In search of a unique angle: on the selection and framing decisions of Flemish newspaper reporters in an era of journalistic change

J.L.J. Boesman, L. d'Haenens, B. Van Gorp

    Research output: Contribution to ConferenceAbstractOther research output


    This paper investigates the way newspaper journalists in Flanders select and built their stories in precarious times. In recent years, the Flemish newspaper industry has known a progressive process of media concentration and growing synergies between newsrooms. Since June 2013, the Flemish newspaper landscape arrived in a duopoly situation.
    How does these changes influence content? What are the selection and framing strategies of newspapers to give the public a reason to keep reading them?
    The gatekeeping model of Shoemaker and Reese is adopted as a framework for examining different levels of influence on news selection. The concept of news values is added as a tool to examine why certain choices have been made. As a third main concept, framing helps to examine how a selected topic is presented but often also why a topic is selected.
    In framing research, the question how frames arise is largely sidestepped. Although the classic news ethnographies offer interesting insights, many of those production studies are criticized because of an outdated focus on ‘bureaucratic’ routines. While those studies leave little room for the agency of the individual journalist, our research intends to examine higher news influences with respect to the journalist as an active agent.
    This study collects material from the two remaining newspaper media groups (De Persgroep and Het Mediahuis), more specifically from their most widespread ‘popular’ title (Het Laatste Nieuws and Het Nieuwsblad) and from their most widespread ‘quality’ title (De Morgen and De Standaard). For a six-week period, the output of 20 domestic news reporters – five randomly selected per newspaper – was content analyzed. Regularly semi-structured interviews, supplemented by newsroom observations, lead to the reconstruction of 680 articles.
    It is argued that interviews are an indispensable method to gain ‘deeper knowledge’ on journalistic decisions. By asking the journalists themselves, the attribution of news values and frames is not limited to the interpretation of the researcher. Additional interviews were held with copy editors, news managers and editors-in-chief. Through this methodological triangulation, this study provides a bridge between studies of news texts and studies of production contexts.
    The results highlight the importance of ‘a distinctive angle’ (often used as a frame for the article). Because of the prevalence of news on the web and because of the media dependency, newspapers often select the same events as news. That does not mean they are telling the same stories. The added value of newspaper stories is seen in ‘offering a perspective’. Although newspaper reporters still consider true ‘news hunting’ as a core business, a significant amount of stories departs from ‘the search of an own angle’ for events already brought by other news media.
    In selecting topics and pitching angles, the reporters’ autonomy is weakened in centrally organized and top-down structured newsrooms. In those newsrooms, the news manager acts as an initiator of angles. Rather than being pushed to write a story in a certain way, reporters ‘internalized’ his vision of news making. They have learnt what topics and angles get a chance to be approved.
    Original languageEnglish
    Publication statusPublished - 2014
    EventECREA's Journalism Studies Section Conference - Thessaloniki, Greece
    Duration: 28 Mar 201429 Mar 2014


    ConferenceECREA's Journalism Studies Section Conference

    Bibliographical note

    Place of publication: Thessaloniki, Greece

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