Newspapers and Reporting

Keystones of the journalistic field

Authored by: David Ryfe

The Routledge Companion to Digital Journalism Studies

Print publication date:  October  2016
Online publication date:  November  2016

Print ISBN: 9781138887961
eBook ISBN: 9781315713793
Adobe ISBN:


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Observers have noted for years that print reporters have had difficulty adapting to the digital world (e.g. Anderson et al., 2014; Ryfe, 2012). The point remains valid. Take a moment to examine the website of any mainstream newspaper in the United States. For illustrative purposes, I have chosen—the website of the San Francisco Chronicle. It is May 5, 2015 at 6:00 a.m., Pacific Time. What do we find? We find a navigation strip at the top that replicates sections of the print product (e.g. news, sports, business, A&E, Food, Living, Travel, etc.). We find the page populated by conventional news stories. These stories are mostly about time-honored topics, like real estate development, an earthquake, a murder, a mayor’s legislative proposal, a lawsuit filed by a local city. Public officials and experts serve as sources for these stories, as they have done for decades. And the stories are written mostly in conventional forms, like the ‘who, what, when, where’ lead: “In her first budget since being elected on the promise that she would strengthen public safety in Oakland,” one such lead begins, “Mayor Libby Shaaf is pushing a plan to boost the city’s police force…” What do we find, in other words? We find persistence, specifically, the persistence of ‘reporting news,’ by which I mean the set of practices associated with patrolling beats, interacting with officials and experts, applying standards of newsworthiness, and packaging information in story formulas to produce conventional news stories.

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