Rethinking News and Myth as Storytelling

Authored by: S. Elizabeth Bird , Robert W. Dardenne

The Handbook of Journalism Studies

Print publication date:  November  2008
Online publication date:  January  2009

Print ISBN: 9780805863420
eBook ISBN: 9780203877685
Adobe ISBN: 9781135592011


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In 1988, we explored the idea that news is not merely objective reporting of fact, but also a form of storytelling that functions in a mythological way (Bird & Dardenne, 1988). We argued that journalists operate like traditional storytellers, using conventional structures to shape events into story—and in doing so define the world in particular ways that reflect and reinforce audiences’ notions of reality. Journalism, more than myth, is part of rational discourse that facilitates informed citizenship; nevertheless, we argued that we must better understand the narrative construction and mythological function of news to fully comprehend the ideological way in which it operates in any culture. We built on earlier work by journalism scholars such as Schudson (1982), who interrogated the core journalistic concept of objectivity. Here, we trace the context of scholarly interest in journalism as myth and storytelling, address how it has been applied through the last several decades, and offer suggestions for future research. Such scholarship, it should be noted, has consistently applied an interpretive approach, following the tradition of anthropologists like Geertz (1973), rather than that of journalism scholars working in a social scientific tradition.

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