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Title:Competition in local TV news: Ritual, enactment, and ideology
Author(s):Ehrlich, Matthew Carleton
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Whitney, D.C.
Department / Program:Communication
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Sociology, General
Mass Communications
Abstract:This work seeks to develop a critical, ethnographic understanding of competition in local television journalism. Using methods of participant observation, focused interviews, and critical textual analysis, the author argues that competition is ritualized within and among news organizations. Television news can be seen as a kind of race: a race for news, a race for ratings, and a race against deadlines. Competitive norms are embedded in common newsroom rituals such as "monitoring the opposition," checking overnight ratings, etc. These rituals are in many ways similar to the "strategic ritual" of objectivity described by Tuchman; newsworkers engage in the rituals in order to demonstrate that they are acting competitively and to shield themselves from professional disapproval.
These kinds of rituals are consolidated into competitive rites and ceremonials like "sweeps" periods. Such rites help enact and reenact a competitive news environment. That is, newsworkers and their organizations generate a competitive environment through their actions and interactions and their ongoing efforts to interpret each other's actions. Ritualized competition also helps reproduce a "competitive ethos"--a competitive ideology that guides the work of television journalists. They act on the basis of a shared understanding that their business is, in fact, competitive and that their professionalism will be judged to a large extent on how well they compete. This competitive ethos, in turn, helps legitimate the status quo in society by reproducing the powerful competitive ideology that lies at the heart of our culture--an ideology that prizes individualism and the open marketplace of goods and ideas.
Issue Date:1991
Rights Information:Copyright 1991 Ehrlich, Matthew Carleton
Date Available in IDEALS:2011-05-07
Identifier in Online Catalog:AAI9210793
OCLC Identifier:(UMI)AAI9210793

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