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Expansion or impoverishment of the public sphere? A look at the use of news sources in the Belgian press

Sarah Van Leuven (UGent) and Karin Raeymaeckers (UGent)
(2010)
Author
Organization
Abstract
In this paper we focus on the development of the codebook for a content analysis that is designed to revise the role of three concepts in the news selection process (proximity, power and efficiency of news sources) in the context of recent societal changes. The central research question is whether, how and how far the marketing and digitization of media culture influence the news production process in journalism, and whether this leads to expansion or impoverishment of the public sphere. The hypotheses are twofold. On the one hand we expect that the commercialization of the journalistic field, which is accompanied by professionalization, leads to cost reduction and the standardization of news production. In turn, this process causes an increasing use of institutional and official sources and less attention for sources that request more verification and research. On the other hand we expect that actors in the civil society, individual citizens and alternative news sources have also become an important, non-institutional information source for journalists as a result of the digitization of society and the processes of glocalization and globalization of news. In short, we want to demonstrate the underlying mechanisms of the news production process that determine which actors are prominently present in the media and influence the public agenda in order to better understand the current, sometimes adversary debates on the quality of the news. Therefore, we set up a quantitative and qualitative research, namely a longitudinal and comparative content analysis of Belgian newspapers and a case-study on certain foreign news topics. In this paper, we will take a closer look at the quantitative content analysis and, more specifically, on the development of the codebook for our study of the prominence of different types of news sources in six Belgian newspapers. We will discuss two methodological issues we encountered during the operationalization of the variables. First, our new categorization of different sorts of national and international news will be discussed. Inspired by the existing literature, we distinguish between global news, international news, domestic news and extra-national news. Second, we will focus on the operationalization of institutional and non-institutional news sources. Going through the literature on this topic, we noticed that most accounts on this issue vary considerable in their definition of an institution. For instance, while some scholars think of ‘the family’ as an institution, we will stress more the organizational aspects of institutions, such as formal, legal structures and aspects of power and efficiency. Our aim is to present an overview of the various perspectives on institutional and non-institutional news sources and to formulate an operationalization of institutional and non-institutional news sources in function of our own research.
Keywords
news sources, marketing, digitization, newspapers

Citation

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Chicago
Van Leuven, Sarah, and Karin Raeymaeckers. 2010. “Expansion or Impoverishment of the Public Sphere? A Look at the Use of News Sources in the Belgian Press.” In .
APA
Van Leuven, Sarah, & Raeymaeckers, K. (2010). Expansion or impoverishment of the public sphere? A look at the use of news sources in the Belgian press. Presented at the ECREA.
Vancouver
1.
Van Leuven S, Raeymaeckers K. Expansion or impoverishment of the public sphere? A look at the use of news sources in the Belgian press. 2010.
MLA
Van Leuven, Sarah, and Karin Raeymaeckers. “Expansion or Impoverishment of the Public Sphere? A Look at the Use of News Sources in the Belgian Press.” 2010. Print.
@inproceedings{1093532,
  abstract     = {In this paper we focus on the development of the codebook for a content analysis that is designed to revise the role of three concepts in the news selection process (proximity, power and efficiency of news sources) in the context of recent societal changes. The central research question is whether, how and how far the marketing and digitization of media culture influence the news production process in journalism, and whether this leads to expansion or impoverishment of the public sphere. The hypotheses are twofold. On the one hand we expect that the commercialization of the journalistic field, which is accompanied by professionalization, leads to cost reduction and the standardization of news production. In turn, this process causes an increasing use of institutional and official sources and less attention for sources that request more verification and research. On the other hand we expect that actors in the civil society, individual citizens and alternative news sources have also become an important, non-institutional information source for journalists as a result of the digitization of society and the processes of glocalization and globalization of news. In short, we want to demonstrate the underlying mechanisms of the news production process that determine which actors are prominently present in the media and influence the public agenda in order to better understand the current, sometimes adversary debates on the quality of the news. Therefore, we set up a quantitative and qualitative research, namely a longitudinal and comparative content analysis of Belgian newspapers and a case-study on certain foreign news topics. 
In this paper, we will take a closer look at the quantitative content analysis and, more specifically, on the development of the codebook for our study of the prominence of different types of news sources in six Belgian newspapers. We will discuss two methodological issues we encountered during the operationalization of the variables. First, our new categorization of different sorts of national and international news will be discussed. Inspired by the existing literature, we distinguish between global news, international news, domestic news and extra-national news. Second, we will focus on the operationalization of institutional and non-institutional news sources. Going through the literature on this topic, we noticed that most accounts on this issue vary considerable in their definition of an institution. For instance, while some scholars think of {\textquoteleft}the family{\textquoteright} as an institution, we will stress more the organizational aspects of institutions, such as formal, legal structures and aspects of power and efficiency. Our aim is to present an overview of the various perspectives on institutional and non-institutional news sources and to formulate an operationalization of institutional and non-institutional news sources in function of our own research.},
  author       = {Van Leuven, Sarah and Raeymaeckers, Karin},
  keyword      = {news sources,marketing,digitization,newspapers},
  language     = {eng},
  location     = {Hamburg, Germany},
  pages        = {13},
  title        = {Expansion or impoverishment of the public sphere? A look at the use of news sources in the Belgian press},
  year         = {2010},
}