Academic journal article Journalism History

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

Academic journal article Journalism History

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

Article excerpt

Cans, Herbert J. Deciding What's News: A Study of CBS Evening News, NBC Nightly News, Newsweek, and Time. Twenty-Fifth Anniversary Edition. Evanston, 111.: Northwestern University Press, 2005. 416 pp. $19.95.

Deciding What's News holds a critical place in the history of scholarship that examines media content. It remains an effort that is, at once, empirically based yet normatively informed, a combination of intellectual approaches that remains as rare today as it was when it was published twentyfive years ago.

The original edition influenced scholars in at least four ways. First, Cans' qualitative study, because it was rooted in sociology rather than professional journalistic practice, was able to examine news content at a level of abstraction few other scholars had attempted. This approach provided readers with a sound discussion of cultural values and ideology in the news, which certainly was one of the most significant contributions of the work. second, he was able to document similarities in content across mediums, which was one of the first scholarly efforts to substantiate such commonalities. Third, because Gans spent a year in various newsrooms, his findings were difficult for professionals (or former professionals turned academics) to dismiss for reasons of lack of familiarity with real-world demands. In fact, his willingness to incorporate professional routines and insights into his findings remains one of the book's enduring strengths.

Finally, the book arrived in the academy at the height of scholarly fascination with a sort of crude behaviorism. For scholars who were looking for something other than a stimulus-response model to understanding journalism's content and its potential impact, his willingness to discuss and document ideology, values, and the various pressures from both audiences and owners was almost singular in its intellectual breadth and willingness to draw conclusions that were at odds with dominant professional and academic understandings. …

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