Hallin's spheres refer to a theory of media coverage developed by political scientist Daniel C. Hallin in his book The Uncensored War. It posits three areas of media coverage into which a topic may fall. Journalists cover each area with different rules of objectivity. The areas are diagrammed as concentric circles referred to as spheres. From innermost to outer most they are: the Sphere of Consensus, the Sphere of Legitimate Controversy, and the Sphere of Deviance.
Sphere of Consensus
This Sphere contains those topics on which there is widespread agreement, or at least the perception thereof. Example include such things as free speech, the abolition of slavery, or human rights. For topic in this sphere "journalists do not feel compelled to present an opposing view point or to remain disinterested observers."
Sphere of Legitimate Controversy
For topics in this sphere rational and informed people hold differing views. These topics are therefore the most important to cover, and also ones upon which journalists are obliged to remain disinterested reporters, rather than advocating for or against a particular view.
Sphere of Deviance
Topics in this sphere are rejected by journalists as being unworthy of general consideration. Such views are perceived as being either unfounded, taboo, or of such minor consequence that they are not news worthy. For example, a person claiming that aliens are manipulating college basketball scores might have difficulty finding media coverage for such a claim.
In recent years the internet may have given exposure to more diverse opinions than those that were widely circulated in 1986. This may have expanded the Sphere of Legitimate Controversy. There has also been a fuller recognition that different audiences may place topics in different spheres. Hallin's theory assumed that most media share a homogenized media consumer. A more fractured media landscape can challenge this assumption.
- Audience Atomization Overcome: Why the Internet Weakens the Authority of the Press, Rosen, Jay. PressThink.org, January 12, 2009
- The Sphere of Deviance Smith, Christopher. WNYMedia.net, 2009.
- Does NPR have a Liberal Bias?, On The Media from NPR. Retrieved 11 February 2013
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