Lea C. Hellmueller, Tim P. Vos and Mark A. Poepsel
This study examines a normative shift from objectivity toward a transparency-oriented journalistic field. US newspaper journalists (N=228) whose work is published online were surveyed to ascertain their adherence to truth-telling strategies of objectivity and transparency. The results suggest that forces unleashed by the online network might be creating pre-paradigmatic conflicts. Moreover, secondary principles divisions (e.g., gender and years of professional experience) indicate potential lines of division in how journalists embrace truth-telling strategies.
This paper studies the role of subjectivity in the language of award-winning journalism. The paper draws on a content analysis of Pulitzer Prize-winning articles in a range of news categories between 1995 and 2011.The analysis indicates that despite the continued prominence of the ideal of objectivity in scholarly and journalistic debates, award-winning journalistic stories are in fact pervaded by subjective language in the form of what linguists refer to as “appraisals,” as well as the narrative construction of emotive appeals. The subjective language use of award-winning stories, however, does not straightforwardly or consistently undermine claims to objectivity. On that basis, the paper concludes that any binary oppositions between objectivity and subjectivity and, relatedly, emotionality and rationality, may be overly simplistic and obscure the complexities of journalistic story-telling.
Michael Meyen and Anke Fiedler
The study explores the social background, career stations, working conditions and role-perceptions of journalists in East Germany before the wall came down. Drawing on Bourdieu’s field theory as well as on interviews and memoirs, it uses 121 career paths to construct a collective biography of journalists. The findings show that journalism was, indeed, closely tied to the centre of power. The dominance of the first two generations of journalists within the field even intensified its political significance. While both the founding and the “Aufbau” generation developed a political role perception, the young could quickly switch to Western standards after 1989.
This article unites theories of framing, collective memory and a sociological concept of icons in order to examine how icons can represent a frame of a historic event over time in journalism. Focusing on the central Hungarian communist daily Népszabadság’s thirty years of coverage of the 1956 Hungarian revolution against the Soviet Union, the article argues that the newspaper - in alliance with the party - constructed iconic persons, iconic objects, and iconic places of what the regime called a ‘counterrevolution.’ These icons as symbolic condensations served as powerful journalistic tools that represented the framing of the event as counterrevolutionary and furthered the regime’s desire to erase the vernacular memory of the revolution. From November 1956 until February 1957 the coverage was inchoate. Thereafter until November 1960 Népszabadság engaged in active icon construction. Népszabadság focused on a few hours of October 30, when protesters murdered several defenders of the Budapest party headquarters. Journalists constructed iconic personalities of this event: the martyrs, their mourning families, the few survivors and also the heroes, who saved lives. Republic Square, where the murders occurred, became the iconic place of the counterrevolution and the victims’ bodies were presented as iconic objects. Thereafter until September 1981 Népszabadság restricted the memory of the event to the already established icons providing only rote coverage of official commemorations. Finally, until November 1986 Népszabadság stressed factual achievements of the government’s victory over the counterrevolution, while the power of icons was fading.
Kevin Rafter & Steve Knowlton
How the media should deal with information about the health of public figures remains a contentious issue in many countries. Many news outlets subscribe to the view that private lives should remain private unless public trust is broken or when private actions conflict with public positions. Controversy emerges over the exposure of marital infidelities, but it is in the area of health that agreement is hardest to achieve on where the dividing line should be between the public’s right to know and a public figure’s right to privacy. This article deals with the experience in Ireland in late 2009 when the broadcast of information about the health of the country’s Finance Minister became a matter of controversy. The discussion examines this specific case before exploring the wider ethical issues, which have universal applicability.
Morten Skovsgaard and Arjen van Dalen
The increasing commercialization of media markets in Denmark and abroad have led to concerns about journalism’s role in democracy. In discussions about the influence of budget cuts and increased competition on the way journalists work, the difference between political journalists and other journalists is often disregarded. This paper argues that commercialization has a polarizing effect. It strengthens the political beat at the expense of other beats, as political reporters are cost effective and a way for outlets to brand themselves. Representative surveys among parliamentary reporters and other Danish journalists confirm that commercial pressures affect political journalists less than other journalists, even those working in other prestigious beats. This has negative implications from the viewpoint of participatory democracy; while other journalists emphasize a role as promoters of a citizen perspective, parliamentary journalists see it as their main role to demand accountability rather than responsiveness of politicians.
Toril Aalberg, Stylianos Papathanassopoulos, James Curran, Kaori Hayashi, Shanto Iyengar, Paul Jones, Gianpietro Mazzoleni, Hernando Rojas, David Rowe, Stuart Soroka and Rodney Tiffen
This article investigates the volume of foreign news provided by public-service and commercial TV channels in countries with different media systems, and how this corresponds to the public’s interest in and knowledge of foreign affairs. We use content analyses of television newscasts and public opinion surveys in 11 countries across five continents to provide new insight into the supply and demand for international television news. We find that (a) more market-oriented media systems and broadcasters are less devoted to international news, and (b) the international news offered by these commercial broadcasters more often focuses on soft rather than hard news. Furthermore, our results suggest that the foreign news offered by the main TV channels is quite limited in scope, and mainly driven by a combination of national interest and geographic proximity. In sum, our study demonstrates some limitations of foreign news coverage, but results also point to its importance: there is a positive relationship between the amount of hard international news coverage and citizens’ level of foreign affairs knowledge.
Geert Jacobs and Els Tobback
In today’s globalized and multilingual mediascape the practicalities of inter-language translation have become increasingly relevant in the newsroom and the question has been raised how multilingualism affects journalistic practice. This question seems particularly relevant in Belgium, where the political tension between Dutch-speaking and French-speaking communities has recently dominated the news agenda. In this paper we report on team fieldwork conducted in the TV newsroom of Belgium's French-language public broadcasting corporation RTBF in the spring of 2009. In particular, we will present a case study in which a journalist struggles with the integration of a number of Dutch-language quotes in a news report on the demise of the fashion industry. Our behind-the-scenes analysis, from the storyboard meeting until broadcasting, leads us to question whether the language in which source materials are available can be considered a news value in Belgium. In line with recent calls in media linguistics, our approach is a linguistic ethnographic one, demonstrating the added value of a fine-grained analysis of the discursive processes at the heart of newsmaking routines, one that allows us to revisit news values as decision-making parameters not just in gatekeeping but throughout the news production process.
Mats Ekström, Göran Eriksson, Bengt Johansson and Patrik Wikström
This study, based on Swedish data from three elections (2002, 2006 and 2010) and on a revised version of Clayman’s and Heritage’s (2002b; Clayman et al 2006) conceptualization of aggressive questioning, examines bias in election campaign interviews with leading political figures. In the first part of the study, the prevalence of partisan bias is explored, and this analysis confirms that such bias does not exist. Informed by Conversation Analysis, a limited number of interviews from the 2006 election are investigated in the second part. This analysis also involves questions scripted by journalists, and it compares both quantitatively and qualitatively the differences between the manuscripts and live interaction. The results question the assumption that bias is solely related to journalistic values and actions. The level of aggressiveness in the interviews is also dependent on how the politicians manage the interview questions.
This study examines the appearance of a journalistic genre, that of Israeli business journalism, as a means of considering the relationship between the appearance of journalistic genres and the emergence of non-journalistic fields. It does so through two complementary theoretical prisms. On the institutional front, it considers the extent to which isomorphism, the tendency in capitalist systems for organizations and individuals to create similar structures and practices, existed. On the discursive front, the newspapers' founding statements and initial editorials were analyzed to identify the ways in which they attempted to construct boundaries that demarcated a legitimate space for finance. The study finds that isomorphism within journalism twinned with boundary work directed outside at its object of reporting contributed to the emergence of financial journalism. The study also expands the conceptual understanding of boundary work's role not only within the journalistic field but also across institutions.
Notes on Contributors
Guest Editors: Lilie Chouliaraki and Bolette Blaagaard
Cosmopolitanism and the New News Media
Lilie Chouliaraki and Bolette Blaagaard
Web-based civic participation in democracies, especially in the sprawling domain of alternative politics, continues to grow. In this paper I explore the intersection of two trajectories of such participation: one that takes the form of journalism (broadly understood) and the other that is transnational in character. Participatory journalism unavoidably evokes normative issues that professional journalism has always grappled with. Global activism, in turn, can be analytically framed by the theme of civic cosmopolitanism. My aim is to highlight and juxtapose these two sets of ideals, two normative frameworks for guiding practice in regard to journalism. In the first section I survey the web environment from the standpoint of its enhanced capacity to enable citizens to engage with their societies and the world. Journalistic activity has become a part of this kind of online engagement, and thus normative issues about these practices quickly arise. In the second section, I sketch some of the relevant contours of cosmopolitanism, underscoring the normative themes that it raises. The final section comprises an interface with horizons of civic cosmopolitanism and those of a dilemma-ridden professional journalism; I try to pull the strands together by elucidating the implications that ensue.
In this paper I consider the concept of cosmopolitanism in relation to two types of communication systems: the mainstream press and alternative networked communications of new social movements. Through the example of the hacking scandal, the paper discusses how the cosmopolitan ethics of the ‘freedom of the press’ have become distorted by a thoroughly commercialized tabloid media, to mean little more than freedom of the market to do as it pleases. This is presented as a form of cosmopolitan capitalism via a communication system that is part of a global economy and one that requires new communication policies in order to preserve and promote democratic values over consumerist ones. The paper then turns to an entirely different form of communications online that seek to establish cosmopolitan solidarity via forms of political democracy that rest on the principle of contestation. The paper suggests that cosmopolitanism invites universalist assumptions that at once deny the particularities of time and space while also being susceptible to the particular hegemonic order of the day and the balances of power in any given context. It is, therefore, always both conformist and contestatory, universal and particular. However, it is through contestation that cosmopolitanism can truly flourish.
This article brings together theories of journalistic objectivity and affectivity in order to discuss their relevance in light of the emergence of citizen journalism. The claim of subjectivity and bias in citizen journalism is discussed and an idea of journalistic subjectivity as affectivity is developed. The article discusses ways in which professional journalism is positioned in relation to engaging subjectivity of citizen journalism – as convergence media, as well as independent forms of knowledge and information sharing. The often political affectivity of citizen journalism is discussed in this article and analysed in a short study.
Drawing on the idea that citizen images of crisis events can function as “ruptures” within mainstream journalistic narratives – instances in which distant others can speak and be heard – this article examines from a dual perspective how the global citizen images (photographs and videos) embedded in Finnish print and broadcast coverage of the Arab uprisings and the Japan tsunami disaster facilitate the construction of cosmopolitan imagination. Specifically it explores, first, how emotional proximity is constructed through the conventions of citizen images that break with the aesthetics of professional photojournalism, and, second, how professional journalists see the role of amateur images in their work of reporting distant crises. The analysis identifies four defining characteristics of the aesthetics of citizen images – unconstructedness, unconventional framing, mobility and embodied collectivity – which may invite enhanced affective engagement and reflection. Moreover, it reveals that the increasing significance of global citizen imagery prompts renewed internal reflection on established journalistic practices and norms, but this is not accompanied by a new consideration on the relationship between journalists and their audiences, on journalism as a resource for cosmopolitan attitudes.
The concept of mediation is crucial to the structure of cosmopolitanism understood as a perspective whereby one sees oneself as a member of a world. This article examines the mediatic structure of cosmopolitanism by discussing two different philosophical models of this structure in Kant’s and Hegel’s philosophies of world history. It then considers what happens to this structure in contemporary global political economy by looking at a series of news events concerning the People’s Republic of China in 2008 (the riots in Tibet, the Sichuan earthquake and the various events surrounding the Beijing Olympics). It concludes with some thoughts on the virtualization of power and the role of business journalism, as illustrated by the assessment of U.S. sovereign credit by ratings agencies in 2011.
This article explores how journalist witnessing in the context of disaster reporting can both sustain as well as distance cosmopolitan views and outlooks. Attending to the professional accounts and testimonies of TV news correspondents and reporters involved in recent disaster reporting, a more complex picture emerges than hitherto of competing journalist practices, professional commitments and personal emotional investments. Journalists today often reproduce recognizable forms of disaster reporting that conform, following their own accounts, to a narrowly conceived, geo-politically informed and essentially amoral journalistic outlook – an entrenched “calculus of death” rooted in a particularistic national prism and inimical to cosmopolitan ideas and sentiments. But so also do their accounts and practices sometimes speak to a more expansive, universally inflected and morally infused journalist form of witnessing. Here journalists purposefully craft and inscribe their news reports with a thinly veiled but transparent “injunction to care.” This article addresses this seeming antinomy in the contemporary world of disaster reporting and considers how journalist practices may now be contributing to wider cultural currents of cosmopolitanism.
Social media and social networking sites (SNS) in particular have become popular in current humanitarian campaigns. This article assesses the optimism surrounding the opportunities that SNS communication offers for humanitarian action and for the cultivation of cosmopolitan sensibilities. In order to evaluate the mediation of suffering and humanitarian causes through social media I argue that we need to understand the architectures of social media and social networking sites in addition to analysing the content of the campaigns drawing on the literature on humanitarian communication. Focusing on the analysis of two humanitarian campaigns through social media, the phenomenally popular and controversial Kony 2012 campaign and WaterForward, the article observes that the architectures of SNS orientate action at a communitarian level which heightens their post-humanitarian style (Chouliaraki, 2010). However, an emerging new genre of reporting and commenting which is termed ‘polymedia events’ can potentially extend beyond the limitations of SNS communication by opening up the space for reflexivity and dialogical imagination.
This article draws on performativity theory in order to analyse convergent journalism as a form of journalism that privileges the civil disposition of 'I have a voice', or citizen-driven acts of deliberating and witnessing over the professional act of informing. Whilst this shift in the epistemology of the news from the truth of institutional expertise to the truth of ordinary voice has been welcome as a democratisation of journalism, catalysing processes of recognition that may cosmopolitanise the West, I advocate a more cautious, empirically-grounded approach that attends to variations in convergence reporting. The potential for cosmopolitan solidarity inherent in convergent journalism, I argue, lies with the insertion of ordinary voice in a broader structure of Western journalism that challenges existing hierarchies of place and human life and thus enables the disposition of 'I have a voice' to go beyond communitarian recognition - the recognition of people like 'us' - towards recognising the voice of distant others, too, as a voice worth listening and responding to.
Notes on Contributors
Meenakshi Gigi Durham
In March 2011, The New York Times reported the serial gang rape of a schoolgirl in the small town of Cleveland, Texas. Responses to the story were swift and damning: bloggers and commentators quickly identified the patriarchal and victim-blaming aspects of The Times’ coverage, resulting in an influential petition and an apology from The Times. This study employs critical textual analysis to interrogate the critical responses to The Times story. The analysis reveals that commentators recognized misogynist bias in The Times’ reporter’s use of sources and quotes, the lexical structures in the text, and the strategic elision of race as a “present absence” in the news article. This analysis concludes that in channeling feminist conceptual tropes, the bloggers and commentators engaged in feminist praxis, raising awareness of patriarchal frames for sexual violence as well as galvanizing progressive action. But the study also points to a continued need for vigilance and feminist activism around sexual violence and child abuse.
Irene Costera Meijer
A content analysis of more than 3400 news items published in national and regional Dutch (quality) newspapers, in combination with ethnographic audience and production research, has allowed us to explain when, how and why news can hurt. A longitudinal ethnographic case study of two highly mediatized urban areas shows how residents claim to lose touch with everyday reality as a result of continuous one-dimensional and sensationalized news coverage of their neighbourhood. This case study also illuminates how participatory media enable residents to negotiate, make sense of and give meaning to alternative, more ‘realistic’ readings of everyday life. Finally, the research suggests how professional journalistic routines might have to change in order to prevent news from being unnecessarily painful: from citizen participation to citizen facilitation, from an accent on negative news and a critical tone of voice to doing justice to the multilayered reality of neighborhoods, from a focus on extraordinary events to explaining everyday occurrences.
Maximillian T. Hänska-Ahy and Roxanna Shapour
The 2009 protests in Iran and the 2011 Arab uprisings took place in complex and fast evolving media ecologies. The BBC’s Persian and Arabic language services, which reach millions, drew heavily on content created by ordinary citizens to cover events. This paper traces the flow of this content through the news process to examine how collaboration between newsrooms and citizen journalists changed from 2009 to 2011. The article argues that participation in the news process hinges on the congruence between newsroom practices, and the practices of those producing content on the streets. Such congruence requires mutual knowledge of broadcasting requirements. It finds that by 2011 journalists felt more comfortable and effective integrating user generated content (UGC) into their news output. Importantly, UGC creators appear to have taken on board the broadcaster’s editorial requirements, making them savvier content creators.
Part of a larger study about the experiences of private citizens who suddenly find themselves in the news, this paper addresses one aspect of that experience: how people feel about errors in the stories in which they were named. The study is based on in-depth interviews with 64 individuals who were named in newspaper articles in the New York area and a mid-sized city in the Southwestern United States. As in past, survey-based studies, findings indicate subjects are often quick to dismiss many inaccuracies. But it also emerges that for many subjects other aspects of the experience of being in the news matter more than the strict accuracy of the article, and that circumstances surrounding an article’s publication influence error perception. The paper discusses four features common to subjects' encounters with the press that have bearing on how they interpret an article’s content in general, and errors in particular: the newsworthy events themselves, subjects’ objectives, subjects’ expectations, and the feedback they receive from others.
The convocation of the People’s Convention in January 1941 by the Communist Party of Great Britain presented Britain’s newspapers with an opportunity to demonstrate their integrity according to liberal ideals. Accurate reporting of the Convention could inform the public sphere about issues of concern during a period of intense hardship, but it risked promoting revolutionary defeatism. The findings of a content analysis of a structured sample of newspapers suggests journalism offered news and comment sufficient to assist the formation of a genuine public opinion. Newspapers demonstrated their freedom from policy censorship. Editors who believed the Convention’s programme addressed issues of particular importance to their readers spoke truth to power.
This framing and discourse analysis documents the news coverage of a fire in Shanghai by the Chinese press, represented by a party-organ newspaper and three metro dailies. The findings illustrate the way commercial metro dailies side with their urban civic-minded readers to create an alternative news discourse that differs from that of the party journalism in China. The discourse analysis provides an empirical illustration of a new constructionist approach to community structural analysis. The interaction between the press and the online public, and the convergence of news production and consumption processes, have essentially changed the news framing process. This signifies a shift of the journalist paradigm towards a participatory model in the contemporary Chinese news environment.
Yigal Godler and Zvi Reich
Journalists’ ability to capture anddeliver factual information is central to their sense of professionalism and to their societal and democratic functions. The need to understand journalists’ dealings with facts becomes especially pronounced in an age when news organizations face an economic crisis and journalism’s exclusive jurisdiction over the supply of news information is challenged by new and old forces. This study – part of the “Worlds of Journalism” research project – attempts to analyze fact-related beliefs among 1800 journalists from 18 different countries, and test their associations with a wealth of individual, cultural and organizational variables. The study draws on a rich reservoir of data from diverse regimes, institutional and national backgrounds, types of news organizations, ownership and media, as well as different genders, years of journalism experience, education and seniority.Our research appears to be well placed to evaluate journalists' degree of awareness to the challenges of reality depiction, and to outline through quantitative methods the social conditions which promote epistemological naivety in the form of objectivism, and sophistication as expressed in interpretationist epistemologies. Our findings indicate that conditions of ownership, nature of the political regime, personal beliefs and social environment, produce variance in journalists’ takes on reality depiction.
Susan Forde and Jane Johnston
News agencies, or wire services, are playing a growing role in the contemporary news environment, primarily due to the prevalence of the 24/7 online newsroom and its associated need for speed and volumes of copy (Johnston and Forde, 2009; 2011; Paterson 2006; Lewis et.al. 2008a and 2008b). At the same time press releases and other public relations generated material daily flood the news environment (MacNamara2001; Bacon, Taylor and Pavey 2010; Lewis et al 2008a). This paper builds on research into these two fields, trialing a new methodology—one which follows press releases and other public relations material through the uptake by news agencies, in particular the Australian Associated Press, and finally, as published stories in metropolitan online newspapers. While previous research has tracked press releases and news agency copy individually, this study is significant because it follows the three distinct phases in the news cycle and determines how the news agency—the most pervasive and trusted news source—can become the de facto distributor of public relations material. It grounds the study in the work of political economists, who have endeavoured since the 1970s to explain the dwindling quality and quantity of good journalism in leading democracies. This work sets the foundations for a larger study into the production of news in contemporary media environments.
JMG: Journalism Research at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden.
Monika Djerf-Pierre and Mats Ekström
Notes on Contributors