continuity techniques, contemporary texts offer little or no guidance on the extent to which expansive synthetic montage editing strategies augment continuity techniques. Indeed, only one form of "montage" technique--the fast paced editing of similar images that is often set to music--appears to have become part of the common vocabulary of American broadcast journalists and many journalism scholars. Hence, judging from the allocations of space in contemporary broadcast journalism primers, readers might assume that continuity techniques had come to be an increasingly important aspect of broadcast journalism in recent years. This study tracks the extent to which that assumption has been valid with regard to the presentation of pre-recorded materials in network newscasts from 1969 to 2005.

Actuality Realism and Early Film Theorists Notions of Synthetic Montage

The present study draws upon film theorists' notions of realism and synthetic montage editing practices to better analyze the way in which more contemporary news reports have been structured. …

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