News Stories vs. News Blogs || A Content Analysis

News stories and news blogs differ from one another in various ways. The most obvious variation between the two is the way information is presented to readers. News stories are based on factual information and hold no bias (well, idealistically they’re not supposed to). News blogs, on the other hand, reflect a completely opposite purpose– a blog is, by definition, “a Web site that contains an online personal journal with reflections (and) comments… provided by the writer.”

So, let’s take a look at two articles about the same topic to illustrate these differences. One is a news story, the other a blog post. Both were taken from FOXNews.com on September 13, 2010.

IN THE BLUE CORNER…

A news article titled “Boehner May Vote for Some Tax Hikes, but Many in Senate Not Willing to Limit Cuts” by Fox News’ Trish Turner and Chad Pergram.

IN THE RED CORNER…

A blog entry titled “President Obama should be embarrassed about this,” written by Greta Van Susteren, host of the prime-time news and interview program, “On the Record with Greta Van Susteren.”

Part I. Our brawl begins…

As mentioned previously, news articles can only draw on facts. They’re no allowed to show bias or shed light on personal opinion. To support the facts, articles must have quotable sources. This is a universally known and accepted trait of news articles. “Boehner May Vote for Some Tax Hikes, but Many in Senate Not Willing to Limit Cuts” quotes multiple sources to support its story. For instance, Turner and Pergram write:

“That didn’t stop White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs from tweeting the suggestion that Republicans can’t agree among themselves.”

To support this statement, they pulled a quote from Gibbs’ Twitter.

“Disarray = Boehner vs Cantor, Boehner vs McConnell & McConnell vs McConnell – why hold middle class tax cuts hostage to these disagreements,” Gibbs tweeted, adding House Minority Whip Eric Cantor, R-Va., into the mix.

News stories also follow a specific format. They typically are outlined in inverted pyramid style.

As this illustration depicts, crucial information is presented in the beginning of the article. As the story progresses, the content should become less imminent.

Articles can begin in one of two ways, with a hard-lead or soft-lead. A hard-lead immediately introduces the who, what, when, where, why and how of the story. These leads are used most often with pressing, important issues. The soft-lead approach is usually reserved for feature articles and soft news stories. This lead introduces an article in a creative, less immediate fashion and is typically followed by a nut-graph, or a brief summation of the story’s facts.

Politics is a very serious subject, especially when related to the President and policy. It’s safe to assume our article takes a hard-lead approach. Let’s look closer, though. The article begins with:

House Minority Leader John Boehner may have opened a window to a compromise with the Obama administration on Bush-era tax cuts, but no such deal is in the works in the Senate, where the only thing bipartisan about tax hikes is opposition to it.

If tax cuts for singles earning more than $200,000 and couples making over $250,000 a year are allowed to expire at the end of this year, the rate for high-income earners will increase from 35 percent to 39.6 percent.

It looks like we were right. The text outlined in bold above references the hard news lead components that were found in this story’s introduction.

  • WHO || House Minority Leader John Boehner
  • WHAT || opened a window to a compromise with the Obama administration on Bush-era tax cuts
  • WHERE || House & Senate (Washington DC)
  • WHY || If tax cuts for singles earning more than $200,000 and couples making over $250,000 a year are allowed to expire at the end of this year, the rate for high-income earners will increase from 35 percent to 39.6 percent.

What our inverted pyramid illustration above doesn’t define is the tip of the triangle, or the article’s conclusion. It is usually said that a news article should end with either new information alluding to a possible future outcome or conclude with a quote.

This news article ends with new information otherwise not presented earlier in the article. Turner and Pergram introduce the opinion of prominent Republicans to shed light on the issue.

Camp was joined by two other Republicans, Appropriations Committee Vice Chairman Rep. Jerry Lewis of California and Budget Committee ranking member Paul Ryan in calling on their respective committee chairmen to agree to those two requests to avoid votes during a lame duck session that would result in a bloated budget.

Part II. Our fight continues with the…

A blog is completely different from a news story. There are almost no rules to a blog– anything goes. Completely biased opinion, poorly formatted sentences, bad spelling and punctuation are all fair game in the world of the web-blog.

Since Van Susteren’s entry is so short, let’s go ahead and take a look at it in its entirety:

What is wrong with President Obama and his staff? He gets what he wants and then the first thing he (and / or his staff) does is insult. Go figure.  Bully? or Leader?  Is that really the way to govern?

Republican Leader Boehner says he may vote for extension of the Bush tax cuts that exclude the wealthy (which is what President Obama wants) and what does the White House do?   The FIRST THING the White House does in response to this news is go on attack.  (See below.)

I thought President Obama was looking for help for his policies and seeking bipartisanship — instead he is escalating the war with the Republicans.  This was so dumb to do (see below.)  He should have embraced the opportunity for agreement.  Is this about leading or winning?

When will President Obama learn that leadership is different from campaigning?

It is immediately evident this is an entirely different creature from the news article. There is no inverted pyramid formatting at all; in fact, there isn’t even an introduction. Van Susteren assumes her readers understand what she is referencing, which they may or may not.

She also writes in blue-colored, italic font. Even though blog writers are allowed to format their print however they please, blue is usually reserved for links, and italics are typically only incorporated to incite emphasis. Van Susteren may want to consider these truths when writing her opinions.

Speaking of opinion, this entry perfectly illustrates our point made earlier. It is painstakingly obvious that Van Susteren’s blog post is completely based on opinion. There are no supporting quotes to illustrate her arguments and her viewpoints are very biased.

She calls President Obama “dumb” and a “bully,” showing a lack of professionalism within her opinions– something that would not fly whatsoever in the traditional newsroom. This style is fair-game for the blog, though.

Both blogs and news stories incorporate the use of comments. This Web 2.0 feature allows users to interact with the author(s) and other readers.

In our news story, there were 250 comments. Most of them hold arguments for or against a tax cut extension and contain thought-out arguments and sentences. This is probably due to the fact that the news article is formatted more traditionally and presents its arguments in a clear, unbiased fashion. Readers are likely more inclined to also bring a mutual sense or professionalism in this environment.

For the most part, our blog story’s 553 comments don’t exactly follow this same model. They largely mirror the style that Van Susteren exemplifies in her writing– a lack of professionalism, incomplete thoughts and sentences, and opinionated low-blows.

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  1. You’ve chosen a great example, particularly FoxNews, which is constantly challenged on whether it lives up to its “fair and balanced” moniker. Good use of screen shots, block quotes and links.

  1. September 19th, 2010

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