SOC 131


What is "News"?

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What's in the news?

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Each field research project will be evaluated/graded according to the following criteria: 1) data collection (25%), 2) data analysis (25%), 3) use of supplementary materials (25%), and 4) presentation of findings (25%). Your group will be required to fill out a grade sheet (one per group) which explicitly states what you have done for each phase of the project.


What are the dominant messages in the newspapers that we read? What are the principle themes or issues? What aspects of our society are not presented? Who defines what is news? From whose perspective in the society do we define news?



This project requires both a content analysis and interviews with news editors about what determines 'what is news'. You will need to first, formulate a series of categories which you will use to conceptually explore the a select group of newspapers and/or news magazines. These categories should be guided by the questions laid out above and by your theoretical orientation. Once you have laid out the categories, you will need to read the texts with a meticulous eye to pull out material which speaks to your categorizations. This process is called ‘coding' the data (the data being your chosen newspapers and/or news magazines). If you are working in a group, you will want to code the data separately, then get back together to discuss how you each coded the data - what are the similarities and differences between yourself and your colleagues? If you are working alone you will need to pass through the data (at least) three separate times to ensure that you are not missing any particularities. What does your coding schema allow you to say about the messages in the news? How can you situate you understanding of the news within the larger framework of our discussion on media as an social institution?



I will give you a brief chapter on the media which is from the textbook I used last semester. You will also want to do a search in the library to find any relevant sociological studies which focus on the ideology in the media.



You may present your findings in any way that you deem appropriate. You may want to create tables which describe the occurances of certain themes. You may want to play snipets of your newspaper text to illustrate your main ideas. You may want to engage the class in some sort of activity. It is up to you, or your group, however you will want to come up with some sort of clever way to articulate your findings tha maintains the interest of the class. You will have a better idea of how to present your findings once you have completed the data analysis. You should plan to limit your presentation to 20-30 minutes.