The Two W's of Journalism: The Why and What of Public Affairs Reporting

By Davis Merritt; Maxwell McCombs | Go to book overview

CHAPTER
10

Framing Stories
and Positioning Citizens

You know how to write a news story: Gather the facts, ask and answer the question “what's this story about?” and start writing. It becomes a reflex, the habituated use of “who, what, when, where, why and how” to tell a story. The story is about the set of facts at hand or the event just witnessed. And if your objective as a journalist is only to relay that information, the task is relatively simple: organize the facts or events in terms of their importance within the overall narrative and pound away. You still have some decisions to make, of course, but they are constricted by the chosen objective, which is to relay information.

As we have seen, however, in a world flooded with the commodity of information packaged as news, the value of a few hundred more words added routinely to that flood is marginal and likely to be lost on inundated, if not inured, audiences. That 21st-century reality was succinctly captured by David Shenk in “Data Smog” when he wrote, “New information for its own sake is no longer a goal worthy of our best reporters, our best analysts, our best minds. Journalists will need to take a more holistic approach to information as a natural resource that has to be managed more than acquired. ”1

Illustrating the point, Shenk quoted a former editor of Editorial Research Reports, Marcus Rosenbaum, this way: “If you do a NEXIS search on welfare reform, you're going to have 53,000 hits. What do you do with that? But if I can give it to you in 8,000 words, that will be interesting. ”2

____________________
1
Shenk, “Data smog, ” p. 170.
2
Quoted in Shenk, “Data smog, ” p. 170.

-80-

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The Two W's of Journalism: The Why and What of Public Affairs Reporting
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page *
  • Contents vii
  • About the Authors ix
  • Preface xi
  • Introduction xiii
  • Part I *
  • Chapter 1 - The Why 3
  • Suggestions for Additional Reading *
  • Chapter 2 - First Things First: Why We Have a First Amendment 9
  • Suggestions for Additional Reading *
  • Chapter 3 - Conflicting Visions of Democracy 19
  • Suggestions for Additional Reading *
  • Chapter 4 - The Evolution of Journalism 31
  • Suggestions for Additional Reading 39
  • Chapter 5 - What the Public Needs to Know 40
  • Suggestions for Additional Reading *
  • Chapter 6 - Three Publics for the News 50
  • Suggestions for Additional Reading *
  • Chapter 7 - Technology and the New Millennium 60
  • Suggestions for Additional Reading *
  • Part II *
  • Chapter 8 - The What 69
  • Chapter 9 - Sampling the News 72
  • Suggestions for Additional Reading *
  • Chapter 10 - Framing Stories and Positioning Citizens 80
  • Suggestions for Additional Reading *
  • Chapter 11 - Positioning Ourselves as Journalists 91
  • Suggestions for Additional Reading *
  • Chapter 12 - Deliberation 106
  • Suggestions for Additional Reading *
  • Chapter 13 - Elections 119
  • Suggestions for Additional Reading *
  • Chapter 14 - Polling—use and Abuse 132
  • Suggestions for Additional Reading *
  • Chapter 15 - A Map of the Future 146
  • Author Index 151
  • Subject Index 155
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