The Problem of Realist Events in American Journalism

Open Access Journal | ISSN: 2183-2439

The Problem of Realist Events in American Journalism


  • Kevin G. Barnhurst School of Media and Communication, University of Leeds, UK


Abstract  Since the nineteenth century, more kinds of news outlets and ways of presenting news grew along with telegraphic, telephonic, and digital communications, leading journalists, policymakers, and critics to assume that more events became available than ever before. Attentive audiences say in surveys that they feel overloaded with information, and journalists tend to agree. Although news seems to have become more focused on events, several studies analyzing U.S. news content for the past century and a half show that journalists have been including fewer events within their coverage. In newspapers the events in stories declined over the twentieth century, and national newscasts decreased the share of event coverage since 1968 on television and since 1980 on public radio. Mainstream news websites continued the trend through the 2000s. Instead of providing access to more of the “what”, journalists moved from event-centered to meaning-centered news, still claiming to give a factual account in their stories, built on a foundation of American realism. As journalists concentrated on fewer and bigger events to compete, audiences turned away from mainstream news to look for what seems like an abundance of events in digital media.


Keywords  content analysis; cultural critique; five Ws; history; journalism; media studies; news; realism; social constructionism


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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.17645/mac.v2i2.159


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