The Sun headline The Guardian headline

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I will be assessing and exploring the differences and similarities between the tabloid and broadsheet formats that are The Sun (appendicle 1) and The Guardian (appendicle 2), (sport supplement), on the coverage of Colin Jackson’s exit from athletic competition on the final day at the World Indoor Championship at Birmingham. To help discover what factors will determine how much news coverage of this story will go into these two media formats, there is a list of aims that have been set below to show how I intend on gaining relevant information to aid the construction of the above question.


* Attach relevance to the study of the 12 suggested news values by Galtang and Ruge that effect editorial decisions in the selecting and construction a news page

* Analyse the semiotics behind the text in the two formats and find out what messages are intended to reach the readership.

* To apply and evaluate the relevant theories and ideologies that help make sense of the process of page making (layout and design) for a particular readership including the behavioral approach and how they are relevant to tabloids and broadsheet press.

Comparing the two formats the coverage of this story seem to have had both devoted substantial coverage for the day, in contrast to other stories excluding the topic of the 2nd Gulf war. So we ask who is it that controls the layout assigned to sports coverage which determines what is and what is not newsworthy, and this is answered by the following quote “The sports editor controls page planning, sub-editing and production. /Sports is usually given a bigger proportion of total editorial space in national dailies and Sundays than in local papers, due mainly to its greater catchment area and the use of sports coverage to promote circulation in edition areas.” (Hodgson, F. W. 1996, p44-45).

Both items in The Sun & The Guardian set space to provide a testament to the remembrance of the local and national hero who is still a world class athlete wearing his British team vest. So we begin to look at news values that the two Norwegian sociologists Galtang and Ruge have made a paradigm of for some journalists that have relevance to this story, and look at how the values of may have helped this event to secure it’s layout. Well the frequency of this event is once every two years and so being a world event this should rank highly in anybody’s editorial policy, given the rarity of the availability to witness this event regularly. Plus as this was Colin Jackson’s last competitive championship, this adds to the storyline and the frequency of this happening for an individual can only be once as he no longer wishes to grace us with his athletic talent and being a national icon within the athletic community (people who witness or take part in such events) this must for some people seem an important episode to the dearly loved personality’s career.

Now adding further reference to the study of Galtang and Ruge they go on to mention the threshold and size of an event which would also contribute to the editorial decision made when contemplating the importance of the amount of coverage that will be devoted to it’s

final stage of page planning and whether or not it will be a headliner or a subhead (a secondary headline). In looking a both appendices we can see that even though the background within the photoset is unfocused we can see that it seems to be filled with people who are the audience and helped to create a total capacity crowd of approximately 10,000. Which helps to implicate the potential interest within this competition, with the coverage this event gets through media mediums.

Meaningfulness is another news value according Galtang and Ruge relating to the cultural background of a story a how it may relate to the press’ news gathers and readership. This notion has a direct link with this event. In looking at the text within The Guardian it shows a quote from the man in question Colin Jackson who said “It’s a shame I couldn’t manage a medal, running in a world championships on home turf,” (The Guardian Sport supplement, March 17 2003, p14), this shows that Colin Jackson finds the Birmingham stadium to be home even though he is a Welshman he must see Britain as a whole to be where his heart is.

The idea that a person can maintain a constantly high level of fitness to compete and represent their country for over 18 years is an inspirational one, and seen as both The Sun & The Guardian are British newspapers, this would help the story gain priority within the page make-up as it would seem to help promote their national identity.

Another notion that we can see to be relevant within this story only seems to tie in with The Sun newspapers format and that is negativity (bad news is good news) as a news value as the second sentence tries to do by adding a ‘but’ after commending the athlete on an exception career as written “But Colin Jackson’s dream of finishing a World Indoor Champion in front of a Birmingham crowd was not to be”, implying that his high aspirations were crushed so not particularly good news.

One of the reasons why I purchased both news formats for this exploration into what makes an event newsworthy was because I knew this story of Colin Jackson’s (final race had to be covered as this event was too good to miss out on and even I knew that the World indoor athletic championships would stage his final run, as well as many others. This would coincide with the notion known as consonance which would explain this as would this quote for a definition for this ideological news value, “The predictability of, or desire for, an event. If the media expect something to happen, then it will.” (Hartley, John 1982, p77).

The name Colin Jackson in its self is a name that is well known and according to the notion posed by Galtang and Ruge this would class him as an elite person and would in theory make the story far more enjoyable for a reader than if the sports person was unknown. Plus Colin was not the only sporting celebrity mentioned under this head-line, The Sun unlike the broadsheet mentioned are at least 12 other competitors and only 22 sentences are dedicated to Colin Jackson (the headliner).

Both papers thought it was worth reporting this event though the similarity of the size of the reports should be put into comparison to the size of both the two newspapers coverage capabilities as mentioned in the following quote “The tabloid page area is approximately half that of broadsheet.” (Hodgson, F.W. Modern Newspaper Practice, 1996, Focal Press: Oxford) The Guardian has given about 1 1/2 pages of textsize continuing as a turnhead to this subject which suggests that it was seen as highly important, but primarily for a specialised sub-section of it’s readership.

This shows that this event within the broadsheet has a higher threshold as The Guardian uses the extra space within their format to broaden the reporting of this event to include some added contextual elements (more descriptive and atmospheric as well as more quotations) Where as The Sun has only dedicated 4/5 of the page (The Sun, March 17 2003) using the subject of Colin Jackson’s exit to renose further highly personalized human interest stories which to the tabloid would seem to make prime reading Whilst The Guardian like all broadsheets has separate sections for sport, art reviews etc. so there should be no comparison of the quality of detailed coverage when it comes to personal celebrity column headlines.

For instance The Guardian gives a more photographic and iconic image of the celebrity within the broadsheet text also helping to set an atmospheric setting by mentioning him to be “eternally smiling / an inch or two thicker around the waist now than on that historic day in Stuttgart, almost 10 years ago, / but even at 36 that face and head still look shaped to cut the wind.” (The Guardian, March 17 2003)

So in seeing that both newspapers have included photosets with only Colin Jackson in focus this needs a semiotic analysis for an explanation for the reason why these photos

were chosen to feature within the page layout without any other competitors within the competition.

The signifier within these inserts both capture Colin in elation to have completed his career without injury, having just competed with raised arms and a smile whilst in his British team vest. So how do we read this photoset and what does it connote about human achievement and cultural identity? The signified could be seen as an iconic sign (based upon resemblance or its denotation) maybe that he is waving goodbye to the crowd and the sport as well as the press and photo journalists after a career that has seen great support from his audience (British supporters, also namely the readership of British national newspapers).

So with this in mind the coverage of this British icon should help to improve the circulation and media press market for sells of their daily news formats, proving to be a truly newsworthy piece to be selected for representation, clearly showing the distinguishing feature of this story being its human interest and sporting celebrity focus, yet in looking at the varied coverage over both news formats it seems to be more appropriate for the demographics of the broadsheet as the news report (as mentioned earlier) has a higher focus on the ‘headliner’. However this still does not explain the downgrading of this story within the tabloid paper.

We can deduce from this spread of coverage that on this day the news judgement made by both news publications editorial divisions about this story seems to be close to universal in topic, showing that the closer we are to major home news stories the lesser the diversity of the news judgement.

Plus the similarities out weigh the differences, as this event has been defined as British or ‘wedom’ showing a relatively high degree of consensus on this story. Also this approach of thinking on the journalists behalf is often referred to as the ‘Mass Society thesis’, which has little to do with the study of ‘real’ audiences focusing on a more quantitative approach in measurement when a more qualitative view such as the behaviorist theoretical approach in analyzing readership which may prove to be more informative in construction when analyzing what makes an event newsworthy, such as the study of B.F. Skinner. As well as being a theoretical approach to assessing the news values of these dailies, we can also assume the following about the story covered, “representations of national identity / unspoken assumptions they hold about their readers’ sense of ‘patriotism'” (Allan, Stuart. (2002) Issues in Cultural and Media Studies: News Culture Chapter 7, p179-180).

In conclusion to the posed question “Analyse what makes an event newsworthy” in short the selection and editorial decision of news events is not a reflex action to ideologies and theories laid out by academics in this field, but is the socially determined construction of reality and suggests that journalistic choices are intentional and not just the effects of

certain so called news values. Although they may help to gain an idea of structure.

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