Skip to main content

New(s) Challenges!—Old Patterns? Structural Transformation and TV News in a Mediatized World

  • 753 Accesses

Part of the Transforming Communications – Studies in Cross-Media Research book series (TCSCMR)


This chapter applies Harvey Sack’s apparatus of Membership Categorization Analysis (MCA) to the TV news coverage of an incident that took place in Ukraine in 2014. The aim is to demonstrate how established mass media face new challenges to professional journalism caused by an ongoing structural change of the public sphere. One main reason for this change is the development of social media that enables ordinary people from around the world to publish pictures, videos, and comments, for example, concerning international conflicts. Mass media’s monopoly of coverage has begun to sway as news journalists must today, more than in the past, anticipate multiple accounts of a news story that can no longer be presented in a classical black-and-white scheme. The media’s inherent logic has changed and adapted to new circumstances. With the help of Sack’s Membership Categorization Analysis we can identify different categorization devices and corresponding category-bound activities that show how journalists keep their coverage inference-rich and open to a multiplicity of accounts. This fits to new dimensions of international conflicts becoming more and more asymmetric and fragmented and that include discourses of war, crime, and politics. Mass media does no longer only constitute a news-community by suppling viewer with a canonic and coherent set of knowledge of everyday life, but changes its fundamental logic as it imagines different communities with which their news have to interfere.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Fig. 12.1
Fig. 12.2
Fig. 12.3
Fig. 12.4
Fig. 12.5


  1. 1.

    Verstehen Sie noch, worum es geht? DIE ZEIT, February 25, 2016.

  2. 2.

    The transcripts of news texts that will be referred to later have been taken from the channel’s online media library. Unfortunately due to legal changes the mentioned episodes concerning the OSCE incident are no longer retrievable. They are still available for scientific research via the channel’s rights management department.

  3. 3.

    Translation of a conversation to be found in field notes from a newsroom ethnography conducted by the author in 2014. To be found in the appendix of Liefke (2014).

  4. 4.

    “Die Leute lassen sich lieber unterhalten” Interview with Elmar Theveßen DIE ZEIT, 29/2015.

  5. 5.

    Russia Today is a Russian government–funded media company that publishes news via internet and TV in different languages often criticized for spreading disinformation or being a propaganda outlet for the Russian government.

  6. 6.

    The author tried to translate the German expressions used in the quoted media as precise as possible. As connotations may vary, the original German expression(s) is (are) always added in brackets.


  • Altheide, D. (1976). Creating Reality: How TV news distorts events. Beverly Hills: Sage.

    Google Scholar 

  • Anderson, B. (1983). Imagined communities: Reflections on the origin and spread of nationalism. London, New York: Verso.

    Google Scholar 

  • Appel, M. (2008). Fictional narratives cultivate just-world beliefs. Journal of Communication, 58, 62–83.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Day, D. (1998). Being ascribed and resisting membership in an ethnic group. In C. Antaki & S. Widdicombe (Eds.), Identities in talk (pp. 151–170). London: Sage.

    Google Scholar 

  • Day, D. (2006). Ethnic and social groups and their linguistic categorization. In K. Bührig & J. D. t. Thije (Eds.), Beyond misunderstanding: Linguistic analyses of intercultural communication. Amsterdam: Benjamins, 217–244.

    Google Scholar 

  • Day, D. (2012). Conversation analysis and membership categories. In C. A. Chapelle (Ed.), The encyclopedia of applied linguistics. Oxford: Wiley.

    Google Scholar 

  • Garfinkel, H. (1967). Studies in Ethnomethodology. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall.

    Google Scholar 

  • Garfinkel, H., & Sacks, H. (1970). On formal structures of practical actions (pp. 337–366). New York. Appleton-Century-Crofts: Developments.

    Google Scholar 

  • Gödde, R. (1992). Radikaler Konstruktivismus und Journalismus. Die Berichterstattung über den Golfkrieg - Das Scheitern eines Wirklichkeitsmodells. In G. Rusch & S. J. Schmidt (Eds.), Konstruktivismus: Geschichte und Anwendung (pp. 269–288). Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp Verlag.

    Google Scholar 

  • Golding, P., & Elliott, P. (1979). Making the news. London: Longman.

    Google Scholar 

  • Gottschall, J. (2012). The storytelling animal—How stories make us human. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

    Google Scholar 

  • Habermas, J. (2013/1990). Strukturwandel der Öffentlichkeit: Untersuchungen zu einer Kategorie der bürgerlichen Gesellschaft; mit einem Vorwort zur Neuauflage 1990 / Jürgen Habermas. Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp.

    Google Scholar 

  • Johnson-Cartee, K. S. (2005). News narratives and news framing: Constructing political reality. Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.

    Google Scholar 

  • Liefke, M. (2014). News is what’s on TV—Ethnographie der Fernsehnachrichtenredaktion am Beispiel der ZDF heute Sendung, unv. Bachelor Arbeit: Universität Frankfurt.

    Google Scholar 

  • Luhmann, N. (2009). Die Realität der Massenmedien. Wiesbaden: VS Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften.

    Google Scholar 

  • Niggemeier, S. (2016). Jenseits von Gut und Böse? Die Sprachpolitik der deutschen Leitmedien. Retrieved from

  • Rosen, J. (2006). The People Formerly Known as the Audience. PressThink. Retrieved from

  • Sacks, H. (1992a). In. G. Jefferson (Eds.), Lectures on Conversation (Vol. 1). Oxford, UK: Basil Blackwell.

    Google Scholar 

  • Sacks, H. (1992b). In. G. Jefferson (Eds.), Lectures on Conversation (Vol. 2). Oxford, UK: Basil Blackwell.

    Google Scholar 

  • Sacks, H. (1972). An initial investigation of the usability of conversational data for doing sociology. In D. Sudnow (Ed.), Studies in social interaction (pp. 31–74). New York: Free Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Tuchman, G. (1973). Making news by doing work: Routinizing the unexpected. American Journal of Sociology, 79(1), 110–131.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • van Hout, T. (2015). Between text and social practice: Balancing linguistics and ethnography in journalism studies. In J. Snell, S. Shaw, & F. Copland (Eds.), Linguistic ethnography: Interdisciplinary explorations (pp. 71–89). New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Watson, D. R. (1978). Categorization, authorization and blame-negotiation in conversation. Sociology, 12, 105–113.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Corresponding author

Correspondence to Mirco Liefke .

Editor information

Editors and Affiliations

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

Copyright information

© 2018 The Author(s)

About this chapter

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this chapter

Liefke, M. (2018). New(s) Challenges!—Old Patterns? Structural Transformation and TV News in a Mediatized World. In: Thimm, C., Anastasiadis, M., Einspänner-Pflock, J. (eds) Media Logic(s) Revisited. Transforming Communications – Studies in Cross-Media Research. Palgrave Macmillan, Cham.

Download citation