Author: Fırat Büyükcoşkun, YOUTHART Media Team Member, Media Trainer
Hegemony of the Reader
News communication process between the newscreator and reader was believed to be a one way communication process. Over time with the development of newsmaking methods and also the increasing sentience among the readers or “target readers” led some scholars to question this idea and consider readers as active instead of passive audiences. In addition to scholars, newscreators started to put audience’s expectations at the center of their business. Audience’s reactions, cultural norms, social conditions are being taken into consideration by the newscreators. Newscreators and newsrooms have been the focal points in hegemonic readings of the media but as Jorgensen demonstrates, “new technologies are challenging the centralization of news work in the physical site of the newsroom.”, (Bird 2010:22). These new technologies are internet and sub-tools that it offers to the audiences and also to newscreators. Creation of the virtual spaces as newsrooms, newspapers, tv channels or even turning the readers into newscreators, these new technologies have changed the understanding of the media, “anthropology of journalism can go beyond an exclusive focus on the factory floors.”, (Bird 2010:22).
Antonio Gramsci created the idea of hegemony to explain how the ruling class elites establish a control over the public and perpetuate it. According to his theory, the main instrument to create a control over the public and hegemony is depending on generating a consent. Consent is different from coercion, it does not include an apparent use of force. As stated in the book Manufacturing Consent by Noam Chomsky, the ruling class uses media to generate public’s consent. Taking the public as an active audience, there we can argue that the consent is generated within the public, as Stuart Allan maintains this consent is produced through the common sense. “Common sense be theorized as the site upon which the hegemonic rules of practical conduct and norms of moral behaviour are reproduced and – cruicially- also challenged and resisted.”, (Allan, 2010). How does the media use this common sense to create news? In her article Myth, Chronicle and Story, Bird takes the statement of Hersey, “The writer of fiction must invent, The journalist must not invent.”, (Berowitz, 1997:333). We can take this statement one step further and say a journalist must not invent, but to adapt. Relying on this statement journalists, eventhough they use a specific methods, formulas of creating stories, must adapt and manufacture the content according as the implied readers’ possible interpretations. The event which is told in the news should create a resonance with the readers as Allan suggests (Allan, 2010) ,” …an event will ‘make sense’ they argue, only to the extent that it can be situated within a range of known social and ‘cultural identifications’ or ‘maps of meaning’ about the social world.”
Bird uses another example from Chibnall (Berowitz, 1997:333) that if we put several different journalists to watch a trial and make a story out of it, in the end we will have them come out with same stories. But if we are to consider their implied readers, this example will surely not work due to the different cultural identifications, social realities that their readers can have, they will produce different stories with different perspectives. As Jorgensen argues (Bird 2010:22) that the media are characterized by their peculiar news cultures and according to him this is shaped by their relationships to their audiences. Following this argument we can say that media is not that seperated from its readers. It does not offer people what they are not aware of nor it educates them. Readers’ expectations are determining the newscontent. Also Gürsel states (Bird 2010:35), “readers’ interpretations is a key factor in decisions.”, then how can we say that the ruling class uses media to generate a consent and establish hegemony over the public? The key factor the media uses is that it does not offer its’ readers ‘new’ things, “it offers more than fact, reassurance and familiarity in shared community experiences”, (Berowitz, 1997). It reproduces what is already there, it ratifies the hierarchy and everyday life, “hegemony constitutes ‘a sense of reality’ “, (Allan, 2010).
As argued in this paper, readers’ are now positioned at the very center of newsmaking, newsreporters, journalists, editors can not make decisions without an anticipation of their implied readers’ possible imaginations and reactions. Even so do they make cultural interpretations, there is a chance that they might fail being accurate. Relying on this we can ask, “Hegemony of the ruling class or hegemony of the readers?”. Since now we have several social media platforms, news are seemed to be changing hands. Despite still having media professionals to produce news for us, it’s more likely for it to change in the future. Now individual readers can produce news and transmit them to other readers instantly. How can one control this process? A question worthy of asking. Audience has started to talk to its’ own.
Allan, S. (2010). News culture. Maidenhead: McGraw-Hill/Open University Press.
Berkowitz, D. (1997). Social meanings of news. Thousand Oaks, Calif.: Sage Publications.
Bird, S. (2010). The anthropology of news & journalism. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.
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