These short pieces pre-date [?] the longer treatment of news as ideology in Policing the Crisis -- which see.
1. Hall S (1973) 'A World at One With Itself'
This piece was published first in New Society, June 18 1970.
News and current affairs are more important than fictional violence as an aspects of the escalation function of the mass media [later called the 'amplification spiral' - news helps define and amplify moral panics about youth, crime or whatever]. Hall uses the example of the British radio programme World at One [a prestigious news programme broadcast by the BBC -- still running in 2000]. Hall uses Adorno [of all people!] to deny a it the usual journalists'account that news is a purely technical matter.It is possible instead to examine the assumptions and professional ideologies of journalists, and how they lead to 'news values', especially in terms of dealing with the unexpected. It is possible to take the topic of law and order as an example.
It is clear that law-and-order operates as a category to subsume whole different orders of meaning, ranging from stories about hooligans to stories about Northern Ireland. Hall argues that such news displays not bias as such, but an 'unwitting bias', located at the level of discourse. Of course, this will be 'difficult to locate or prove'. This unwitting bias is found in tone, set up, concepts and explanations. Its 'incidence is mapped by plotting the area of "consensus... toleration... dissensus and conflict"' (page 88) [Hall might be quoting Parkin here?]. It is found in the deployment of arguments about the national interest, or the relation between majorities and minorities. These assumptions, displayed in interviews, are 'coincident with official ideologies of the status quo' (page 89). For example, in Ulster, the civil rights militants are always asked about violence, but never the Ulster Unionists.
The sources of this unwitting bias are found in the political culture outside, in the values of existing institutions. The notion of consensus and moderation leads to an inability to handle challenges. This in turn leads to reliance on catch-all categories like 'violence' and 'law and order' (page 90). This leads to the question whether the media can ever understand, whether they ever can clarify, or whether they must always mystify. The usual way that professionals discuss these problems is in terms of 'actuality versus depth', or 'hard news and comment'. These terms are particularly unsuitable for radio, however, which has an audience much less shaped by class and institutions: the repetition of terms found in formulas invented by the press do not serve a public radio broadcasting organisation.
Hall ends by commenting on current trends [nb in 1970] these include a 'heady, breathless immediacy', or 'actuality without context'. These have the effect of making violent acts meaningless, and serve as a form of systematic distortion (page 92) [perhaps this is a reference to Habermas?]. Thus kidnappings in Latin America, or Black Power riots in Trinidad, cannot be understood: we are offered no background information about poverty or colonialism, nothing of the local politics, no clarification. Instead, the consensual view is 'quickly wheeled into place'. A kind of formula emerges to 'produce the same mysterious product with systematic regularity' (page 93).
2. Hall S (1973) 'The Determinations of News Photographs'
This is an extract from an early CCCS Working Paper
The piece begins by referring to the work of Barthes on the photograph. Photographs can be read at two levels: denotations appear at the most immediate level, and are 'precise, a literal, and unambiguous' (page 176) [we do not think this is so today]; connotations helped to form a more general social knowledge we have a stock of knowledge at hand to read visual images.
The caption to the photograph plays an important role too. So does the composition -- close-up displaces the story on to the individual and their feelings, and can notes and ideological message -- for example, it suggests a certain important divisions, like the ones between public men and private figures, or it strengthens the 'ideology of the subject' (page 178).
News photographs also involve news values and ideology. Ideological inflections may vary according to individual newspapers, but general ideological themes are also important. For example the [then recent] death of the Duke of Windsor reawakened an old scandal [as King Edward the Eighth, he abdicated to marry an American divorcee], but the concept of the monarchy as a great ideological theme persisted nevertheless [quite unlike today here?]. Such stories also operate with the category of the subject, so partaking of 'ideology in general' [and Althusser is cited here] (page 180). Photographs have to conform with news values first, rather than ideological values, though.
Hall then focuses on an example of a famous news photograph which depicts a youth apparently kicking a policeman in the face at the 1968 Vietnam War demonstration. Apart from the obvious matter of whether this photograph depicted 'reality', Hall also uncovers a 'doubles articulation' between formal news values and ideological treatments. This shows an 'inner discourse of the newspaper [connecting] to the ideological universe of the society' (page 180) [back to Barthes rather than Althusser then?]. Photographs like this one also have an exchange value, of course, and this one became profitable, but the exchange value is over-determined by ideological values too.
News values operate as a 'deep structure'. News items must be linkable, recent and newsworthy, and then, after further selection, other sets of values apply. These have been well listed in works like those of Galtung and Ruge [also discussed in this Cohen and Young collection] -- these turn on the value and role of consensual knowledge, and the reasons for the selection include featuring elite persons and personalities. For Hall, though, consensual knowledge is ideology. Photographs do help especially in personification, and engage a 'universal grammar of motives'. Violence especially can be seen to be unusual, unpredictable and so on.
Turning back to the ideological level, items like photographs become elaborated, in terms of their connotations, leading to the formation of modern myths, as Barthes describes in his work on the photograph. Hall supplies some brief examples of his own from page 185 onwards. The press varies according to the degree of sensationalism offered, and their own particular inflections.
However, borrowing from Gramsci, we can see dominant ideology as containing sets of residues which are capable of many combinations [and Althusser is cited again, on notions like the 'imaginary relation'and the 'repetitive nature of recognition' page 186]. Barthes argues that sometimes the press must use ugly neologisms like 'French-ness' [Hall himself uses an ugly one -- English-ness -- in his Policing The Crisis]. Dominant ideology is difficult to pin down, it is diffused in its particulars [Althusserian mystification here too,originally borrowed from Spinoza, I gather] (page 186). Ideological themes ground specific events, and at that moment, those specifics become 'distanced and universalised... mythic' (page 187), and this 'hovers within the more immediate political message'. So there is a double movement between propaganda and myth -- theformer might be obvious and avoidable [eg by professional journalists], but the latter de-historicises and naturalises says Barthes.
So, the news photograph poses as offering actuality, as being a witness. It is, of course, selective, and this selection is ideological, but naturalism represses this. Photographs help guarantee objectivity, and fit into the fact/value, news/comment dichotomies (page 188). They offer an historic instant, something immediate and new as a form of explanation. Of course, there is always ideological significance -- the photographs of IRA men are made to look like wanted men, or criminals. Ideology is enhanced when it is linked with text: very often, text signals the ideological theme, and then photographs take over -- so that an IRA activist appears as the universal 'hard man' (page 189).