News at Work: Imitation in an Age of Information Abundance

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Please read and accept the terms and conditions and check the box to generate a sharing link. News at Work is notable for its comprehensive and multifaceted approach to its topic. It starts with the fact that people increasingly consume news online at work, instead of reading a newspaper in the morning, as in the past.

News at Work: Imitation in an Age of Information Abundance by Pablo J. Boczkowski

This in turn, has affected the work of reporting and presenting news, as in response, newspapers have built up their online news sites, continually renewing hard-news content throughout the day, while offering a more limited number of features. This, in turn, has led to more imitation and less diversity in hard news but not in features—which, the author shows, are governed by a different set of incentives and images of the intended audience—a trend that both journalists and readers deplore but feel powerless to change.

The organizational consequences have been seismic: new organizations entirely devoted to online news; an organizational divide within newspapers between paper and online production; and an additional bifurcation between news gathering and feature reporting. News at Work speaks not only to students of the media but also to organizations scholars interested in imitation and diversity.

As Boczkowski notes, students of institutional isomorphism tend to study structural conformity but rarely look at the mechanisms or results. By combining organizational ethnography chaps. So enveloping is the media cocoon that one journalist not only spends her days trawling online news sources but keeps CNN on in her bedroom at night, new news stories intruding into sleep as dreams.


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One might question whether one can generalize about news homogeneity from the Argentine case, given that the largely national market is more concentrated than that in the U. First, I wonder if the author may overstate the impact of newspaper Web sites on news diversity. But have the Internet and changing consumer behavior pushed news gathering over the edge? The data lend themselves, I think, to multiple interpretations.


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Front pages look more alike than they did in the s, but the overlap of story choice is still about 50 percent. If you are so constructionist as to think that journalists could put a random draw of stories on page 1, then the glass is half full.

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If you believe that events differ in their importance in ways that should affect newspaper coverage, then surprising diversity persists. Three findings could be interpreted to support this latter interpretation.

Second, however, almost all of the increase in homogeneity in story choice after the inception of newspaper Web sites occurred among the latter categories. Curiously, as one might expect this to be less affected by online operations, the presentation, as distinct from the choice of public-affairs stories headlines, placement, and use of photographs became more similar during this period.

Also supporting a half-full interpretation, the author finds less increase in similarity in the narration of print stories than in story selection and headlines. Finally, one might interpret both the stability over time of similarity in public-affairs story choice despite the more intensive monitoring of hard news by online reporters and the considerably higher levels of similarity between online than print editions suggesting some decoupling of influence as indicating that online journalism has contributed less to the increased similarity of print editions than the author suggests.

Boczkowski and Mitchelstein also find that the gap is not affected by innovations in Web-native forms of storytelling such as blogs and user-generated content on mainstream news sites.

Media, Technology, and Society: Theories of Media Evolution

Pablo J. Boczkowski , Eugenia Mitchelstein. Auteurs Pablo J. Boczkowski Pablo J. The data lend themselves, I think, to multiple interpretations. Front pages look more alike than they did in the s, but the overlap of story choice is still about 50 percent. If you are so constructionist as to think that journalists could put a random draw of stories on page 1, then the glass is half full. If you believe that events differ in their importance in ways that should affect newspaper coverage, then surprising diversity persists. Three findings could be interpreted to support this latter interpretation.

Second, however, almost all of the increase in homogeneity in story choice after the inception of newspaper Web sites occurred among the latter categories. Curiously, as one might expect this to be less affected by online operations, the presentation, as distinct from the choice of public-affairs stories headlines, placement, and use of photographs became more similar during this period.

Also supporting a half-full interpretation, the author finds less increase in similarity in the narration of print stories than in story selection and headlines. Finally, one might interpret both the stability over time of similarity in public-affairs story choice despite the more intensive monitoring of hard news by online reporters and the considerably higher levels of similarity between online than print editions suggesting some decoupling of influence as indicating that online journalism has contributed less to the increased similarity of print editions than the author suggests.

Events : 2015

The author does what a good organizational ethnographer should do, which is to make his subjects come alive—to clarify the premises his subjects hold and the pressures they face so that the reader understands their choices. He introduces us not only to the frenetic pace of the online newsroom but to the more relaxed and independent atmosphere of the features department, as well as illuminating the complex relations between print reporters and their online counterparts. In the absence of all this monitoring and mimesis, might newspaper reporting, at least in the print editions, not converge as much based on shared understandings of what makes a story important?

Imitation is driven by uncertainty. Yet for convergence to occur, organizational fields and dominant practices must be sufficiently institutionalized that uncertain actors know whom and what to imitate. The Argentine newspaper industry has a clear center-periphery structure; but the organization of news work is undergoing rapid and radical change and one can argue that, although the pace has picked up and business models are more vulnerable than in the past, chronic technological innovation and structural consolidation have made this the case for the last century.

English abstract

The dynamics Boczkowski describes so well, then, reflect a pattern in which relatively stable industry structures give executives the flexibility to reorganize operations almost continually since he left the field, the organizations he studied have already consolidated their online and print news operations , which generates uncertainty, to which professionals respond with frenetic mimicry. If so, this fine study of journalists and their readers may hold implications for other industries and work worlds as diverse as finance, product engineering, management consulting, weapons-systems design, and higher education.

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