Cause/antecedents/history (News Performance)




news coverage, journalism, background information, watchdog reporting


Field of application/theoretical foundation:

Analyses using the constructs cause/antecedents/history in news content are theoretically related to news performance and the democratic function of the media (McQuail, 1992). This construct is linked to professional standards and the normative assumption that the media should provide the audience with background information on current events and issues (Westerstahl, 1983). For example, news can be used to explain how a particular problem occurred, what happened beforehand and what the concrete reasons are for the current situation.

References/combination with other methods of data collection:

The analysis of reporting on the causes, background and history of events is complex and requires an understanding of the context and the relationships established by the journalist. As a result of this complexity, no automated measurement procedures have yet been developed.

Example study:

Humprecht (2016)


Table 1. Study summary



Unit of Analysis



Humprecht (2016)

Content type: Political routine-period news

Outlet/ country: 48 online news outlets from six countries (CH, DE, FR, IT, UK, US)

Sampling period: June – July 2012

Sample size: N = 1660

Unit of analysis: Political news items (make reference to a political actor, e.g. politician, party, institution in headline, sub?headline, in first paragraph or in an accompanying visual)

News items are all journalistic articles mentioned on the front page (‘first layer’ of the website) that are linked to the actual story (on second layer of website)

Not mentioned

Rudimental mention (e.g. reference to previous events without explanation)

Mentioned in detail (e.g. explanation of historical events, causes, etc.)


Cohen’s kappa average ≥ 0.69



Humprecht, E. (2016). Shaping Online News Performance. In Palgrave Macmillan. Palgrave Macmillan UK.

McQuail, D. (1992). Media Performance: Mass Communication and the Public Interest. Sage Publications.

Westerstahl, J. (1983). Objective news reporting: General premises. Communication Research, 10, 403–424.



How to Cite

Humprecht, E. (2021). Cause/antecedents/history (News Performance). DOCA - Database of Variables for Content Analysis, 1(2).



News/Journalism: Variables for Content Analysis