Engaging with news production and journalism education

Submitting Institution

Leeds Trinity University

Unit of Assessment

Communication, Cultural and Media Studies, Library and Information Management 

Summary Impact Type


Research Subject Area(s)

Studies In Human Society: Sociology
Studies In Creative Arts and Writing: Journalism and Professional Writing
Language, Communication and Culture: Cultural Studies

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Summary of the impact

Underpinned by O'Neill's research on News Values and news selection, and how these favour reporting on a limited range of subjects, this impact encompasses critically contributing to debates on journalist's practices as well as influencing the ethics and methods of journalists. This case study incorporates impact on the design and delivery of Journalism education, across Further and Higher Education, which also influences new entrants into the profession. This further aligns with impact on contributing to debates about press practices and regulation (newspapers). More diffusely this includes impact on wider public discourses, involving the press, journalists, policy makers and regulators, particularly following the Leveson report.

Underpinning research

The underpinning research for this case study is focused on journalists' practices of news selection, values and use of sources — particularly derived from Deirdre O'Neill's (Associate Principal Lecturer in Journalism, 1996 — present) continuing research on News values, as well as evidence of the `Passive journalist' associated with increased demands on local newspaper journalists and so-called `churnalism'. O'Neill's research engages with broader shifts and contexts for news selection and treatment, of the commercial imperatives within newspaper journalism, issues of power and exclusion in relation to news provision, and complex changes affecting news production, including those resulting from technological change, ownership, workloads and conditions, and the interrelationship of these.

Providing the initial basis for this, O'Neill's co-authored journal article with Tony Harcup, University of Sheffield (since 2005, previously Leeds Trinity), `What is News? Galtung and Ruge Revisited', has been further developed with their co-authored revision of this research which analysed scholarly and practitioner accounts of news selection. Both the original article and subsequent revision updated a canonical piece of journalism research and theoretical framework on the basis of a study of British newspapers. They identified divergences from the news values proposed by Galtung and Ruge, as well as other unexpected findings such as the prevalence of `good news', and established a revised set of news values to better account for contemporary British news production.

O'Neill further explored news values, access and sources in relation to industrial relations and Journalism-union relations in research carried out in 2005 concerning coverage of the 2002-3 Fire Brigades Union dispute. This provided insights into news values that marginalize or exclude certain viewpoints, and hence curtail or constrain access to press coverage for unions.

O'Neill carried out joint research with Samantha Lay (University of Salford) (at that time University of Bedfordshire) concerning Regional Television News, that again expanded on the frames and focus of local news, but applied to local Public Service/BBC broadcast journalism and considering how this compared to audience expectations and preferences for kinds of news. They analysed local news programmes between December 2008 and February 2009. O'Neill followed this by undertaking focus groups in May and June, and they also interviewed local news producers in June 2009. Key insights of the research outlined the challenges and changes facing regional television journalists, contexts and drivers for change, and the disparity between audience expectations of local news and the programmes themselves.

Additionally, O'Neill has undertaken research as lead researcher with Catherine O'Connor (Head of Centre for Journalism, Leeds Trinity University) in February 2007 analysing news stories in local newspapers (four West Yorkshire papers, representative of the main national newspaper chains and patterns of ownership). This demonstrated the reliance on single news sources by `passive' journalists, within the context of changing journalistic practices and time constraints that have been described as `churnalism'.

References to the research

O'Neill, D. and Harcup, T. (2008). News Values and Selectivity, in Karin Wahl-Jorgensen and Thomas Hanitzsch (eds.) The Handbook of Journalism Studies. London: Routledge. REF entry.

Harcup, T. and O'Neill, D. (2001). What is News? Galtung and Ruge Revisited. Journalism Studies, Vol. 2, No. 2, pp. 261-280, DOI:10.1080/14616700118449. This article has been widely disseminated within higher and further education of journalism, and is consistently one of the most accessed articles from Journalism Studies.
(http://www.tandfonline.com/action/showMostReadArticles?journalCode=rjos20 i.e. 7 February 2013 with 4531 views; and also most cited:


O'Neill, D. (2012). No Cause for Celebration: Celebrity News Values in the British Quality Press, Journalism Education 1 (2) (November) (pp. 26-44). REF entry. Peer reviewed journal article.

Lay, S. and O'Neill, D. (2011). Regional Television News, in David Hutchison and Hugh O'Donnell (eds.) Centres and Peripheries: Metropolitan and Non-Metropolitan Journalism in the Twenty-First Century. Cambridge: Cambridge Scholar Publishing. ISBN: 978-1-4438-2671-6
This book was favourably reviewed in Media Culture and Society (2012) by Robert Beveridge vol. 34 (6): pp. 787-788 who cites this chapter in relation to the problems facing funding of quality news.

O'Neill, D. and O'Connor, C. (2008). The Passive Journalist: How sources dominate the local news, Journalism Practice, 2 (3), pp. 487-500. DOI:10.1080/17512780802281248. REF entry. This has been referenced widely in authoritative monographs, anthologies and textbooks for journalism education as outlined in section 4.


O'Neill, D. (2007). From Hunky Heroes to Dangerous Dinosaurs: Journalism-union relations, news access and press coverage in the 2002-3 British Fire Brigades Union dispute, Journalism Studies, Vol. 8, No. 5, pp.813-830. DOI: 10.1080/14616700701504781. Peer reviewed journal article.


Details of the impact

Much of the impact of O'Neill's research develops from the continuing, but diffuse impact concerning news values, in relation to both Journalism education and wider public discourses around news media diversity. Both the original article `What is News? Galtung and Ruge Revisited' and more recent development of news values in `News Values and Selectivity', have been adopted widely by journalism educators in Higher Education Institutions, and within further education/sixth form both nationally and internationally, as well as referenced by further resources and research including outside Higher Education. The International Collaborative Dictionary of Communications (ICDC), a commons-based, peer-produced resource compiled by American academics for use in teaching and research, notes both these articles in its entry on News Values. The earlier article has been used for learning activities for A2 Media studies in the textbook Antony Bateman, Peter Bennett, Sarah Casey Benyahia and Jacqui Shirley (2010) A2 Media Studies: The Essential Introduction for AQA, Routledge and its accompanying web learning resources. This evidences an increased coverage of News Values in A level textbooks, enhanced by the currency and saliency to the British context of O'Neill and Harcup's article.

The chapter on News Values and selectivity has continued the impact within Higher Education Institutions, being essential or core reading for undergraduate and MA journalism courses at seven or more UK universities. Similarly her `No Cause for Celebration' is recommended for journalism students at two English universities.

O'Neill's co-authored `The Passive Journalist', with Catherine O'Connor (Leeds Trinity University) prompted debate within the professional journals The Press Gazette and online professional resource Hold the Front Page in 2007, prior to publication, but this in turn led to further impact within the REF assessment period through being further referenced in a number of books and articles on journalism practices, both aimed at students but also professional journalists. These include Hugo De Burgh and Paul Bradshaw (2008) Investigative Journalism, Routledge, a book aimed at journalism students, p. 99 which references The Press Gazette article; and as evidencing the reliance on single sources and influence of public relations in Bob Franklin (2010) Journalists, Sources, and Credibility: New Perspectives, p. 52, p. 95, p140. Furthermore it is discussed in Peter Cole and Tony Harcup (2009) Newspaper Journalism, Sage p.119, a book recommended for journalism students and practitioners. The article was also cited as evidence of reliance on single (press release) sources in Angela Phillips (2010) `Transparency and the new ethics of journalism', Journalism Practice 4 (3), pp. 373-382, which was submitted to the Leveson inquiry.
http://www.levesoninquiry.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/Exhibit-JC17.pdf Within higher education, this article is an essential text in the module `Understanding Journalism Studies' at Cardiff University, and has also fed into the delivery of the module `Writing for Newspapers', used within a weekly blog task, also at Cardiff University. Hence the findings of this research on reliance on single sources in local newspaper journalism achieved direct and potential secondary impact on journalism education, journalism students and practitioners, and contributed to the wider debates about press practices and regulation.

O'Neill and Lay's research on Regional Television News contributed to public debate about the future of regional television, highlighting interrelated changes in technology and funding as `techonomics'. This was initially disseminated through the Future of Journalism Conference (2009) and Peripheries and Regions Conference that involved practitioners (newspaper, broadcast and online journalism) as well as academics.

O'Neill's consideration of news values in relation to press representations of union and industrial relations, `From Hunky Heroes to Dangerous Dinosaurs', was acknowledged by the Acas Research Paper `Trade Union Officers and Collective Conciliation'. This suggested that understanding of how news values constrain access to news could be better understood by union officials, particularly in respect of press and public relations. O'Neill advocated using human interest values to promote the interests of union members. This evidences the reach of this research amongst Industrial Relations specialists and its intended dissemination amongst union personnel.

Sources to corroborate the impact

Acas Research Paper. Edmund Heery and David Nash (2011) `Trade Union Officers and Collective Conciliation: A Secondary Analysis' Ref. 10/11 ISBN: 978-1-908370=05-1 Available at:
http://www.acas.org.uk/media/pdf/g/5/1011_TU_officers_and-collective-accessible-version-Apr- 2012.pdf

Media Studies A2 The Essential Introduction Student Resources publishers online resources supplementing Antony Bateman, Peter Bennett, Sarah Casey Benyahia and Jacqui Shirley (2010) A2 Media Studies: The Essential Introduction for AQA, Routledge.

Braun, J. A. `News Values', International Collaborative Dictionary of Communications Keywords.

Evidence of O'Neill's work adopted by other HEIs (list not exhaustive):