Digital Currents: How Technology and the Public are Shaping TV News

Digital Currents: How Technology and the Public are Shaping TV News

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By Rena Bivens
University of Toronto Press, Scholarly Publishing Division © 2014
World Rights
336 Pages
ISBN 9781442615861
Published Jan 2014
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ISBN 9781442647770
Published Feb 2014
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ebook (EPUB format)
ISBN 9781442669178
Published Feb 2014
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Social media has irrevocably changed how people consume the news. With the distinction between professional and citizen journalists blurring like never before, Digital Currents illuminates the behind-the-scenes efforts of television newscasters to embrace the public’s participation in news and information gathering and protect the integrity of professional journalism.

Using interviews with more than one hundred journalists from eight networks in Canada and the United Kingdom, Rena Bivens takes the reader inside TV newsrooms to explore how news organisations are responding to the paradigmatic shifts in media and communication practices. The first book to examine the many ways that the public has entered the production of mainstream news, Digital Currents underscores the central importance of media literacy in the age of widespread news sources.

Rena Bivens is a Government of Canada Banting Fellow in the School of Journalism and Communication at Carleton University.


Chapter 1: Digital Media, Cultural Shifts and Television News Production

  • The Public’s Arrival
  • Focus of this Book
  • A Note on Causation: Technologies and Society
  • User-Generated Content and Citizen Journalism
  • Social Networking Services
  • Television News Organizations: The Hierarchical Structure
  • Canada versus the UK
  • General Path and Control Structure of a Television News Item
  • Bulletins, 24-hour News and Convergence
  • Structure of this Book

Chapter 2: Constraining News Production: The View from the 20th Century

  • Evaluating the Literature
  • The Two Phases of Research: An Obsession with Constraints
  • Exposing the Social Construction of News
    • Planning Routines: Relevance of the News Diary
    • The Importance of Logistics
  • Society’s Information Producers
    • The Reign of News Agencies
    • Pre-Packaged PR News
    • The Requirements of Objectivity and Impartiality
    • The Relationship between Objectivity and Sources
    • Official Sources and Production Routines
  • Internal and External Pressures
    • Policy, Routinized Meetings and Editorial Control
    • Incorporating External Pressure into Daily Practice
    • Ensuring Conformity within News Organizations
    • Complexities of the Broadcaster-State Relationship
    • Instances of Direct Government Intervention
  • Shared News Values
    • Images
    • Importance, Interest and Entertainment
    • Size, Proximity and Race
    • Immediacy
  • Considering the Audience
  • Summary

Chapter 3: The Technology - Autonomy-Constraint Model

  • Description of the Model
  • Phases of News Production
  • Autonomy-Constraint Ratio
  • Analysis Using the TAC Model and Ratio
    • Low Autonomy-Constraint Ratio: Transmission Phase – Television
    • Balanced Autonomy-Constraint Ratio: Transmission Phase – Digital Media
    • Balanced Autonomy-Constraint Ratio: Intake/Selection and Assignment Phase
    • Balanced Autonomy-Constraint Ratio: Storywriting Phase
    • High Autonomy-Constraint Ratio: Newsgathering Phase
  • Summary

Chapter 4: Intake Phase – Information Producers and News Flow

  • Established Actors
    • News Agencies
    • Other News Organizations
    • Official Sources and the Public Relations Industry
    • News Bureaus
  • Unconventional Actors
    • News Flow Patterns
    • Development of Public News Production
    • Social Media
    • Breaking News
    • Organizational Changes
    • Credibility and the ‘Bloggers versus Journalists’ Debate
  • Summary

Chapter 5: Selection and Assignment Phase

  • Executive Producers and the Assignment Relationship
    • General Assignment Reporters
    • Beat Reporters: The Parliamentary Correspondent
    • Foreign Correspondents
    • Investigative Journalism
    • Digital News Agency Feeds and Social Networking
  • Inside the Editorial Conference
    • Institution-Driven News
    • Creating Themes and Adding the Personal Element
    • Subjectivity
    • Line-up
    • Retaining Flexibility
  • News Values
    • Images: UGC, Social Media and Digital Graphics
    • Interest and Importance
    • Proximity
    • Immediacy and Being First
    • Complicating Factors: Online News, Social Media and Conglomeration
    • Speed versus Accuracy
    • Immediacy and Being Live
  • Summary

Chapter 6: Newsgathering, Storywriting and Transmission Phases

  • Issues of Control
    • Implicit versus Explicit Control
    • Editorial Control
    • Presenters
    • Packages
    • Lives
    • J-Blogging
    • Social Networking Services
    • Language
    • Top-Down Control
  • Selecting Sources, Challenging Officials and Maintaining Balance
  • Digital Media and Newsgathering
    • Research
    • Locating Sources
    • Resistance versus the New Cohort
  • Newsroom Technologies and Storywriting
    • Non-Linear Editing
    • Server Technology
    • Speed and Cost
    • Improved Workflow
    • Archival Material
  • Transmission and Immediacy
    • Transmitting from the Field
    • Critiques of Live Coverage
    • Social Networking Services
  • Summary

Chapter 7: External Pressures – Audiences, Governments and PR

  • Audiences
    • Judging Audience Needs
    • Linking Immediacy to Audience Expectations
    • Interactivity
  • Complaints
    • Campaigns, Evidence and Blogs
    • Exposuregates and Retaining Credibility
  • Government and PR Pressures
    • Public Relations: The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict
    • Resisting Pressure
    • Lack of Context and History
    • Time Constraints and the Nature of Television
    • Audience Attention Spans
    • Top-Down Pressure
    • Solutions: Go Online?
  • Summary

Chapter 8: Making News: Power, Journalists and the Public

Appendix: List of Interviews


Digital Currents is a fascinating and detailed look at the inner mechanisms of television news production, news organizations, and journalistic labour, as they navigate the many challenges and opportunities of an era of declining budgets, vibrant forms of citizen journalism, and innovative uses of social media.”

Leslie Regan Shade, Faculty of Information, University of Toronto

“A timely reaffirmation of the power and continued relevance of broadcast news in a fast-evolving media ecology. What is particularly impressive about this book is the way that the author looks at how technology impacts many different aspects of the news production process in complex and unexpected ways. Bivens’s work represents a major contribution to the ongoing debate around journalism and new technology.”

Mike Berry, School of Journalism, Media, and Cultural Studies, Cardiff University

‘Rena Bivens offers a commendably clear and robust analysis of the changing processes and structures of news production and dissemination… She has laid a strong foundation for considering the dynamic impact of technology on audiences and our most powerful news medium.’

Richard Sambrook, Digital Journalism August 2014

‘Excellent new book by Carleton University communications scholar Rena Bivens… Digital Currents is like a probing forensic examination of today’s news culture that will be appreciated by media scholars and journalists as well as individuals and groups that want to understand better how the media works.’

Tony Burman, Literary review of Canada, vol 22:05:2014

‘A rich and insightful account of television news today. Rena Bivens’ account of digital media and television news provides meaningful contributions to journalism and communications theory.’

Michael W. Kearney, International Journal of Communication vol 8:2014