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Glossary of Media terms relating to Newspapers

ABC scale A method of classification devised by government and often used by the media to target
audiences. The system is based on occupation, education and financial factors.
Also known as: NRS scale

Group Definition & Examples Approximate

% of the
A Upper Middle Class 3%
Higher level professionals including lawyers, doctors, managers of large
B Middle Class 18%
Other professionals including teachers and other white collar workers
C1 Lower Middle Class 27%
Skilled / professional work. E.g. blue collar workers, junior nurses, admin
C2 Skilled Working Class 22%
Skilled manual work. E.g. electricians, mechanics & plumbers
D Working Class 19%
Semi-skilled & unskilled manual workers. E.g. bus drivers, factory line
workers, shop workers
E Subsistence 11%
Pensioners, students, casual workers.

Due to changes in the workforce and the process of embourgeoisment many critics now argue this form of
classification is outdated.

Active, semi-active and passive audiences There are a range of audience theories in media studies
which try to explain:
a. the effect the media has on the audience
b. how audiences use texts

In broad terms, these theories can be described as belonging to one of three categories:
1. Passive: Includes the hypodermic needle / magic bullet, and inoculation theories. All view the audience
as passive recipients of media messages.
2. Semi-active: Semi-active theories such as the two step flow model suggest some action on the part of the
audience, but ultimately they are still affected by media messages.
3. Active: Audiences actively control and select media texts according to their own needs and desires.
Examples include the uses & gratifications theory.
The uses and gratification tradition suggests audiences are active consumers of media texts, not passive
recipients. Many passive audience theories are often criticised for being over simplistic.
See also: audience

Agenda setting News media organisations select which issues should be covered in
their products, i.e. the agenda is set.

Anchorage The use of words in a caption to hold or limit the meaning of an image.

Audience Without an audience the media could not exist. Media Studies is concerned with:
1. How audiences are targeted.
2. How audiences use the media.
3. How texts position audiences.
4. How audiences are affected by the media.
5. How audiences affect / shape the media.
Complex area of Media Studies which emphasises the importance of how socially formed readers engage
with the media (Branston & Stafford 1996).

Audience defines the receivers of mass media communication (also readers and viewers). It may be
measured in terms such as numbers, gender and spending habits (Burton 2002).

See also: active, semi-active and passive audiences, target audience, audience positioning, ABC scale, Rubicam & Young, uses and
gratifications theory, Mulvey, theory, cultural effects theory, two step flow

Audience expectations What the audience expects from a particular media text. e.g. the Disney logo at the
start of a film directs the viewer to expect a certain type of film, e.g. Hero versus Villain.

Audience gratification Pleasure that an audience gains from a text. An audience might feel pleased with
themselves if they solve an enigma or recognise an example of intertextuality.
See also: Mulvey, pleasure, uses and gratifications theory

Audience positioning How texts are structured in ways that position audiences to adopt a particular
perspective. This may be done through mode of address, representation or narrative.

Berliner Sometimes referred to as compact, the Berliner is half way between a tabloid and broadsheet in
size. Currently, The Guardian uses this format to produce a layout that is similar to the traditional broadsheet
in appearance.

Bias Term used to suggest a lack of impartiality. Newspapers and other media texts are often accused of
having a left, or right wing bias.
See also: left wing, right wing

Broadsheet A newspaper printed on sheets of paper 116.83 x 81.28 cm (46 x 32 inches). In recent years
newspapers that have traditionally used the broadsheet size have changed their format.
For example, The Times and The Independent have become tabloid in size, while The Guardian has adopted
a new compact or Berliner format. As a result of such changes the broadsheet quality press and the
popular tabloid press are now outdated terms.
Broadsheet audiences are sometimes accredited with the tag information seekers, whilst tabloid audiences
are sometimes tagged emotional participants.
See also: Berliner, tabloid

Byline Information giving the name of the person who wrote an article.

Caption Words beneath a picture which may anchor (limit / focus) its meaning. censorship Refers to the
practice of restricting what can be published or broadcast.
See also: ASA, BBFC, Ofcom

cliche A phrase which has been so overused it is almost meaningless.

Colloquialism Informal language or slang. Often used in tabloid newspapers and advertisements, especially
those aimed at a youth audience.

Content analysis The process of measuring how many times an issue / image is used in a media text in
order to analyse its significance. For example, the number of times a particular image / motif is repeated in a
film may impact on the audiences understanding of the narrative.

Context Media texts are not created, nor consumed in a vacuum. Historical, institutional, and cultural
contexts all come into play.
Convention Unwritten rules / typical features of a media text. A text which follows conventions of its type /
genre may contain many typical elements. Audiences are usually aware of these conventions on a
subconscious level.

Copy The words in an advertisement or article.

Crop To cut / edit an image, usually to create a particular effect / meaning/

Cultural capital Sociological concept invented by Pierre Bourdieu. Cultural capital refers to the
knowledge and experiences each audience member brings to a text. Supporters of this concept suggest that
middle class audiences often have more cultural knowledge to bring to a text than their working class
See also: context, encoding/decoding

Cultural competence Linked to cultural capital above, Bourdieu suggests that various classes have
different competences that impact on their enjoyment and understanding of different media forms.
See also: context, encoding/decoding

Cultural effects theory A theory which centres on the long term effects of the media. Particular emphasis
is placed on the effect representations have on societys beliefs and values.
See also: hypodermic needle, inoculation theory, two step flow, uses and gratifications theory, pleasure, Mulvey

Dominant ideology Refers to the most prominent ideology (ideas / beliefs/ values) within a society.
Dominant ideology is often perceived to be the ideology of the dominant class. Gramsci argued that
dominant ideologies are maintained through a process of hegemony.
See also: ideology, hegemony

Distribution The stage between production of a media text, and its exhibition to audiences. In each industry
distribution of media texts is dominated by a few large organisations.
The success of a media text can often depend on how well it is distributed.
See also: production, exhibition

Dumbing down The practice of simplifying content (and/or mode of address) in a text in order to reach a
wide audience.
See also: tabloidisation

Editor The person ultimately responsible for the content of a newspaper magazine or news programme.

Embourgeoisement The idea that middle class jobs and therefore middle class culture has grown
significantly. Middle class is now the majority / mainstream.
See also: proletarianisation

Encoding meaning and messages put in or encoded into a media text. The decoding/encoding model
devised by Stuart Hall emphasises the notion of audience interpretation. What is encoded by a media
producer may be different from what is later decoded by the audience.
See also: decoding, polysemic

Gatekeeping The process whereby news is selected for broadcast / publication. Such selection is likely to
The news values held by the organisation in question.
Expectations of the target audience.
See also: news values

The notion that the world is getting smaller as a result of technological advancements in communication
In a global village individual cultural differences and experiences are eroded as we begin to consume the
same cultural texts & commodities.
Globalisation The process whereby organisations are increasingly operating on a worldwide scale and
Gramsci, Antonio See hegemony.

Hegemony A concept devised by the Italian Marxist Antonio Gramsci (pronounced Gram-shee).
Hegemony describes how an unequal balance of power in society is controlled not by force, but by a process
of naturalisation or hegemony.
When the dominant group or power bloc have achieved a hegemonic culture the proletariat (or working
class) accept their viewpoint as common sense. The media have an important role in maintaining this
See also: dominant ideology

Hyperbole Extreme exaggeration. Many film posters use critics comments that show clear signs of
hyperbole. Just think of the number of the best film this year comments you have read on film posters and

Ideology A complex term, broadly relating to a framework of ideas and beliefs. These may be formally or
informally held. In Media Studies ideology is inextricably linked to representation.

Ideology is the dominant set of beliefs and values in society that sustain power relations. (Bell et al 2005)

Ideology is a difficult but important concept to grasp. Simply put, it is the ideas behind a media text, the
secret (or sometimes not-so secret) agenda of its producers. It is important to be able to identify the different
ideological discourses that may be present in even an apparently simple photograph.

See also: Right wing, left wing, hegemony, dominant ideology

Inclusive pronouns We, us. Used to give a sense of belonging, or to address the
audience directly.

Inverted pyramid Traditionally, newspaper articles are constructed in this form. They begin broadly, and
narrow the focus as the story develops.

Left wing Broadly speaking, left wing politics represents socialist ideology. Extreme left wing would be
communism. Traditionally, the Labour party has been the party of the left in the UK. When New Labour was
invented in the 1990s many criticised the party for moving towards more centre / right wing policies. In
simple terms, left wing ideology would support the distribution of wealth and resources in society.
See also: bias, right wing

Lexis Bank of words or choice of language. If a quality broadsheet and a popular tabloid covered the same
news story they would, in all likelihood, use a different lexis. Tabloid newspapers are more likely to use
words from an emotional lexical field, whereas a quality paper may be more likely to use words from a
technical or factual lexical field.
See also: loaded lexis

Libel Written or broadcast publication of false and damaging statements about people and/or groups. (Libel
is the written form of slander.) In each industry the regulatory bodies uphold libel laws.

Loaded lexis Choice of words that have multiple or loaded meaning. Often used in tabloid newspapers and
advertisements that wish to employ a dual mode of address.

Low brow A term used to describe media texts (and modern culture) that have (relatively) low intellectual
content / require low intellect to appreciate. Tabloid newspapers are seen to be low brow, especially when
compared to the quality press.
See also: high brow, dumbing down, tabloidisation
Masthead The title of a newspaper positioned on the top of front page.

Mean world syndrome The notion that audiences who consume a large amount of media texts which
represent negative images of the world come to feel more at threat than they really need to. E.g. In the film
Bowling for Columbine, Michael Moore suggests (among other things) that the number of American news
texts that represent a violent and dystopian view of America lead audiences to be more fearful of attack than
they need to be.

Media text Any media product designed to be consumed by an audience. mediation The process of
interpreting, constructing and editing in order to represent
an event or issue.
See also: representation, news values

Metaphor Comparison between two unconnected elements. Boxing metaphors are often used in a dispute
when one side throws in the towel.

Mode of address How the audience is addressed or spoken to. A BBC Radio 4 News report would have a
more formal mode of address than a Radio 1 bulletin for example.

Naturalisation The process whereby hegemony is achieved. Naturalisation describes how certain
ideologies are represented as natural or common sense.
See also: hegemony

News values The qualities which explain why photos and stories are selected as newsworthy. The following
list is not exhaustive, as each institution will apply its own set of values, however it outlines some of the
most commonly used.
Immediacy Has it happened recently?
Familiarity Will it mean something to the audience? Will they be able to
relate to it?
Numbers How many people are involved?
Frequency Does it fit the newscasters schedule?
Unambiguity Is it clear? Are the results/effects obvious?
Predictability Do we expect it to happen?
Surprise Is it a rare or unexpected event?
Continuity Has it already been classed as news?
Elite countries and people Will the audience be able to identify / relate?
Personalisation Is it a personal or human interest story?
Negativity Is it bad news?
Balance Does it balance out the coverage of home/foreign news, economic/human interest, or bad/good

Personalisation A writing technique often employed by tabloid newspapers and gossip magazines.
Frequent use of first names / nicknames in an over familiar manner. The device narrows the gap between
readers and politicians or celebrities.
May also refer to websites and adverts being tailored specifically for an individual, e.g. website adverts
which are targeted according to what interests a user has specified or searched for.

Polysemic All signs and therefore texts may have more than one meaning. On a simple level, the colour
red has connotations of love, romance, blood and danger. On a slightly more complex level American
gangster rap may be decoded by some people as music that glorifies violence, aggression and gun crime. To
others it may tell the narrative of an individual struggling to fulfil their American dream to move out of the
slums and gain material possessions.

Press Complaints Commission (PCC) An independent body which is responsible for regulating the
British Press (newspapers & magazines). It has no legal powers; instead it advises publishers in line with the
industrys voluntary code of practice.
E.g. Since Princess Dianas death the PCC have been more pro-active in warning the tabloid press against
publishing various stories / photographs involving members of the Royal Family.

Propaganda Communication which is manipulated in order to promote a particular ideological message.

The most effective forms of propaganda are invisible. i.e. the audience is not aware the material they are
consuming is propaganda.
See also: bias, Orwellian

Puff A slogan which informs the reader as to the quality / popularity of the newspaper, e.g. Britains Best

Quality press Traditionally speaking, broadsheet papers were often referred to as the quality press due to
a more serious approach than the popular tabloids. (Greater emphasis on political, economic, and other hard
news issues.)
Nowadays, some broadsheets have become tabloid or compact in size. Some would argue that the quality
press has also become more like the popular or gutter press, a process known as tabloidisation.
See also: tabloidisation, dumbing down, broadsheet, tabloid, Berliner

Puns A simple play on words frequently used by advertisers and tabloid newspapers. E.g. Whats the big

Repetition Often used by newspapers, politicians and advertisers to emphasise a

point. E.g. Tony Blairs famous education, education, education speech.

Rhyme Frequently used by tabloid journalists and advertisers to attract and& maintain the attention of the
audience. We spank their tanks.

Right wing Broadly speaking, right wing politics represent capitalist, free market ideology. Traditionally,
the Conservative Party has been the party of the right in the UK. When New Labour was invented in the
1990s many criticised the party for moving towards more centre / right wing policies.
See also: bias, left wing

Rubicam & Young One of the largest marketing, advertising and branding organisations in the world.
Rubicam & Young have devised a method of targeting audiences that goes beyond traditional age / gender /
class stereotypes. Their Cross Cultural Consumer Characterisation (known as the 4Cs) divides society into
seven kinds of people:
The explorer
The aspirer
The succeeder
The reformer
The mainstream The struggler
The resigned
See also: target audience, ABC scale

Semantic field Semantic field refers to the selection of words chosen for communication. A quality paper
is likely to employ words from the semantic field of economics and politics, such as inflation, economy, and
democracy., When analysing the front page of a popular newspaper you might expect words from the
semantic field of sex / scandal.

Stereotype / stereotyping Representation of people or groups of people by a few characteristics.

Stereotypes are generalised representations often based on assumptions. Stereotypes evolve and change over
time. Modern media texts sometimes challenge stereotypical representations by devising characters that
break the mould. E.g. The gay cowboys from Brokeback Mountain. Others parody and exaggerate (often
outdated) stereotypes for humorous effect.
See also: representation
Tabloid Newspaper half the size of a broadsheet, with pages measuring 58.4 x 40.6cm. Tabloid audiences
are sometimes tagged emotional participants while broadsheet audiences are sometimes accredited with the
tag information seekers.
See also: quality press, popular press

Tabloidisation Another term for the process of dumbing down. Tabloidisation describes how news in
quality newspapers and broadcast media is sometimes sensationalised, and concerned with gossip. Hence,
becoming more tabloid-like.
See also: dumbing down, low brow, high brow

Target audience Audiences are often divided into demographic groups for targeting purposes. Factors
involved in categorisations include:
Class / socio-economic background
See also: ABC scale, Rubicam & Young

Two step flow The two step flow model was invented by Lazarsfeld & Katz who studied voting behaviour
in the US. The theory is slightly more complex than the one step flow theories that suggest the media has a
direct impact on the audience. Lazarsfeld & Katz suggested that whilst the audience is affected to some
extent by the media, messages are often mediated through opinion leaders.
See also: mediation, active, semi-active and passive audiences

Uses and gratifications theory James Holloran wrote in 1970 that the uses and gratifications tradition is
moving away from what the media does to people and looks instead at what people do with the media.
Bulmer & Katz suggested a list of reasons why audiences use media texts, and Dennis McQuail also put
forward a detailed catalogue. It can be summarised as:
1. Personal Identity. Audience members might compare themselves to media characters / stars. This might
be done to reinforce personal values, to model ones appearance or to aspire to the behaviour of a role
2. Information or Surveillance. Audiences use media texts in order to seek out information about the world
in which they live.
3. Entertainment / Escapism. Gaining entertainment from the media may sound obvious, but it is sometimes
more complex than that. audiences may use the media for relaxation, emotional release, or diversion
from the real world.
4. Social Interaction / Integration. The media may be used to simply keep us company, or give us a sense of
belonging. It can also be used as a tool to stimulate discussion and find common ground with family and
See also: active, semi-active and passive audiences

Viewspaper A pejorative (derogatory) term used to describe a newspaper that publishes opinions more
readily than it does facts (The two are often combined in a way which blurs the line between them.).

Who, what, where, when, why? (5 Ws) The five questions that journalists use as a guide when
constructing a news report.

Xenophobia Literally means a fear or contempt of foreigners or strangers. Some critics argue that through
their selection and construction processes, some tabloid newspapers help to engender xenophobic attitudes.

Zeitgeist German term translated as the spirit of the age. The zeitgeist describes both the cultural and
intellectual climate of a period in time. E.g. the zeitgeist of the 1980s could be described as materialistic and
capitalistic, whereas in the late 2000s ethical purchasing and green issues might reflect the spirit of the age.
Some would argue that the media helps to create or promote the zeitgeist; others argue that it simply reflects