Outsourcing the news? An empirical assessment of the role of sources and news agencies in the contemporary news landscape

by Boumans JW

Institution: Universiteit van Amsterdam
Year: 2016
Posted: 02/05/2017
Record ID: 2073156
Full text PDF: http://hdl.handle.net/11245/1.532941


Journalists are increasingly accused of uncritically recycling subsidized material in the form of press releases and news agency copy. This practice has been labeled churnalism and is believed to compromise journalism’s autonomy and threaten news quality. While the context - rampant competition, decreasing newspaper circulation rates and advertising revenues, shrinking newsrooms, failing online business models - is well documented, it remains an empirical question what the consequences of these developments are for journalist’s reliance on ‘subsidized content’. A striking observation is also that the largest input provider, the news agency, is structurally overlooked in research on news content. Filling these voids, this dissertation employs automated content analyses to provide insight into the relationship between press releases, news agency copy and print and online news in the Dutch context. Comparing NGO’s and corporation’s visibility of press releases in the news, the results suggest that NGO’s are generally more successful in accessing the media than corporations. In contrast to widespread concerns, it has been shown that Dutch print newspapers are by no means churnalism factories, and neither are news agencies. Furthermore, the longitudinal datasets showed no increased presence of agency copy or press releases in the print news over the past decennium. For online news, the picture looks radically different: here, the agency is to a great extent steering both the news agenda as well as the literal content of the online news. This dominant role of a single news provider fuels concerns on the level of homogeneity and possible lack of diversity of viewpoints in online news.