Literature review:Culture, media and communication
Soft news versus hard news: explore to what extent does infotainment influence validity of TV journalism in China.
Under the drive of market economy, news entertainment has become a common phenomenon in modern society. The research of O’Connor showed that the infotainment or news entertainment has occupied the dominance in news industry in recent years (O’Connor, 2009). Combining with his research, the reasons of news infotainment were provided. O’Connor thought that a relaxed atmosphere that can be more accepted by audience can attract more attention (O’Connor, 2009). Thus the infotainment is becoming more popular. Several factors also are thought to be related with infotainment. These examples refer to soft news development, hard news features, infotainment influence and so on. (Horan, 2013). In generally, the effect of infotainment on news is thought to be ongoing, because that more and more programs are going into the soft news. (Holbert, 2005). These influence the development of news industry. Such as the higher proportions of news stories that deal with dramatic incidents or crime, feature human-interest elements, are about personal affairs or sensational. But the impact of the infotainment makes this problem more complicated and confusing. Ralph·D· Barney think that the society needs the mass media journalists provide a variety of information and opinions (Black,& Barney,1985). As long as the mass media provide the alternative views as far as possible to the public, it is to implement morals responsibility of the media. With the development of society and the continuous improvement of productivity, the change of objective world and social change continually aggravate and interpersonal communication cannot satisfy people's demand. The audiences need to depend on the media to a large extent. The mass media should be accountable to the public, providing a wide range of information. In recent articles, the extent of infotainment influence also is an important question and is also a focus of the study.
In fact, there are other scholars to do the researches of this aspect. In a research article by Crouthamel, the article researched the development of newspaper before 1973. First, the article reviewed the history of newspaper sensationalism. Second, the article explained the reason of pursuing the sensationalism by audience—that the audiences need to meet their psychology of infotainment and economic benefit of the newspaper. Through describing a series of interesting news in “New York Herald”, the article showed the effect of infotainment on news industry (Crouthamel, 1973). This result of this paper also supported the thesis that the infotainment can attract the audience to read the news, so as to increase the sales volume. The whole paper almost described the relationship between infotainment and news. The article pointed out directly the newspaper in order to get more economic benefit, needed the infotainment of news. In a sense, this article of Bennett first directly discussed this relationship in a sense. But the limitations still existed. One limitation of this research is that the article only described the some sensational news to prove the author’s thesis, but do not distinguish the soft news and hard news. Another limitation of this article is to simply introduce the information of “New York Herald”, but not expand to other news field, such as TV field. The research object is narrow.
The second article is related to entertaining aspect of the hard news and soft news. Prior ‘ research demonstrated many actual cases with the content analysis method in the research. According the study of Prior（2003）, it supported a fact that the news was going into the infotainment . The article analyzed the two kinds of soft news in TV—one is so-called “infotainment” programs, and two is talk shows. The two news types which mainly referred to some interesting lifestyle, and more glamorous politician, even the some stars’ scandals strongly attracted the audience. And then the research further analyzed the infotainment with some more concrete example to support the thesis through the program of “Entertainment Tonight” in TV. The research clearly explained the effect of soft new on audiences through extending the Baum’s theory that “By focusing on the more entertaining, shocking, or scandalous aspects of politics, soft news offers these people an alternative that maximizes their utility because it combines entertainment and information”.(Baum, 2002, cited in Prior, 2003, p150) and 2358 random questionnaires about the likeability of news. The result showed that the soft news made the peoples have high likeability. This a very strong evidence to support the view that the soft news is more popular than hard news. But there is a defect of this research. Although the author definitely discussed the effect of soft news for audience, the article only analyzed on the political knowledge, other aspects were not mentioned by Prior.
The third article written by Carsten directly referred to hard news, soft news and infotainment. First, in his research, the author reviewed a series of research about soft news and hard news (Carsten, 2011). Second, with some similar phenomena of tabloidization and infotainment in English and other languages the article not only directly further distinguish the soft news and hard news, but also indicated that the soft news would occupy the main stream. Third, the article’s advantage is that the analysis angle of the article is close to infotainment. Through the analysis of thematic, style features and other aspects, the research provided a new view—the combination between soft news and hard news, and the extent of infotainment influence validity of journalism.
Finally, according to a report of Qiu Ruochen, the article discussed the political infotainment influence validity of journalism in China. The article adopted unique angle of view to discuss the influence of the soft news on the understanding of political news on Chinese young adult (Qiu, 2011). Two problems were discussed in this research. First, the phenomenon on the trend of soft news became more infotainment, including the political news on TV. The research found out that the political infotainment that focused on the personality, and appearance--even the daily life of the leaders always can attract the Chinese young adult’ attention. Second, the article further discussed the reason of this phenomenon from the adult’ psychology and analyzed the extent of political soft news spreading on TV or newspaper. The research successfully found out the adult’ psychology was mail reason of political infotainment and also primely expounded the impact of soft news in China, through comparing the soft news and hard news. The researcher adopted the qualitative and quantitative method to analyze the topic. First, the research discussed some the phenomenal popularity of political soft news in China. Second, the author analyzed the four aspects— political soft/hard news consumption, political knowledge scale and social media usage. With the descriptive statistics method, the article scientifically researched the topic.
According to the above content, the people do not hard find a trend that the media are transferring the hard news into dramatic and storytelling the soft news. Summarizing the reason, there are two views to need attention. One is psychology factor. In order to attract the individual audience attention and get closer with the audience's psychological distance, t he news need to focus on soft news. Using the microscopic observation on personal experience takes the place of the macroscopic investigation on the social and historical background. In some major social and political events, it can more attract the attention of the audience. Second, the economic factor is also an important factor. The news industry must keep a certain market share and benefit. Because of this purpose, the news industry increase gossip and box news to meet a part of the audience's curiosity and desire for economic benefit. The main function of news is to provide right information for audience. Of course, it does not exclude other functions such as educational function and entertainment function of journalism. But they are not the main function. The news excessively emphasizes the entertainment functions, and the entertainment function will inevitably affect the other function. If the people cannot control the extent of infotainment, the news industry will undoubtedly go astray.