In “Is News a Reflection or a Construction,” the author writes that news is most decidedly a construction created by journalists and not a reflection of reality.
This is a pretty easy argument to follow. For one thing, there’s news selection. The author points out that only a sliver of everyday events are covered, so journalists have already abandoned reflection via selection. Journalists also decide the focus and how the story is told. The author goes on to list some influences and constraints on the construction process. Commercialism, which is the first and possibly strongest influence, is a result of market competition between news organizations. This can cause journalists to abandon professional ideals and seek the story or angle that will grab attention or shock and avoid controversy that might alienate customers. Other influences listed in the article include story formulas, like the inverted pyramid, which tends to make news coverage similar; resource constraints which may not allow journalists to cover everything they’d like to, organizational forces like ownership patterns which may influence a paper’s ideology or profit-motive; advertisers, who may try to buy off stories critical to them; source use, for example quoting one expert over another; the interest in covering deviance, and sometimes limited geographical focus. The author argues that although this all has the advantage of simplifying the daunting task of selecting, writing, and editing the news, it also narrows the scope on what is news and how thoroughly things should be covered.
It’s hard not to agree with the author. Of course reporters and editors construct the news; it wouldn’t take all day to produce a newspaper if they didn’t. The closest thing to reflection a newspaper does is photography, and even that is construction if you accept selection as a creative act (and photographers do). The influences the author brings up are valid too, though I think general cultural influences like race, gender and class need to be added to the list. But what’s the point in just running down a list of influences and proving news is not a reflection? The does not seem to say this is all good or bad, per se. Just saying journalism isn’t a magically perfect mirror to all of life and reality in the universe at any given moment is like shooting fish in a barrel.