News at Work Imitation in an Age of Information Abundance
by Pablo J. Boczkowski
University of Chicago Press, 2010
Cloth: 978-0-226-06279-2 | Paper: 978-0-226-06280-8 | Electronic: 978-0-226-06278-5
ABOUT THIS BOOKAUTHOR BIOGRAPHYREVIEWSTABLE OF CONTENTS

ABOUT THIS BOOK

Before news organizations began putting their content online, people got the news in print or on TV and almost always outside of the workplace. But nowadays, most of us keep an eye on the headlines from our desks at work, and we have become accustomed to instant access to a growing supply of constantly updated stories on the Web. This change in the amount of news available as well as how we consume it has been coupled with an unexpected development in editorial labor: rival news organizations can now keep tabs on the competition and imitate them, resulting in a decrease in the diversity of the news. Peeking inside the newsrooms where journalists create stories and the work settings where the public reads them, Pablo J. Boczkowski reveals why journalists contribute to the growing similarity of news—even though they dislike it—and why consumers acquiesce to a media system they find increasingly dissatisfying.

Comparing and contrasting two newspapers in Buenos Aires with similar developments in the United States, News at Work offers an enlightening perspective on living in a world with more information but less news.

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY

Pablo J. Boczkowski is associate professor in the Department of Communication Studies at Northwestern University and the author of Digitizing the News: Innovation in Online Newspapers.

REVIEWS

News at Work is a brilliantly creative and much anticipated study of the new world of news. Boczkowski takes us on a far-ranging exploration—from the newsroom to the business office, the reporter’s cubicle to the reader’s desktop—on which we get a panoramic view of the links between the production, distribution, and consumption of digital media. Discovering that both online news companies and, increasingly, print papers emulate each other, he takes a close look at the dynamics of imitation, explicating the imitative life cycle through rich accounts of news production, use of technology, and news consumption. Boczkowski already has a reputation for rigorous scholarship; this book is better than anything he has published to date.”

— Eric Klinenberg, New York University

“In a world of increasing abundance of information and increasing imitation, Pablo Boczkowski offers something different—a novel, parsimonious explanation for why news stories often look the same across many outlets. Using qualitative and quantitative analysis of the workplace worlds of both journalists and readers, he convincingly describes how the Internet can turn breaking news into a homogenized commodity.”

— James Hamilton, Duke University

News at Work is a vivid, inside look at the collision of print journalism and electronic media. Based on close access to the leading news organizations in Buenos Aires, Boczkowski documents how contemporary journalism is caught in the grip of emulation; this spiral of imitation exacerbated further by global news media and their intensifying homogenization. The portrait of this transformation of the news is both fascinating and deeply worrying, and is guaranteed to provoke debate.”

— Walter W. Powell, Stanford University

"News at Work constitutes an exceptionally ambitious study into different dimensions of news, analyzing its priduction processes, the content created, and the consumption patterns. . . . [this] is a rigorous exploration on the dynamics at play between the production, distribution, and use of digital media. . . . [that] enriches scholarship on contemporary news work, and is worth reading for both scholars and practitioners of media management."
— Oscar Westlund, International Journal on Media Management

TABLE OF CONTENTS

List of Figures

List of Tables

Preface

- Pablo J. Boczkowski
DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226062785.003.0001
[news media, print media, news websites, Argentina, homogenization, consumer behavior, consumption, journalists, imitation]
This chapter presents an introduction to print and news media and other alternative platforms for news production and distribution on the Web and citizen media sites. It describes two leading online news organizations of Argentina, Clarín.com and Lanacion.com. It discusses consumption of news at work and what the homogenization of news mean to consumers. The rise of homogenization in the news has led to a state of affairs that neither journalists nor consumers like but feel powerless to alter. This spiral of sameness and powerlessness has important cultural and political implications. It relies on a research design that combines ethnographic and content-analytic studies of the production practices of journalists, the resulting news stories, and how consumers appropriate these stories. Unlike most existing scholarship on imitation, this design overcomes the production-product divide that has dominated the literature and includes data on the consumption of the products of imitative activity. (pages 1 - 14)
This chapter is available at:
    University Press Scholarship Online

- Pablo J. Boczkowski
DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226062785.003.0002
[imitation, news media, media industry, journalism, online news, Argentina, homogenized news, mimicry]
This chapter elaborates on the theoretical, methodological, and contextual issues of imitation in social life. It discusses imitation in work, organizational, and economic activities, with a focus on the media industry and mindful of the potential role of technology. An interdisciplinary framework is developed on imitation that builds on communication studies of pack journalism and the homogenization of news, sociological accounts of inter-organizational mimicry, and economic analyses of herd behavior. Despite the divergent intellectual character of scholarship about these fields, or perhaps precisely because of this divergence, their respective analyses of imitation have complementary strengths and shared limitations. It describes the two top online newspapers of Argentina, Clarín.com and Lanacion.com, their performance during the financial crises and their divergent cultural profiles. In addition, the consumption of homogenized news is discussed. (pages 15 - 33)
This chapter is available at:
    University Press Scholarship Online

- Pablo J. Boczkowski
DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226062785.003.0003
[hard news, soft news, online news, media, communication, public affairs]
This chapter discusses the production of hard and soft news with focus on Clarín.com, an online news portal. The account of Clarín.com shows that there are major differences between the two units devoted to the production of hard and soft news. These differences stand in contrast to a dominant strain in the literature that highlights the existence of shared practices and principles that cut across hard and soft news. This theme emerges in several ways in which scholars blur the boundaries that separate hard and soft news. First, some sociological analyses underscore the political and cultural significance of soft news. Second, political communication scholars address a turn away from hard news and a trend toward a softening in the reporting of hard news. Triggered by such findings, studies have examined the circumstances in which soft-news outlets convey public affairs content. (pages 34 - 57)
This chapter is available at:
    University Press Scholarship Online

- Pablo J. Boczkowski
DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226062785.003.0004
[news production, monitoring, imitation, online news, print media, Clarín, La Nacion, journalists, newsroom]
This chapter examines issues of monitoring and imitation in the online and print newsrooms of Clarín and La Nacion. The analysis reveals a greater intensity and pervasiveness in the monitoring practices and a larger reliance on technology in these practices among journalists who produce hard news than among their soft-news counterparts. It also reveals that journalists who make hard news utilize the information learned through monitoring to imitate other players in the organizational field significantly more than do their colleagues who make soft news. In addition, the account demonstrates that the monitoring and imitation actions of hard-news journalists sometimes acquire different manifestations depending on whether they work in an online or print newsroom. The changing patterns of technological infrastructures and practices also help to illuminate how monitoring and imitation emerge at the intersection of situated practices and contextual structures. (pages 58 - 82)
This chapter is available at:
    University Press Scholarship Online

- Pablo J. Boczkowski
DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226062785.003.0005
[print products, news production, homogenization, print media, online news, imitation]
This chapter discusses homogenization of news products. It reveals the consequences of imitation in journalistic work for the resulting news products. All cases of content overlap in the print newspapers and nearly all in the online newspapers had to do with hard news. This is a clear expression of the divergent logics of hard- and soft-news production and, especially, the much higher prevalence of monitoring and imitation in the former than in the latter. A glance at the main findings regarding content overlap in hard news across the three levels of analysis reveals a homogenization of print products over time and strong evidence for homogeneity of both print and online news in the contemporary context. Further analysis shows the power of the production dynamics to generate substantive field-level effects for the resulting news product outcomes. (pages 83 - 115)
This chapter is available at:
    University Press Scholarship Online

- Pablo J. Boczkowski
DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226062785.003.0006
[online news, digital media, news consumption, workplace, print media]
This chapter focuses on the consumption of online news at work. This consumption is a normal aspect of the daily routines of many workers. It contributes to a displacement of the news consumption habit from traditional to digital media among those who already have that habit and fosters the emergence of such a habit among those who did not have it. Furthermore, the sequence and dynamics of online news consumption at work are marked by the prevalence of the “readable Web.” People are far more focused on obtaining information from news sites than on taking advantage of the “writable Web” through participation in blogs, forums, and other commentary spaces. This depiction of online news consumption at work reveals a tension between continuity and discontinuity in its comparison with news consumption in traditional media. (pages 116 - 140)
This chapter is available at:
    University Press Scholarship Online

- Pablo J. Boczkowski
DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226062785.003.0007
[news media, consumption, consumer behavior, homogenization, journalists]
This chapter analyzes several patterns that mark the consumption of homogenized news. There is a difference between the stories consumers most frequently choose to read and the top stories provided to them by journalists. This difference is expressed by a lower level of content overlap among the stories chosen by consumers than among those provided by journalists. It is also expressed by the divergent story selection thematic patterns between the two groups. Most consumers dislike homogenized news and associate their consumption with a negative affect and this state of affairs tends not to trigger participatory efforts toward social change. Taken together, these patterns create a complex set of dynamics for consumers by pulling them in opposite directions. Though the divergence between consumer and journalistic preferences and the negative assessment of homogenized news among consumers could lead to increased consumer-driven social process. (pages 141 - 170)
This chapter is available at:
    University Press Scholarship Online

- Pablo J. Boczkowski
DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226062785.003.0008
[news media, information resources, news consumption, imitation, social life, journalism, wire services]
This chapter discusses the empirical examination of the production, products, and consumption of news and the dynamics of imitation. It examines a reduction in content diversity with respect to the culture and politics of contemporary social life. The growth in the proportion of generic news content shared across the mainstream media and the growth in the role of third-party providers, such as wire service agencies, that supply this content might drastically narrow the news agenda put forward by these media and concentrate a substantial portion of the power to set this agenda among a handful of players. The analysis presented in this chapter argues that it might be tied to a rise in the prevalence of generic news content and the importance of the wire services providing it. It may also be related to a decrease in the watchdog role traditionally played by news organizations and the concomitant alterations in the balance of power in society. The analysis also highlights the inability of consumer-driven alternatives to reach large segments of the population with a wider and more diverse set of stories. (pages 171 - 186)
This chapter is available at:
    University Press Scholarship Online

Appendix A: Research Design

Appendix B: Supplementary Studies

Notes

Bibliography

Index