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“Cross-editing”: Comparing News Output Through Journalists’ Re-working of Their Rivals’ Scripts

A Research Paper by CAMRI alumna Vivien Marsh, published by Journalism Studies

Newsdesk journalists make thousands of editorial decisions every day without recourse to style guides. They can do this because they have internalised the aims and values of their news organisations: they know what counts as a “good story” for their output. This paper describes a pioneering micro-level comparative method of studying journalistic values in which, unlike in other comparative studies, the journalists themselves perform the initial analysis. In essence, newsdesk editors from two news organisations swap scripts. They evaluate, edit and mark up their rivals’ texts as if they were being asked to use them in their own output. What would they alter, insert or leave out? Would they reject a story completely? This “cross-edit” and the editors’ additional observations represent unmediated analysis from inside the news editing process, allowing researchers to draw comparative conclusions grounded principally in discourse analysis. To pilot the method, a number of journalists from the BBC and China’s official English-language news provider, CCTV-News (now CGTN), cross-edited selected news scripts published by their rivals. The technique shed new light on news routines, lexical choices, omissions and unexpected consonances in news values. It was then refined to provide a framework for future, wider use.

Photo by Markus Winkler on Unsplash

CAMRI alumna Vivien Marsh

About CAMRI alumna Vivien Marsh

My research project compares the English-language news output of Chinese state television (CCTV) with that of BBC World News TV. I also lead undergraduate media seminars and, in 2015, co-led a module. I’ve also contributed to Nottingham University’s China Policy Institute blog as an “emerging scholar”.

I came to Westminster from the BBC, which I joined as a news trainee before most of today’s Westminster students were born. In that time I was (variously) a news editor, writer, producer and reporter. I worked in the BBC’s local, regional, national and international news operations, in television, radio and online, including a stint in Berlin filing news and features in both English and German. I mainly wrote and edited news for the World Service: I was also part of the production team that launched BBC World Service Television News in the 1990s and helped it expand into BBC World. I edited the World Service’s European current affairs radio programme, Europe Today, and spent several years as the London-based World Service News Asia-Pacific editor/reporter.

I speak fluent German and French, some Russian and also some Chinese, which I have been attempting to learn since 2009. My first degree (at the University of Leeds) was in modern languages.


CAMRI alumna Vivien Marsh
13 May 2021
Published By
Journalism Studies
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