Table of Contents
The broadcast analysis of this paper focuses on the news coverage of the American Broadcasting Company (ABC) - specifically its 10 p.m. Program “20/20” - which is owned by the Walt Disney Company, and the Houston Chronicle, a daily newspaper in Texas owned by Hearst Corporation.
Journalist actively witness and report history in the making. They provide background to important events in the society. They also help find the best goods and services for the public through advertisements. Journalism serves to inform the public through news coverages, influence and mold public opinion, amuse or entertain the public, serve and promote community welfare as a whole.
The information function may be expressed through an account of the 20/20's story on the cases of child abductions and molestations. The news story opens how the parents of Etan Natz, a child who was abducted 31 years ago on his way to a school bus stop, were elated at the information that the case is finally reopened after a prosecutor dismissed it due to lack of evidence against the suspect Jose Antonio Ramos (Berman and Sher, 2010). It includes an explanation of the lead incidences that occurred prior to the abduction; how Ramos is related to the family. Although the Natzes are not high-profile individuals, their case initiates the beginning of a thorough probe into the other cases of missing children.
The opinion function is achieved through the editorials, columns, and letters to the editor. Arguments in the editorials of Houston Chronicle rest on factual accuracy and sound logic. On the other hand, the entertainment function lightens journalistic with humor, human interest stories, and other feature items that may amuse people.
Summary of Theory
This paper strikes the differences and similarities between a 10 p.m. newscast and a Houston Chronicle’s coverage in the following day. To give a clear description of the areas in which the two specimens vary, it will attempt to give space to some of the important details of news covered that answer the basic questions “what,” “who,” “why,” “where,” “when,” and “how.” The paper will also explore the type of advertising that the two media outlets under analysis carry and the balance of the views of the opinions expressed. How these media outlets treat their stories, the “newsmakers,” according to gender and ethnicity or national origin shares also in the concern of this paper. For the purpose of setting up a common time frame for the news events, the paper tackles the stories that occurred on the 8th of October (for the broadcast network) and on the 9th of the same month for a Houston daily.
Summary of the Articles
ABC's 20/20 and the Houston Chronicle make a pattern of dishing out stories of non high-profile “newsmakers” on their respective time slots. While at that, the manner by which the two media outlets choose which group of the society to focus varies slightly. For example, 20/20 covers stories of individuals that would spark the interest of the viewers while Houston Chronicle, for the most part of its coverage, focuses on groups of individuals or on the society as a whole. One story of this type is about the protest of gay rights activists against the speech of a senior Mormon church leader, Boyd Packer, for his church (Chron, 2010). In a report contributed by The Associated Press, gay rights advocates condemned the speech of Packer as “inaccurate and dangerous” and have called for him to withdraw his statement (Chron, 2010).
The three factors that are essential to news are facts, interest and readers, which the two media outlets interestingly achieve. The basis of all news is fact, after all. In both media outlets, the reporters make facts interesting to a particular audience for whom they are writing. The reporters slant the news stories for the masses. That is so since news must be interesting. However, the degree and breadth of interest vary for the two. The stories of Houston Chronicle have a high degree of interest for only a small number of readers, while those of the 20/20 have a greater degree of interest for a large number of readers.
A number of elements help make facts interesting to the readers.
First, a report in 20/20 stresses the latest angle of the news story. The words today and tomorrow characterize the most newsworthy words in the lead. Occasionally, some parts of the story happen in the recent past. In this case, the reporter seeks for a “today” angle of the event. However, since events actually happened before the story is broadcast, it is necessary to depend rather heavily on the less time-bound element if the story is to be of interest to a large number of readers.
The report in Houston Chronicle digs out something of interest with regards to the timeliness of its stories, which is an element of a news. The reporters emphasize a local angle of the news stories whenever possible. Still, an element that best captures the interest of a wider audience is consequence. Occasionally, the reporters will need to interpret the significance of a story for the readers.
In terms of prominence, both media outlets haven't achieved much of making a sensational “newsmaker.” It should include persons, places, things, and situations known to the public by reason of wealth, social position, achievement, or previous publicity. To achieve prominence in a news story, one must always include the names of the persons, especially those that are well-known, in the body for names make news. The more prominent a particular name, place, event or situation, the more interesting it will be in a story.
Like a spice to a food, drama adds vitality and color to a news story. The reporters try as much as possible to find dramatic action and picturesque background to their stories. Mystery, suspense and comedy are the chief characteristics of drama. Another element of a news story that the reports have in common is oddity. This element helps to make facts in the news interesting to people. The greater the degree of unusualness in a story, the greater its value as news. Next is conflict. This element is one of the most common found in all the news stories covered. It involves physical and mental conflict; man vs man; man vs self. It is perhaps the news element that appears most frequently in the daily news.
It must be pointed out that there is no single way of writing a news story. Look at the reports in the two media outlets of the same incident and the point will be clear. However, one will discover that most of the stories that get into publication appear to follow a certain formula. A news story opens with a climax in its lead paragraph, quite opposite to what a novel does, and then develops the rest of the story by giving details either in chronological order or in the order of decreasing importance.
There is a logical, practical reason for this type of structure in news writing or broadcasting. First of all, it is a natural way of telling a story. More than likely, the reporter will start his account with a description of the colorful patterns formed in the sky by the setting sun as he walked along a thoroughfare, only to have his reveries broken by an event of interest.
Summarizing the story in the opening paragraph has several practical advantages. It facilitates reading, satisfies curiosity, and aids the headline writer. What is most interested in the story can be found in the answers to a series of six little questions when writing a news, the five W's (what, who, why, where, and when) and the H (how), which were taken up above. By merely seeing to it that they are all included is not enough. The good lead requires selectivity – the determination of what element is most important.
Any of the news elements in this case could serve as a springboard to propel the reader into the story. The opening words could emphasize any of the W's or the H. The point is that there is no formula one can apply which can guarantee a good lead. The body of the story emerges from the lead, and the dominant point made in the opening paragraph must be fully borne out and developed in the sentences that follow. If the reporter starts with a summary lead to give the story in a nutshell, then in the body of the story he has only the task of retelling the story in sufficient detail and with the facts and incidents arranged in logical order, either of decreasing importance or chronological sequence.
Words which show bias in the handling of news stories concerning race, color, religious belief or orientation have been avoided by the two media outlets, which is a good thing. Stories concerning the morals of individuals should be avoided: no innocent person should be needlessly involved in questionable or unpleasant incidents, or exposed to public ridicule. A paper should not publish pictures which offend the sensibility of the general run of readers like photos of a dead or murder victims which emphasize brutality.
Advertisements, too, carry helpful information, some of which interest potential buyers than the news stories. While 20/20 carries advertisements for investment and banking, Houston Chronicle provides space for travel and accommodation amenities with discounts.