Abstract Variation in news narratives can provide the empirical testing ground for investigating news production processes, such as selecting and adapting input stories from external sources. In taking a comparative approach this paper maps changes between final newspaper output and original input supplied by news agencies as well as differences in dealing with the same source material by various news groups. While some texts are taken over verbatim, others are scrambled, reduced in size or amended. Reasons for any divergence may be of a purely practical or an ideological nature. If particular patterns of editorial adjustments are detected with a regular occurrence, it can be assumed that they are ideologically inspired and/or that fixed editorial preferences or directives are at play. The analysis is based on a study of language and ideology in news accounts about the Hong Kong transfer of sovereignty from the British Crown to China in 1997, which as a major international news event garnered worldwide media attention and had an immediate news relevance for Taiwan. For this paper's purpose I look into a set of foreign news agencies’ articles adopted by two Taiwanese English-language newspapers, the input versions of which were retrieved from the Associated Press archives.