The Impact of Newsroom Philosophy
on Story Ideation and Story Narration


Lee B. Becker, Tudor Vlad, Amy Jo Coffey, Lisa Hebert, Nancy Nusser and Noah Arceneaux


Research has shown that television news operations differentiate their product to strive to succeed in a competitive market. Stations use more or fewer soft news stories, for example, as a way of distinguishing their offering from that of other stations. Such product differentiation is often achieved through a creative process called branding, which consists of the development and maintenance of sets of product attributes and values appealing to customers.

At the core of branding often is what news professionals refer to as “news philosophy,” namely the organization’s general approach to the news product. Organizations make decisions to reflect some aspects of their communities and reject others, to provide a mix of news that is more serious or more entertaining, to downplay or play up news of conflict and news about crime. These decisions are market driven, for they are used to differentiate competitive news products. In radio and television, where competition is great, organizations opt for different news philosophies and then promote those differences, i.e., brand their products accordingly.

This paper argues that news philosophy is the key concept behind primitive distinctions between media types. In other words, television news operations generally differ from radio news operations, which differ from newspapers, fundamentally in terms of news philosophy, or the approach to news product. The news philosophy differences are the result of market forces and are more important theoretically than the rather obvious differences between media in terms of delivery technology. A radio station with a particular news philosophy would be more like a television station with that same philosophy in terms of key news production characteristics than it would like another radio station with a different news philosophy.

The paper examines whether news philosophy has impact on two key activities of journalists, story ideation and story narration. Before journalists produce stories, they must produce story ideas. Research shows that journalists actively talk about story ideas, discuss their potential as news stories, and lobby for them in newsroom discussions. News philosophy should shape the ideation process.

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