Mass Communication and Society Share your research.

What is news?

Mass Communication and Society

This gripping question that sociologist Herbert Gans first asked in his seminal 1979 book, Deciding What's News, is now more relevant than ever. The concept of mass communication has changed significantly since Dr. Gans conducted his ethnography of newsrooms to discover how producers of news define and select news that is communicated via mass media. In many ways, the traditional newsroom doesn't even exist anymore. Moreover, our mass communication theories for explaining peoples' perceptions of news and their understandings of it have grown considerably since the 1970s.

The aim of this special issue is to build upon traditional approaches to operationalizing and understanding mass media’s role in defining, shaping, and amplifying news – as well as peoples' perceptions of news. This special issue will be published in early 2020 as part of Volume 23. The deadline for paper submission will be May 1, 2019.

This topic captures the scope, breadth, and depth that Mass Communication and Society seeks to accomplish – but also enables scholars across multiple sub-disciplines to share their particular perspective and expertise. We invite scholars around the world to employ quantitative, qualitative, and mixed formal research methods.

Here are just a few of the contexts and outcomes impacting ways to consider perceptions of "news," what "news" is, and what "being newsworthy" means that we invite researchers to consider in preparing manuscripts for the Special Issue:

  • Perceptions of and trust in news in the U.S. and beyond
  • Just what is "fake" and what is "real" in/about news – and why it matters
  • Methods for identifying, coding, and analyzing "fake" news
  • Theoretical development and building around a new era of news; do the old theories (framing, agenda setting, priming) still apply?
  • Attacks on First Amendment freedom of free speech and how this plays out in deciding what is news and building trust among news audiences
  • How use of AI, bots, virtual reality, etc. are used in news production and how these technologies have altered ways we think of news today and for the future
  • How issues are framed as media organizations everywhere are looking for new and better ways to engage with publics
  • How media are used for communicating news, e.g., – new vs. old, predictions for the future
  • How early advice to "be the news" plays out today with regard to advocacy, social media, and more
  • Ways that audiences decide what's news for themselves and ultimately assimilate news (or not)
  • Ongoing changes and shifts in news production industries based on economics, politics and ways this has altered how to think about what news is or should be
  • Debates about how internet access, net neutrality, and the idea that the internet is a "human right" impacts news
  • How the current political climate shapes important science and public health news, such as climate change, endangered species, health/medical issues and developments, etc.
  • News and continued use of stereotyping in news about and by women, ethnic and other groups defined by social identity intersectionalities

Complex problems and opportunities associated with perceptions and definitions of "news" require interdisciplinary, creative approaches. MC&S, a highly-ranked SSCI journal, offers a perfect forum for inspiring new conversations and advancing research about "news." Mass communication has changed significantly since Gans conducted newsroom ethnographies to discover how news is decided – and our technologies and theories have grown considerably since 1979. With "fake news" bandied about, we invite scholars to build upon traditional approaches for understanding mass media’s role in defining and amplifying news and perceptions of it.

A wide range of manuscripts using varied research methods and theoretical frameworks is welcomed. Encouraged are empirical studies which bear on the issues described above. Submit only original manuscripts that are not under consideration with other journals or books.

Deadline for Submissions

Manuscripts are to be submitted by May 1, 2019, via the Mass Communication & Society online system following the standard journal submission procedures, APA style. Authors should note in their cover letters that the submission is for the special issue devoted to “What IS news?” Final publication will be in Volume 23 (2020). Any questions concerning this call for papers may be directed to Donnalyn Pompper, pompper@uoregon.edu or Lindsay Hoffman, lindsayh@udel.edu. (Please do not send us your manuscript as an email attachment).

Editorial information

  • Guest Editor: Donnalyn Pompper, University of Oregon
  • Guest Editor: Lindsay Hoffman, University of Delaware