Fichamento: Making News (1978) — Capítulo 5

Esta é mais uma postagem da série de fichamentos/transcrições do livro Making News, de Gaye Tuchman. A primeira parte da série com os capítulos 1 e 2, bem como uma pequena contextualização do porquê a estou fazendo, você pode encontrar aqui. O capítulo 3 foi publicado aqui, e o quarto aqui. A numeração de páginas entre colchetes acompanha imediatamente cada um dos parágrafos; caso um parágrafo não a contenha, é porque a citação abarca também o parágrafo seguinte. Há uma pequena intervenção minha para marcar quando uma citação se prolonga por mais de uma página. Boa leitura!

Referência bibliográfica

TUCHMAN, Gaye. Making News: A Study in the Construction of Reality. Nova York, Londres: The Free Press, 1978.

Chapter 5: The Web of Facticity

“By “facts” I mean pertinent information gathered by professionally validated methods specifying the relationship between what is known in how it is known. Order sort of inquiry, such as philosophy and science, are also concerned with the relationship between phenomena and knowing. But news procedures are neither contemplatively nor geared toward determining essense. Nor are they able to predict axiomatic statements. Unlike more rigorous and reflective approaches to facticity, newswork is a practical activity geared to deadlines. Facts must be quickly identified. But for newsworkers (as for scientists), having witnessed an occurrence is not sufficient to define [P. 82] one’s observation as factual. In science, the problem of facticity is embedded in processes of verification and replication. In news, verification of facts is both a political and a professional accomplishment.” [P. 83]

“In contrast, newsworkers state that finding facts entails demonstrating impartiality by removing one self from a story. Impartiality includes demonstrating that one does everything possible to be accurate so as to maintain credibility and avoid both reprimands from superiors and the omnipresent danger of libel suits.” [P. 83]

“Libel suits, a hazard of the trade, cost money. Although they are relatively rare, when they occur they may place the news organization in financial jeopardy. Equally important, the invocation of libel expresses a concern with the paper’s reputation for maintaining credibility. If libel suits become widely known, they may endanger an organization’s credibility and so potentially decrease sales and profits. The need to maintain credibility explains why most libel suits are settled out of court, even if the news organization believes it could prove its innocence. Additionally, a libel suit disrupts newsroom routine by requiring some staff members to appear in court, thus depleting the news net.” [P. 84]

“”source,” […] a font or point of origin. One may ask how one determines the appropriate point of origin of information — the particular social location that deserves characterization as a source. And how can such sources enable the rapid identification of fact so that deadlines can be met?

Viewing all sources as questionable, news reporters must spend time verifying their statements.” [P. 84]

“Clearly, identifying the appropriate source of information and deciding whether verification is necessary are situationally determined.” [P. 85]

“Rules requiring unimpeachable sources and indentifying those sources are embedded in socially structured understandings of the everyday world and its institutions.” [P. 85]

“Put somewhat differently, to flesh out any one supposed fact one amasses a host of supposed facts that, when taken together, present themselves as both individually and collectively self-validating. Together, they constitute a web of facticity by establishing themselves as cross-reference to one another: A fact justifies the whole (the story is factual), and the whole (all the facts) validates this fact (this particular referent).” [P. 86]

“[…] reporters are engaged in the theoretic activity of making sense of the world by constructing meanings.” [P. 87]

“[…] facts are held necessary to maintain credibility and to meet deadlines.” [P. 87]

“Facts about the powerful are treated with more care than those about the powerless. Rather (1977: 119) recalls covering the death of John Kennedy: “What did I have? Well, I had a doctor at the hospital who said the President was dead. A priest who said, definitely, he was dead. And the hospital’s chief of staff, who had told Eddie Baker [a colleague] he was dead. If you were working the cop shop in Houston, Texas… what you had was a dead man.” But talking to CBS headquarters in New York, Rather had second thoughts about disseminating that news on national radio and television. He continues, “But this [allegedly that man] was the President of the United States… If I had been given, say, two seconds to think about it, if someone had asked, “Do you want us to announce that the President is dead and play the national anthem?” I would have said, woah, better run that past someone else.” [Nota 4, P. 87]

“Taken by itself, a fact has no meaning. Indeed, even “two and two equals four” is factual only within certain mathematical systems or theories. It is the imposition of a frame of other ordered facts that enables recognition of facticity and attribution of meaning.” [P. 88]

“The emphasis on accumulating facts also presupposes that facts can be verified. […] But newsworkers must also cope with nonverifiable facts, facts that could be verified in theory but not in practice — and certainly not in time for deadlines. Dealing with this problem in the approved and [P. 89] professional manner, newsworkers explicitly recognize the mutual embeddedness of fact and source. For rather than recognize a nonverifiable statement as fact, they intermesh fact and source. In the course of accomplishing this copresentation, newsworkers create and control controversies as news.” [P. 90]

“[…] by presenting both truth-claims, the professional [P. 90] reporter theoretically allows the news consumer to decide who is telling the truth. Like doctors who offer a service by telling patients the probable success of different medical options, reporters absolve themselves of responsibility by structuring the alternatives. As previously argued, that necessary framework is implicit in the context of assumed legitimacy.” [P. 91]

“Editors are particularly apt to invoke the distinction between legitimation and quasi legitimation. For instance, during the social ferment of the 1960s editors asked one another, “How many people [P. 91] does that guy represent?” as they purposedly played down coverage of some civil-rights leaders and antiwar groups. […] The editors’ model for determining quasi legitimacy depended upon numerical accretion: the more members, the more legitimate their spokesperson.” [P. 92]

“Most important, in all the time I’ve spent observing reporters and editors, I’ve never heard them challenge the right of an elected or appointed official to make news. Rather, the assumption is that the holder of a legitimate status speaks for the government. All others must demonstrate their relationship to a more amorphous entity — the public.” [P. 92]

“Working distinctions among legitimate newsmakers, quasi-legitimate newsmakers, and the amorphous public imply gradations in whose truth-claims may be reported and framed as fact. Again the power of legitimate sources comes into play.” [P. 92]

Imputing Facts: Located in an institutionalized news net, reporters and editors accumulate experience with complex organizations and interorganizational relationships. On the basis of that experience, identified as the arcane knowledge implicit in news judgment, newsworkers make three generalizations:

  1. Most individuals, as news sources, have an axe to grind. To be believed, an individual must prove his or her reliability as a news source.
  2. Some individuals, such as committee heads, are in a position to know more than other people in an organization. Although they may have an axe to grind, their information is probably more “accurate” because they have more “facts” at their disposal.
  3. Institutions and organizations have procedures designed to protect both the institution and the people who come into contact with it. The significance of the statement or a “no comment” must be addressed according to the newsworker’s knowledge of institutional procedures.

Each generalization emphasizes a key assumption about the organization of newswork and finding facts. The first generalization, proven by reliability of sources, necessarily favors sources met through institutionalized beats. To prove reliability one must at some time have an ongoing contact with reporters. The second generalization, that some sources have more facts than others, draws on the professional assumption that facts are mutually self-validating. The more facts one has access to, the better one’s chances of knowing what is going on. The third generalization, built upon the other two and, additionally, assumes the inherent rectitude of legitimated organizations.

Newsworkers lump these three generalizations together, speaking of how “something makes sense” intuitively.” [P. 93]

The Judicious Use of Quotation Marks: Utimatelly, the use of graded sources who may be quoted as offering truth-claims is converted into a technical device designed to distance the reporter from phenomena identified as facts. Quotations of other people’s opinions are presented to create a web of mutually self-validating facts.” [P. 95]

“Adding more names and quotations as mutually determining facts, the newsworkers may achieve distance from the story by getting others to express desired opinions. For example, the reporters may remove their own opinions from the story by getting others to say what they themselves think.” [P. 95]

“Quotation marks do more than remove the reporter’s voice from a story and signal “This statement belongs to someone other than the reporter.” They also may be used to indicate “so-called”. For instance, in the 1960s the New Left (without quotation marks) was the name of a specific group. The “New Left” (with quotation marks) indicated a group calling itself the New Left; in this case the legitimacy of the group is questioned.” [P. 96]

“A professional’s technical device, quotation marks, made the story factual and protected the reporter from his superiors.” [P. 97]

“Of course, the use of quotation marks is embedded in the news net. It presupposes having a source to quote. Yet just as facts may be nonverifiable, so, too, sources may not produce appropriate quotations. Additionally news organizations may wish to present analyses of the facts, stories sustaining an argument independent of an interlocking web of mutually validating facts. The bureaucratic dispersion of newsworkers through time and space, formalize it as a feature of the news product, permits explicitly interpretive analysis to be accomplished.” [P. 97]

“The dispersion of reporters by territory, institucional specialization, and topic is formalized in the division of a newspaper or newscast. A newspaper is divided into sections and pages. Its first pages contain factual (objective) general stories potentially drawing from anywhere and everywhere in the news net. Specialized topical subjects, such as sports, women’s, and financial news, appears on clearly delineated pages placed together in separate sections. General stories in which the reporter standa as the source of facts are placed on [P. 97] either the editorial or the “op ed” page (the page opposite the editorial page). On newspapers there are only two exceptions to this rule. One is the soft-news feature story explicitly immune from the professional requirement of presentation through a web of facticity. On some newspapers the feature story is only a partial exception. […] The other exception is the “news analysis” that may be published on the general pages, if accompanied by the distinct formal label “news analysis”.” [P. 98]

“Television news shows contain similar formal distinctions. Local news shows schedule specific time slots for sports and weather. […] Nacional telecasts also use timing as a formal device. For instance, the evening news (like some local programs) frequently end with a “kicker,” a feature story designed to keep the audience smiling. […] Special labels may identify stories in which the reporter is presented as the source.” [P. 98]

“Just as quotation marks theoretically establish a distance between the reporter and a story, signaling that the materials enclosed may be problematic, the label “news analysis” indicates that the material neither represents the opinions of the management or is necessarily “true”. The presentation is the reporter’s interpretation of the “facts”. Readers or viewers should trust and accept the reporter’s information according to their assessment of his or her qualifications and attitudes, as revealed in the reporter’s general work and previous news analyses. Labeling some items as other than “objective facts” also reinforces the claim that most stories present facts, for it signals, “This news organization is seriously concerned with distinctions between factual and interpretive materials.”” [P. 99]

“As with the distinction between hard and soft news, newsworkers find it difficult to distinguish between fact and interpretation.” [P. 99]

“It is not surprising that newsworkers found the “intuitively obvious” distinction between fact and value judgment difficult to explain. First, facing the problem means considering how much all identification of facts is embedded in specific understandings of the everyday world. As we have seen, those understandings presupposes the legitimacy of existing institutions and are the basis of the news net. To examine the distinction between fact and value judgment, then, is to be willing to examine seriously the indexical and reflexive nature of news as knowledge. It is to acknowledge that news frames strips of everyday occurrences and is not a mere mirror of events. […] [P. 99] It is also to cast aside the identification of news as a crusade for truth.

Second, examining the distinction between fact and value judgments challenges existing professional techniques for telling stories. Those techniques simultaneously confirm the existence of a distinction and enable a of distinction to be made. Newsworkers identify facts with hard news and one mode of storytelling. They associate soft news with quite a different mode.” [P. 100]

“The stories may also be viewed as formal narratives. Although popular culture uses “narrative” to refer to a fictional account, any story is necessarily a narrative exposition as it structures items and has a beginning, middle, and end.” [Nota 18, P. 100]

“The soft-news genre, nonscheduled news, is presented in a more varied narrative, divorced from the lead-documentation structure. The lead sentence made turn on a twist of words. It may back into a story by presenting an unattributed quotation or generalization that is subsequently specified. The article may have a surprise ending, like a short story by Edgar Allan Poe. It may attribute motivation or human qualities two animals and inanimate objects. It may parody. It may move from one narrator to another, building suspension and leading to a denouement. In short, eschewing the mode of lead documentation, the mode of facticity, such an article may be difficult to edit. These pieces are often removed from the routines associated with deadline journalism and demand nonscheduled editorial care. Significantly, because feature stories evoke a different mode of narration, they are set to require special professional skills, particularly a light touch as opposed to the heavy hand of amassed facts. [P. 101]

“The notion of different modes of narrative serves as a method of guiding reporters to locate appropriate facts. Questions to be [P. 101] asked are contained in the form of presentation.” [P. 102]

“As known story forms (lead-documentation) demanding facts and sources, “the fire,” “the trial,” “the political convention,” “the lost child,” “the death of the president” reduce the idiosyncrasy of occurrences as news. Accepted as professional tools and extensions of news typifications, the different approaches to set story forms may, of course, lead the reporter to the wrong conclusions, and so hamper coverage.” [P. 103]

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