General News Research Paper

Custom Writing Services

Sample General News Research Paper. Browse other  research paper examples and check the list of research paper topics for more inspiration. If you need a religion research paper written according to all the academic standards, you can always turn to our experienced writers for help. This is how your paper can get an A! Feel free to contact our research paper writing service for professional assistance. We offer high-quality assignments for reasonable rates.

The communication of news has been part of a storytelling tradition since time immemorial. Storytelling to a recurring public is a way of making common sense of the environment. Stories and news about people, friends, and relatives have always passed through the grapevine. Both news and rumor give nourishment for social discourse; something that can be adapted to local experiences in the company of a small group of familiar faces.



1. Definition And Background

In its modern and more formal usage ‘news’ refers to certain types of texts produced by the personnel, institutions, and methods of news media. The news media today include news agencies, newspapers, news magazines, radio and television, and Internet services. Each medium has its own form linked to some means of presentation, which is peculiar to their dominant technology of dissemination. However, news journalism also has some common features of content, irrespective of medium, based on similar methods of choosing stories, retrieving information, and of presenting facts effectively.

A discussion over what are the typical contents of ‘news’ has been a part of news sociology for as long as the subfield has existed, i.e., since the 1960s. There is not as yet any widespread agreement as to the number and kind of criteria. But researchers emphasize some qualities of news texts more often than not. News is supposed to tell something that has really happened recently, to be important for the nation or for the community, and to interest a substantial part of the audience. Thus Mitchell Stephens (1997, p. 9) defines news as ‘new information about a subject of some public interest that is shared with some portion of the public.’ Brian McNair (1998, p. 4) stresses that ‘news claims to be (i.e., is presented to its audience as) truthful statement about, or record of, some hitherto unknown (new) feature of the actual, social world.’

Even so, journalists thrive on rumor but do not necessarily publish all that they hear. Different media may differ in what they consider a threshold for what can be made public; sometimes depending on their means of presentation, the risk of litigation, or on the ideals of journalism media adhere to. News in popular tabloids differs in many respects from news in television and in the quality press.

News as a social habit existed before the first newspaper appeared in Antwerp during a siege of the city in 1605, and even before the printed word. Tidings, rumor, and bits of information from near and far away could be learned at certain places: in the corners of a village square, in postal offices, in coffee houses and taverns, in front of churches, at the harbor, in parks etc. Gazetta was the name of a small Venetian coin for the price of which you could purchase a newssheet carrying commercial and other news at the Rialto Bridge in seventeenth century Venice. From the sixteenth century, and long into the nineteenth century, flysheets provided stories comparable to the sensational tabloid news of today: romantic, adventurous, and melodramatic events; supernatural phenomena; the royal court; executions, wars, and witchcraft etc.

Regularly published newspapers, usually weeklies, were established at the beginning of the seventeenth century in England, the American colonies, Holland, Denmark etc. They were operated by jobbing printers who also doubled as postmasters and booksellers. Since few, if any, journalists were employed, printers took their news generally from other publications, mostly from the capital, from foreign newspapers, and from letters to the editor. With regularity of publication newspapers could report continuing stories, largely as a series of minor incidents successively published. Early newspapers almost exclusively used foreign news. Censorship or the threat of censorship made local news more dangerous to publish. Over time, as censorship was eased or lifted, national news stories became a more important part of the news content (Wilke 1987).

Periods in national media histories are sometimes linked to major changes in media technologies, in economy, and to the size of the audience, which can be compared, cross-nationally to some extent. Periodization of the developing style and content of journalism is often linked to changes in the political system where the causal links are sometimes evident, sometimes unclear. Commonly used labels in media histories are the early elite press, the party press, the mass press, national public service vs. commercial broadcasting etc.

The development of journalism was, until the mid-nineteenth century, closely bound to the book trade, in content as well as in authors. As the press expanded in terms of the number of fully employed journalists, journalism became more distinct. Divergent and seemingly contradictory trends have been observed cross-nationally. However, a general trend seems to be toward more variety in journalistic genres and methods of expression, especially after radio and television became the fastest news media. In the USA and in many countries of Europe two basic styles of journalism has been identified since the mid-nineteenth century, one discursive and another sensational. There is simultaneously a tendency toward a ‘long journalism’ with a slightly ‘top-down’ perspective, and another toward a more grassroots-oriented ‘bottom-up’ populist perspective.

The first trend has produced stories set within a wider frame of time and space. In a study of worklife journalism, criminal and accident reporting in New York Times, the Chicago Tribune and the Oregonian between 1894 and 1994, Barnhurst and Mutz (1997) demonstrated that reporting developed toward longer stories, wider contexts, and more analysis. The ‘journalists identified individuals less often by name and more often by demographic group’ (Barnhurst and Mutz 1997, p. 41). Many events nowadays do not become newsworthy unless they fit into ‘a longer body of interpretations and themes’ (Barnhurst and Mutz 1997, p. 41). This development has been possible by the mobilization of substantial journalistic resources, which again is dependent upon advertising revenues and upon some ownership concentration in the audience market.

The other trend—mainly for apolitical tabloids— has been toward spot news as entertainment: centered both on ordinary individuals and on celebrities set within dramatized events where persons, actions, and feelings are foregrounded. Benjamin H. Day, pioneer of the tabloid genre from the 1830s, said that ‘News, properly so called … must generally tell of wars and fightings, of deeds of death, and blood, of wounds and heresies, of broken heads, broken hearts, of accidents by fire or flood, a field of possessions ravaged, property purloined, wrongs inflicted, rights unavenged, reputations assailed, feelings embittered, and oppressions exercised by nations, communities, or individuals’ (quoted in Huntzicker 1999, pp. 14–15). This tabloid formula seems to have been employed in urban boulevard newspapers in all kinds of political systems except the totalitarian ones.

2. The News Paradigm

Social scientists often use changes in technology as an index of wider social developments. Thus, the electric telegraph—invented in 1844—and the practice of news agencies have served a wide range of explanations of why and how journalism has changed since the mid-nineteenth century. This infrastructure is said to produce alternately: the 24-hour news cycle, the ‘inverted pyramid form’ of presentation, and ‘objectivity’ in journalism. Jurgen Wilke (1984) found e.g., that between 1856 and 1906 reported events that had occurred in the past 24 hours increased from 11 percent to 95 percent in the German press. The international news agencies like Reuters have been described as pioneers of neutral reporting and of the ‘lead’ or the inverted pyramid form (Read 1999). Likewise, Donald Shaw (1967) explained the alleged fall of the party press in the USA in the 1880s as a result of the increasing use and dependence on wired and politically neutral news by the newspapers. Many of these explanations have been challenged recently as technological determinism, ignoring journalism as a genuinely cultural phenomenon following its own trajectory.

Richard Kaplan (1997) found, for example, that the fall of the party press in Detroit did not coincide with the increased use of wired news. Michael Schudson (1978) interpreted the rise of ‘objectivity’ in journalism as influenced by a philosophical pragmatism in contemporary USA at the beginning of the twentieth century and by a detached professionalism in a growing number of occupations at the time. The canon of ‘objectivity’ became current in the late 1920s. But even by the turn of the twentieth century establishing facts was an ideal in journalism. ‘Objectivity’ in addition asked for balanced facts and opinions, which required new discursive practices.

The US newspaper industry had an unprecedented growth between 1880 and 1920 with widely expanding circulation, which included new layers of society in the informed public. In combination with previous breakthroughs in paper and print technology—which made cheap copy prices possible—it transformed the press into our first mass medium. The working environment and the job definition of reporters as different from writers changed rapidly (Schudson 1995), and the audience easily became strangers as the circulation area expanded. ‘Journalists were thus becoming something of a separate class, a separateness indicated by increasing numbers of articles and lectures by journalists intended to explain how the press worked’ (Dicken-Garcia 1989, p. 230).

This was also a time ripe with experiments in journalism. The various ideals, values, criteria, definitions, etc., which were eventually assimilated into the modern idea of proper news, became a way of thinking in journalism from the beginning of the twentieth century. Høyer (1995) constructs a ‘news paradigm’ out of five distinct elements emerging in this period: (a) the event, (b) the idea of neutral news criteria, (c) the news interview, (d) the inverted pyramid method of presentation, and (e) objectivity. This combination of journalistic methods and genres appeared gradually as separate social and cultural inventions over a period of less than 50 years. The location of most innovations was New York and London, which were also centers of applied modern newspaper technology in the latter part of the nineteenth century. The five elements can be specified as follows:

(a) The event may be defined as an interaction, an accident, a meeting, a crime etc. which ideally shall begin and end between deadlines. With regular news services and the electric telegraph the time frame of a new event became the 24-hour publication cycle.

(b) News criteria are the use of nonsubjective criteria for the selection of news to be published.

(c) The news interview has now become the main method of collecting information. It is a peculiar kind of conversation where the information source feels obliged to respond to inquiries, without the journalist responding psychologically since the journalsist is talking on behalf of a third—silent but more important—part: the public. This form of interview became widespread in the US press during the 1870s and 1880s and was at first met with outright disdain from the elite, since it gave newspapers more control of what should become public news (Schudson 1994)

(d) The ‘inverted pyramid’ is a rhetorical form. It became a standard from the 1890s. The inverted pyramid emphasizes fast and short presentation of the event, in the headlines and especially in the opening paragraph of the story, known as the ‘lead.’ The lead contains the major facts and actors involved. The net result of this method was stories lacking an internal chronology with implied explanations. Stories were supplied with chronologies turned downside up, and written in a dry and down-to-earth style of language, hiding the journalist as the author responsible for the story. By the flexibility of computer technology the lead technique in presentation has recently been modified. Graphics, frames for facts and summaries of previous events etc., serve as satellites to the main story, and allow the journalist to start closer to the chronological beginning of the reported event.

(e) Objectivity—or more succinctly ‘balance’ of information from contending sources of information—is obtained by using many different authorities as sources. The number and variety of information sources attributed is sometimes given as the operationalized definition of ‘objectivity’ in journalism. This form of neutrality is different from the scientific or philosophical idea of objectivity, where the quality of data is methodically evaluated and intersubjectively controlled by repetitive tests.

The ‘omnibus’ newspaper became the arena for these diverse innovations; it became the answer to a growing heterogeneity of newspaper readers and to their diversity of interests. Increased advertising, cheap newsprint, etc. allowed for more space for journalism and for typographical experiments. The sum of stories is implicitly supposed to tell the most important of the latest events.

There are some apparent interconnections between the diverse elements of the news paradigm. The electric telegraph, which inspired the 24-hour news cycle, also gave a time frame for news stories to be fresh and new, which subdued long-winded histories with complex cause and effects linkages. The event by definition became something that happened in a very short time. The emphasis on actuality, variety, brevity, and speed easily inspires the inverted pyramid form of presentation. When facts, events, and drama are foregrounded without any explicit interpretation by the journalist, the trustworthiness of facts and opinions becomes essential. The main method of gaining authority or ‘objectivity’ in journalism became the news interview of expert and elite information sources.

3. Diachronic And International Perspectives

The technology and economics of news production soon spread to many countries, while the diffusion of ‘the news paradigm’ lagged behind. The marked expansion in circulation between 1880 and 1920 observed in the USA has e.g., been documented in Denmark, Finland, and Norway (Thomsen 1972, Tomilla 1988, Hoyer 1995). Scattered data suggest that it took several more decades before the USinspired news paradigm became widely adapted in most European countries, except for the UK. In 1905 and 1908 major newspapers in Copenhagen and Stockholm respectively adopted ‘American journalism’ (Marzolf 1982), while Jean Chalaby (1996) suggests the 1930s for France. Countries like Spain and Russia lagged even further behind for obvious reasons. The local press seems to lag behind the major cities everywhere. The historical geography of changing journalism is different from the changing media technology, even if the diffusion process has not yet been mapped out in more detail.

The most common reason given for this cultural lag between the Anglo-American world, Scandinavia, and Continental Europe is the strong tradition of a party press following a sustained period of censorship. In France and the Germanies, for example, the original ideal of a journalist was the mature gentleman of the press—the redakteur—commenting on the affairs of the world and interpreting trends in politics, arts and science from a given philosophical position (Esser 1998). With regard to Central and Eastern Europe, Owen V. Johnson (1999, p. 8) points to how journalism overlapped with politics and literature from the latter half of the nineteenth century to the Soviet period. Young writers made their living as newspaper journalists until they could make their mark as writers or politicians. In contrast, the Anglo-American ideal was the outgoing aggressive news hunter unbound by political allegiances (Ko. cher 1986).

These differences have been explained by the longer periods of censorship in Continental Europe, which also produced a conception of ‘state-professions’ as regulated by the authorities, different from the Anglo-American system. By contrast to the US journalist the German redakteur demonstrated independence by giving personal and informed opinions which could deviate from more officially accepted views.

Jean Chalaby (1996) focuses more on cultural factors like the sharper hierarchy of literary genres in France as compared to Britain, fostering a literary and enigmatic journalism directed toward an elite public as the interpretive community. This tradition continued for decades after censorship was abandoned (Esser 1998, Johnson 1999). On the other hand, the introduction of an authoritarian regime in democratic Estonia 1933–40 did not prevent the breakthrough of more modern and US-inspired journalistic methods (Harro 2000). In Scandinavia the party press subsided gradually somewhere in the 1970s and 1980s. But even before journalistic objectivity was given priority over alternative journalistic values, other elements of the news paradigm were adopted. Nonseid and Høyer (1998) found in a content analysis of four Oslo newspapers 1908–30 only some traces of evidence for Donald Shaw’s (1967) thesis that news agencies influenced journalism more generally. They studied occurrences of ‘the inverted pyramid,’ which became a more common story telling method during the period, both for wired and self-produced stories. But, except for the wired news, a clear majority of news throughout the period was still cast in different and older forms of story presentation. The influence of news agencies could be traced, but was weak. Alternative cultural and political factors were apparently stronger. The former USSR had different news criteria and different concepts of autonomy in media. The media should first of all be concerned with what the public ought to know according to the communist credo. The news should depict the party line as the guideline for correct behavior. The staple news diet contained all kinds of stories about economic and social progress within socialist countries. Soviet news was not sensational and rarely reported accidents of any kind. TASS—the news bureau—provided between a third and a half of the contents of published Soviet news. In spite of this, events were not necessarily defined by the 24-hour news cycle. The timing of publication was mostly bound to political routines and necessities. As a reflection of this conception of what is news Halliki Harro (2000) demonstrates in a recent content analysis of Estonian newspapers 1920–99 that the ‘inverted pyramid’ hardly existed during the Soviet period.

These international examples demonstrate a variety that denies the simple connections between technological and cultural innovations claimed by technological determinists. Even if there may be some links between media technology and the journalism, the connection is certainly indirect and not synchronous. Media technology seems to have diffused much faster and more widely than innovations in journalism, which is ‘part of, and responding to, a deeper cultural movement’ (Schudson 1991, pp. 175–189).

4. News In Electronic Media

Radio news started gradually in the 1920s, first by some amateur ham operators reading directly from newspapers to an unknown public. Music, and to a lesser extent lectures and humor, were the great attractions of the new medium, not news. Until the mid-1930s few journalists were assigned to radio news. Only in 1934 did news become an independent department in the British BBC (Schlesinger 1978). Typically, at the beginning, news stories consisted of short bulletins of wired news from major news agencies.

From the outset the press tried hard to repress, and later to control, radio news. The press in Europe most often controlled the main news agencies from where broadcasting corporations got most of their news. In return for access to the wired news the press in the 1920s and early 1930s demanded that broadcasters limit transmission to one news program at around 7.00 p.m., after listeners had got their evening newspapers.

Scarcity of frequencies regulated by the state, as a common good, made public service broadcasting more vulnerable to government control compared to the press. Authorities were determined to avoid controversial topics in radio. Political parties, trade unions, and special interest organizations were thus not welcome as topics or actors in the news. This made radio news rather unrealistic and broadcasters became the voice of some unidentified official establishment. World War II broke most of these restrictions.

Backgrounds and interpretations were needed to make sense of what happened and to bolster national morale. Day-round bulletins, mixed with reportage and interviews, now became the rule. Radio reporters became identifiable persons, sometimes celebrities, as they reported directly from the war theaters. Instrumental in this process was also the tape-recorder, which came into use in 1939.

Television news started out as a copy of the cinema newsreel, with presenters heard but not seen. But the audience wanted to see the faces of announcers, who eventually developed into the role of the anchorperson and moderator. The anchorperson connected the steadily differentiating parts of a televised news story: a short announcement amounting to ‘headlines,’ a lead-type message followed by interviews, reports from eyewitnesses or reporters on location, and expert comments back in the studio to wind up the story. A study of 17 newscasts from eight countries identified different styles of anchorpersons in Western Europe: the ‘Germanic’ newsreader who briefly introduces the topic and leaves the substance of information to field reporters, as contrasted to the ‘Romance’ moderators who provide lengthy transitions between stories and subjective comments in the style of an editorial writer (Heinderyckx 1993).

The Internet promises a lower threshold of access to the distribution of news and views for the regular public in the industrialized world. But to be effective as a news channel it seems that the Internet so far must rely on existing networks of people with special interests. The news sites serve as points of convergence both for a like-minded public internationally and for all sorts of changing information and images within specific topic areas. Within finance and some scientific disciplines, the Internet already serves as a major publishing channel or as a marketplace for news. But for the moment it lacks the ability to reach the broader audience during a regular news cycle. For the Internet to become a general news channel, its use must expand considerably above its present level of penetration.


  1. Barnhurst K G, Mutz D 1997 American journalism and the decline in event-centered reporting. Journal of Communication 47(4)
  2. Chalaby J 1996 Journalism as an Anglo-American invention. A comparison of the development of French and Anglo-American journalism 1830s–1930s. European Journal of Communication 11(3)
  3. Dicken-Garcia H 1989 Journalistic Standards in Nineteenth century America. University of Wisconsin Press, Madison, WI
  4. Esser F 1998 Editorial structures and work principles in British and German newsrooms. European Journal of Communication 13(4)
  5. Gans H J 1979 Deciding What’s News. A Study of CBS Evening News, NBC Nightly News, Newsweek & Time. Pantheon Books, New York
  6. Golding P, Elliot P 1977 Making the News. London, Longman
  7. Harro H 2000 Changing journalistic conventions in the press. Empirical studies on daily newspapers under different political conditions in 20th century Estonia. Ph.D. dissertation, University of Oslo
  8. Heinderyckx F 1993 Television news programs in Western Europe: A comparative study. European Journal of Communication 8(4)
  9. Høyer S 1995 Pressen mellom teknologi og samfunn (The press between technology and society). Universitetsforlaget, Oslo
  10. Høyer S, Lauk E 2000 The paradoxes of the journalistic profession. An historical perspective. In: Bjork U J, Nordenstreng K (eds.) A Hundred Years of the International Journalist. University of Luton Press, Luton, UK
  11. Huntzicker W E 1999 The Popular Press, 1833–1865. Greenwood Press, Westport, CT
  12. Johnson O V 1999 The roots of journalism in Central and Eastern Europe. In: Aumente J, Gross P, Hiebert R, Johnson O V, Mills D (eds.) Eastern European Journalism. Before, During and After Communism. Hampton Press, Cresskill, NJ
  13. Kaplan R 1997 The American press and political community: Reporting in Detroit 1865–1920. Media Culture & Society 19(3)
  14. Kocher R 1986 Bloodhounds or missionaries: Role definitions of German and British journalists. European Journal of Communication 1(1)
  15. McNair B 1998 The Sociology of Journalism. Arnold, London
  16. Michell S 1997 A History of News. Harcourt Brace, Fort Worth, TX
  17. Nonseid J, Høyer S 1998 Diffusion of the news paradigm in Norway 1908–1930. Paper for International Association for Mass Communication Research, Glasgow, July
  18. Read D 1999 The Power of News. The History of Reuters, 2nd edn. Oxford University Press, Oxford
  19. Schlesinger P 1978 Putting ‘Reality’ Together. BBC News. Constable, London
  20. Schudson M 1978 Discovering the News. A Social History of American Newspapers. Basic Books, New York
  21. Schudson M 1991 Historical approaches to communication studies. In: Bruhn Jensen K, Janowski J W (eds.) A Handbook of Qualitative Methodologies for Mass Communication Research. Routledge, London
  22. Schudson M 1994 Question authority: A history of the news interview. Media, Culture & Society 16(4)
  23. Schudson M 1995 The Power of News. Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA
  24. Schudson M 1999 The sociology of news production revisited (again). In: Curran J (ed.)
  25. Shaw D L 1967 News bias and the telegraph: A study of historical change. Journalism Quarterly 44(1)
  26. Thomsen N 1972 Dagbladskonkurrencen 1870–1970 (The Competition between Daily Newspapers 1870–1970). Gads, Copenhagen
  27. Tichenor P J, Donohue G A, Olien C N 1980 Community Conflict & The Press. Sage, Beverly Hills, CA
  28. Tomilla P 1988 Suomen lehdiston historia (The history of the Finnish Press). Kustannuskiila, Kuopio, Finland
  29. Tuchman G 1978 Making News. A Study in the Construction of Reality. Free Press, New York
  30. Wilke J 1984 The changing world of media reality. Gazette 39(3)
  31. Wilke J 1987 Foreign news coverage and international news flow over three centuries. Gazette 39(2)
News Interview Research Paper
Rhetorical Analysis Research Paper


Always on-time


100% Confidentiality
Special offer! Get discount 10% for the first order. Promo code: cd1a428655