Old Media, New Media Sources: The Blogosphere’s Influence on Print Media News Coverage

Old Media, New Media Sources: The Blogosphere’s Influence on Print Media News Coverage

Kevin Wallsten
Copyright: © 2013 |Pages: 20
DOI: 10.4018/jep.2013040101
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This paper contributes to the growing literature on how “new media” is influencing “old media” by tracking references to an extensive list of political blogs in stories run by seventeen prominent print media outlets during the last ten years. The findings presented here show that although journalists frequently use political bloggers as sources in their news coverage, they only reference certain blogs in certain ways at certain times. To be precise, journalists turn to political blogs primarily during national election campaigns and this turn is commonly in the direction of a relatively small group of interactive, liberal blogs.
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Shoemaker and Reese (1996) define news sources as “external suppliers of raw material, such as speeches, interviews, corporate reports and government hearings” (178). Beginning with the work of Sigal (1973), numerous studies of news production have attempted to clarify the role that these “external suppliers” play in structuring media coverage. Most notably, Gans (1979) described the relationship between journalists and their sources as a complicated, yet mutually beneficial, dance – where sources seek out journalists in order to reach the media’s large audience and journalists nurture relationships with sources in order to establish reliable channels of access to newsworthy information. According to Gans, the heavy informational demands and tight time constraints of the news business inevitably mean that this dance is more likely to be led by sources than by journalists.

As a result of the fact that journalists so frequently follow their lead, sources are seen to be essential components of so-called media “agenda building” (Dominick, 2009; Scheufele, 2000) or media “gatekeeping” (McCombs, 2004) – the process by which news outlets decide which issues to cover and which to ignore. Unsurprisingly, therefore, academic researchers have conducted numerous studies of sourcing patterns in an attempt to identify the kinds of actors that are most influential in shaping the media’s agenda. While these studies have tracked media citations to a diverse array of actors, including interest groups (Danielian & Page, 1994), anonymous individuals (Denham, 1997; Martin-Kratzer & Thorson, 2007) and academics (Herman & Chomsky, 1988; Lasorsa & Reece, 1990), the bulk of the evidence shows that journalists draw primarily from a narrow range of government sources in their reporting on politics (Atwater, 1989; Berkowitz, 1987; Sigal, 1973; Solely, 1992; Whitney et al., 1989).

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