Critical media analysis

Installation at the Gallery of Modern Art, Brisbane, Australia, May 2011.1: The Prezicast

Before starting work on this activity, watch the Critical Media Analysis prezicast – follow this link to the online version; the offline version can be retrieved from the course Dropbox. See below for links to some other materials mentioned in, or related to, this prezicast.

2: Interviews, film clips

It should only take a few minutes to have a look at the text of this email interview with a senior news producer at ITN. [Navigation note: following this link will take you into the ‘other’ M&IL resource on the MA: DTCE web site; to try to stop you getting lost it will open in a new window.]

Two clips from the movie Broadcast News are also worth seeing: Alex, the gentleman interviewed in the previous link, reckons this film is a very accurate depiction of what goes on in a TV news room even if the technology is outdated. In the first clip, see how a news anchorman is guided by a team behind the scenes to create the ‘reality’ being depicted on screen; in the second clip, a producer edits a news story literally until the last second.

Svein-Arne Selvik being interviewed at Bergen University College, 27/11/11
Svein-Arne Selvik being interviewed at Bergen University College, 27/11/11

The course Dropbox contains a recording of an hour-long interview I conducted in November 2011 with Svein-Arne Selvik, a former journalist who now works for the University of Bergen in Norway – pictured right. (The first few seconds of the interview were missed but literally it is just me asking him about his background). This is also on the university’s streaming media server. I hope you will find this gentleman as interesting as I did – though be warned, his Norwegian accent is pretty strong.

3: The activity

The activity has two stages. In the first, I ask you to look at these reports on a football match and see the differences between them.

You might think this an obvious example of parochialism and you would be right: nevertheless, it is a useful introduction to the activity. We would probably expect local papers to be biased towards ‘their’ team but it can be a surprise quite how much the two reports can differ, to the extent that if you didn’t know it, you might not even guess that they were reporting on the same game. This is significant, because in the end they were talking about the same events: and therefore, the exercise should illustrate that what appears in a news report is not ‘what really happened’ but one writer’s interpretation of events, presented to a specific audience for specific reasons. Image of a football match

Following this exercise, I want you then to find an example of your own, and see how a particular event, or issue, is covered in two different sources. Pick either two papers, with different political views, or, perhaps, a ‘mainstream’ paper and some alternative source, like a blog, or Indymedia.

Keep notes on this activity: they should appear in your final portfolio.

3: Supplementary material

  • George Orwell’s “Politics and the English Language”. Everyone should read this brilliant essay at least once.
  • “Information Literacy and Noöpolitics”. Written by a rather less prestigious name, but should prove a useful summary of some basic ideas, and plenty of other references. (The full reference is: Whitworth, A. (2011): “Information Literacy and Noöpolitics” in Pope, A. and Walton, G., eds.: Information literacy: Infiltrating the curriculum, challenging minds, Chandos, Oxford.) Also try the Terranova article that I discuss in the paper – to read this you will need to log on via Shibboleth.
  • When thinking about how to introduce the idea of ‘parochialism’ in the press I had in mind the reputed instance in which the sinking of the Titanic was reported in local press as ‘Local man killed in incident at sea’. Interestingly, looking into this further I came across this article which debunks the headline as an urban legend: an example of how easy it is for certain stories to lodge themselves in shared consciousness, even in a quite ‘academic’ way, but have no truth to them.
  • The video ‘Beyond Good and Evil: Children, Media and Violent Times’ is definitely worth six minutes and seventeen seconds of your time.
  • Try this page for a good and brief introduction to Gramsci.
  • Although from 1980, and quite long, this paper is a good illustration of some of the things mentioned in the Prezicast, particularly the way news organisations cover industrial action: Connell, I, (1980) “Television News and the Social Contract” from Hall, Stuart, Culture, media, language pp.139-156, London,: Hutchinson. You will need your university ID to access it.

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Media and Information Literacy by Andrew Whitworth/University of Manchester is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.


  1. Anyone interested in football, and information, may like to take a look at . It basically does what we have to do as regards looking critically at the media, but at a specific event (namely the tax case which has the potential to destroy Rangers FC, a Scottish football team). This might not interest any of you, but it is a great example, for me, of a lone guy exposing the poor coverage of this event in the press. All of his info is well researched.

    • I agree Paul, it’s a very good example. Do you read the magazine, ‘When Saturday Comes’ – an excellent (the only truly excellent) publication about football? They have given good coverage to the site and the case as a whole. It is significant that they remain an independent publication. It’s the same reason why ‘Private Eye’ is often the only publication prepared to publish certain stories that the mainstream media neglect or will not touch.

      • Hi Drew

        Cheers for info about ‘When Saturday Comes’. I’ll need to have a look at it. I’ve never read before; my football info comes from the Guardian Football Podcast, which is brilliant (in my opinion). Don’t know if you listen to that. I subscribed to Private Eye last year, and will do again in the future, which coincided with starting the MA (happy coincidence). No time this year to read it, what with studying and all, but the independence angle is interesting. The Guardian podcast seems to remain impartial, even if the contributors support certain teams, possibly because they are fairly open-minded journalists who admit that they support these teams.

  2. “Flat Earth News” by Nick Davies is recommended reading for an eye-opening account of how the news (in particular UK and US) is manipulated by PR.

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