Spots news coverage and changing news routines in the context of police digital communications in Hong Kong

TitleSpots news coverage and changing news routines in the context of police digital communications in Hong Kong
Publication TypeConference Paper
Author(s)Cheung, M. M. - F., and T. C. Wong
Affiliation (1st Author)Department of Journalism and Communication Hang Seng Management College
Section or WGJournalism Research and Education Section
DateWed 26 June
Slot CodeJRE W2b
Slot Code (Keyword)JRE W2b
Time of Session9:00-10:30
RoomHG10
Session TitleNew Business Settings and New Journalism Challenges Theme III: Professional Journalism
Submission ID5758
Abstract

Traditionally, spot news reporters play the primary gatekeeping role in spot news discovery and gathering even though there has been a tendency of relying on official sources. Yet, journalists have faced challenges as police forces in different regions have switched to use digital radio communications. The technological switch has stopped reporters from scanning police communications and has drawn overwhelming responses from the news media over the world. The news media argue that the public's right to know will be deprived of through administrative measures in the information dissemination mechanism adopted by police forces. They also worry that the police, instead of journalists, will be the chief gatekeepers in the news making processes and such practices will bring dramatic changes to news routines of spot news journalists.Since the handover, the police-media relationship in Hong Kong has gone from poor to worse. Digitalization of radio communications of Hong Kong Police has added fuel to the fire. The current mechanism for disseminating information was criticized as irrational by the media. Journalists have been complaining the gatekeeping performance of the Police and perceived this as erosion of press freedom in Hong Kong (HKJA, 2012). Media complaints are related to inadequate information, the failure to deliver prompt information, the playing down of seriousness and the cover-up of incidents related to public interest.Literature review suggests that journalistic practices are closely tied to source availability and convenience. Other than individual factors and media routines, news production is also influenced by other external factors. Drawing on literature on gatekeeping theory and journalistic practices, this study aims to investigate how official control on the flow of news information through technological means may affect news production and content. It explores the differences in local spot news coverage before and after the rolling out of digital police radio communications in Hong Kong. It also seeks to understand how journalistic practices have been changed in response to the tighten control of information and shifting gatekeeping roles in defining spot news.We approached these research objectives using two methods. First, a content analysis of spot news stories in newspapers was conducted to get a view of the coverage before and after the digitalization of police communications. Second, interviews with spot news journalists were carried out to obtain insights into how the spot news reporter routines have been changed.The results suggest that police information control through technological means reduces the amount of spot news coverage in popular press and changes the use of news sources. There is still a heavy reliance on official sources but a decrease in the use of non-official sources, especially information from witnesses. Facing the challenges, spot news journalists struggle to expand the sources of news and alter reporter routines in order to retain journalistic independence.

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