News as Spectacle: The Political Economy and Aesthetics of 24/7 News


  • James Compton


On the surface, it would appear that large-scale media spectacles based on celebrities, such as the Monica Lewinsky scandal or the mourning of Princess Diana, have little in common with the 1991 Gulf War or the 2001 September 11th terrorist attacks in the United States. The former are easily dismissed as tabloid excess, while the latter constitute what journalists like to call hard news stories par excellence. It doesn't get more serious than war and terror. Media coverage of illicit sex and tabloid tragedy are widely regarded as the nadir of professional journalism. War and the threat of terror on the other hand, provide the news media with opportunities to redeem themselves and reproduce the legitimising narrative of independent truth-seekers. I wish to complicate this separation. I argue, instead, that the reporting of hard news and the tabloid variety share a commonality: both are constitutive of, and are constructed by, the economic competition among 24-hour news organizations, which include both broadcast and online organizations.

Author Biography

James Compton

James R. Compton is Assistant Professor in the faculty of Information and Media Studies at the University of Western Ontario. He received his Ph.D. in Communication at Simon Fraser University and is a former reporter and editor with Canadian Press/Broadcast News in Vancouver, British Columbia. He is the author of the forthcoming book: The Integrated News Spectacle: A Political Economy of Cultural Performance. He is also co-editing a book on the political economy of media convergence and journalism for Lexington Books