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Journalism Studies 2011: Contents and Abstracts

Contents and Abstracts of December 2011

(Vol 12 - No 6)


Special Issue: Explorations in Global Media Ethics


Bob Franklin


Explorations in Global Media Ethics
Muhammad Ayish and Shakuntala Rao


The Philosophy of Technology: Globalization and Ethical Universals

Cliff G. Christians

The philosophy of technology has a substantive role in constructing ethical universals during an era of globalization.  It makes two major contributions to a new generation of media ethics:  a critique of the prevailing view of technology as neutral and a human-centered theory of technology. Three applications are pertinent:  1) it prevents us from universals in the Enlightenment tradition; 2) it advocates including alternative technologies in universal theory; and 3) it demonstrates the need for transforming values through education.

Ethical Flourishing as Aim of Global Media Ethics

Stephen J. A. Ward

This paper proposes a new and comprehensive goal for global media ethics – the promotion of ethical flourishing across borders. The ideal of ethical flourishing underwrites more specific global principles and provides a target at which responsible global journalism can aim. A major task of global media ethics is to re-conceive journalism ethics around the idea of ethical flourishing. Promoting ethical flourishing is defined as the development of four levels of essential goods that together constitute the idea of the human good: individual goods, social goods, political goods, and ethical goods (or the goods of justice). These goods contribute to a life that has rational, social, political, and ethical dignity.  The paper uses work in development theory and Sen’s “capacity” theory to identify basic capacities that cross borders and should be protected and promoted by global media.

Patriotism and Popularity in News: Tough choices facing Arab journalists

Abeer Al Najjar

Journalists’ understanding of patriotism seems to be contextual, varies across time and depends on specific cultural and political situations. This paper investigates how global ethical journalism standards of impartiality and objectivity are challenged by patriotism among Arab journalists. It discusses two case studies: the coverage of Al-Jazeera news channel of the War on Gaza and the Egyptian media coverage of the aftermath of the World Cup qualifying football match between the Egyptian and Algerian national teams. Both cases show that patriotism, for many Arab journalists, is a virtue and not a breach of journalism ethics though journalists also believe that such patriotism could stifle criticism of the current political order and lack of press freedom.

Morality in Media Ethics: Readings of Nursi’s theory of God’s attributes

Abderrahmane Azzi

This paper examines ethics and morality as studied by Al Nursi, a reformist Muslim scholar accredited with the rise of the current Muslim revival in modern Turkey. The paper examines Al Nursi's macro theory of God's attribute and establishes a concise linguistic and semantic link between a sample of God's attributes and journalism ethics. The paper presents a normative perspective on journalism ethics from the religious-Islamic standpoint and maintains that the field of journalism ethics is further enhanced and transformed when the religious source of morality is brought to bear on ethics and practices. 

Television Reality Shows in the Arab World: The case for a ‘glocalized’ media ethics

Muhammad Ayish

As much as Western-style reality television in the Middle East has gained extensive popularity among the region’s audiences, it has also provoked serious ethical questions.  In addressing this emerging genre, some television channels have evolved their own reality shows that emphasize local values and traditions.  Based on a survey study and a focus group discussion involving University of Shajrah (UAE) students who were exposed to two sets of reality shows, one “globalized” and the other “localized”, it was clear that both were perceived to carry converging and diverging universal and Arab-Islamic values and norms. The findings of the study suggest that perceptions of a convergence between indigenous and universal media ethics supports the case for a “glocalized” media ethics the Arab World needs to sustain its emerging media industries in a global context.

The ‘Local’ in Global Media Ethics

Shakuntala Rao

This article explores critical regionalism, as defined in the works of Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, as a way to understand and expand the concept of ‘local’ in global media ethics. By using examples of South Asian media the essay concludes that the epistemic inclusion of critical regionalism, contextualized within the broader disciplinary position of Postcolonial theory, can enrich our understanding the nexus of media ethics, localization, and identity politics.

Meanings of Responsibility and Freedom: Negotiating African perspectives in global mediaethics

Herman Wasserman

This article argues that a global media ethics can only be arrived at via a study of local contexts. Following the notion of a ‘critical dialogic ethics’ suggested by Christians (2010), it is argued that a global media ethics should be constructed not as an overarching framework or global social contract arrived at through rational deliberation of ethical concepts removed from historical contexts, everyday lived experience and embedded practices, but through critical dialogue and interaction with Others within those contexts. An ethnographic, cultural approach that seeks narrative accounts of local values and practices should go beyond accepting local values and practices as unalterable or essentialist. Such a global dialogic ethics would start with thick descriptions of contextual values and practices. This article offers a first step towards a description of such values and practices within two particular African contexts, South Africa and Namibia.  The contextual understanding of normative concepts of “social responsibility” and “freedom” are explored in journalistic narratives. The article points to conflicting interpretations of these notions and highlighting the need for an approach to global media ethics that takes account of the complexity of African contexts.

Journalism’s Moral Sentiments: Negotiating Between Freedom and Responsibility

Lee Wilkins

Philosophers since Adam Smith and David Hume have theorized that emotions play a role in ethical decision making. The most recent findings in neuroscience suggest that moral action does not occur without a firm handshake with the emotions.  This paper explores the connection between emotions, bounded rationality and professional ethical decision making, specifically journalistic negotiation between freedom and responsibility. Based on the findings of neuroscience and coupled with feminist ethics and the concept of protonorms as outlined by Christians (2009, 2010), journalists’ moral sentiments regarding these core concepts are linked to the development of a moral imagination that seeks both professionally sound and morally creative alternatives to difficult ethical choices. A case study of one documentary filmmaker illustrates the theory.

Negotiating Global and Local Media Ethics: A case-study of how a local Dubai radio talk show covered the arrest of a couple for kissing in public

James Piecowye

Nightline is an English language talk radio format program broadcast in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, on 103.8FM. As the host of Nightline, I try to balance local, sensibility, regulations, institutional codes of conduct, regional morality, and global media ethics. Through investigations and interviews, Nightline regularly pushes the boundaries of what is defined as acceptable programming in the United Arab Emirates. In this paper, I discuss one particular case study which highlights the difficulty of negotiating global and local journalism ethics in a predominantly Arab-Muslim region.


Research Review

Voices from Asia and Beyond: Centre for Communication Research at City University of Hong Kong
Chin-Chuan Lee

Book Reviews

Notes on Contributors

Contents and Abstracts of October 2011

(Vol 12 - No 5)



Semi-Colonialism and Journalistic Sphere of Influence: British-American press competition in early twentieth-century China

Yong Z. Volz and Chin-Chuan Lee

British-American press competition occurred in semi-colonial China in the early 20th century, when the US, as a rising world power, challenged the British monopoly by advocating an “Open Door Policy.”  While the British and American presses in China strengthened the cohesion of their respective expatriate communities, we maintain that these newspapers also contributed in a fundamental way to the colonial reconfiguration and power redistribution between Britain and the US as they vied for influence with different ideas and practices of colonialism. The historical legacies of semi-colonialism are relevant to contemporary globalization where countries are growing more interconnected while constantly competing for power and privilege.

‘A Mirror of the Times’: A history of the mirror metaphor in journalism

Timothy P. Vos

This is a cultural history of how the mirror was invoked as a metaphor for newspapers and journalism during parts of the 19th and 20th centuries in the U.S.  This study examines how journalists’ own discourse invoked the mirror as a metaphor and how this discourse related to the broader cultural understanding about the nature of mirrors.  Three main meanings emerged— the mirror as means for self-reflection and moral judgment, the mirror as reliable reflection of events, and the mirror as reflection of the nature of a newspaper’s readership or market.

Giving Voice To The “Voiceless”: Incorporating nonhuman animal perspectives as journalistic sources

Carrie Packwood Freeman, Marc Bekoff and Sarah M. Bexell

As part of journalism’s commitment to truth and justice by providing a diversity of relevant points of view, journalists have an obligation to provide the perspective of nonhuman animals in everyday stories that influence the animals' and our lives. This essay provides justification and guidance on why and how this can be accomplished, recommending that, when writing about nonhuman animals or issues, journalists should: 1) observe, listen to, and communicate with animals and convey this information to audiences via detailed descriptions and audiovisual media, 2) interpret nonhuman animal behavior and communication to provide context and meaning, and 3) incorporate the animals’ stories and perspectives, and consider what is in their best interest. To fairly balance animal-industry sources and the anthropocentric biases that are traditionally inherent in news requires that journalists select less objectifying language and more appropriate human sources without a vested interest in how animals are used.

Gender Discourse and Ubuntu Media Philosophy: News framing of rape in Sowetan Online

Nancy Worthington

This paper examines news framing of rape on the website of South Africa’s most popular newspaper during 2008-2009, following the passage of major legislation reforming the treatment of sexual assault.  A qualitative analysis of 145 Sowetan Online news stories revealed three major, often overlapping frames: (1) ubiquity of rape, (2) enforcing male dominance, and (3) justice denied. Drawing on literatures addressing anti-rape activism and media in South Africa, I argue that the dominant framing mobilizes the discourse of anti-rape advocates, although with notable caveats attributable to the adherence to news values of drama, conflict and celebrity, which serve the website’s interest competing with rivals in an increasingly tabloid-oriented marketplace.  The dominant framing pattern is attributed, in part, to editorial decisions consistent with ubuntuism philosophy, which privileges educating the public, facilitating dialogue, and eradicating social hierarchy.  The findings suggest that, when gender hierarchy is fore-grounded as problematic, ubuntuism- influenced news frames can challenge cultural discourses that resist progressive reforms. Additionally, the case suggests that media philosophy and media organization reputation can be important influences on news framing.

Authors and Poets Write the News: A case study of a radical journalistic experiment

Hagar Lahav and Zvi Reich

This study analyzes a journalistic community’s interpretation of an experiment in which authors (primarily fiction writers) and poets replaced the reporters of a major Israeli newspaper and produced the news in two special issues. Using a mix of methodologies – content analysis, interviews with journalists and authors, a survey among journalists and analysis of readers’ responses – the study shows that the journalistic community reacted conservatively to this exceptional project and framed it as a “deviation” to be rejected as “not real journalism.” This may suggest that the journalistic communities’ reflexive protection of their familiar routines is so strong that it may endanger their ability to survive unfolding threats.

Citizen Journalists and Their Third Places: What makes people exchange information online (or not)

Sue Robinson and Cathy DeShano

This research examines whether people who contribute to local news sites achieve feelings of community typically associated with America’s “Third Places” (an Oldenburg, 1991, term that refers to the coffee shops, libraries and other community gathering spots). The article posits that some so-called “citizen journalists” find that they enhance their individual fulfillment, empowerment over information and local communal connections when they contribute to local news sites and blogs online. The research also explored why some otherwise motivated people remain non-contributors. Four realms of tension inhibit full engagement – perceptions of a social collective, authority over information, temporal confusion, and a spatial discomfort between physical and virtual worlds.

Heroes in the Sports Pages: The troubled road to victory for Belgian cyclist Tom Boonen

Tim Hoebeke, Annelore Deprez and Karin Raeymaeckers

Concepts such as myth and archetype offer interesting opportunities for research on media content. Both concepts, however, have very diffuse definitions and operationalizations stemming from specific fields of application. As a result, the concepts of myth and archetype have proved difficult to translate into a transparent and replicable research design to study journalistic output. This paper aims at a thorough operationalization of the hero myth/archetype. The hero archetype will be explored in detail as it is one of the most common archetypal narratives. The archetypal hero journey is translated by developing an operational hero grid in which the archetypal hero narrative is classified in nine sequences and three constituent components. The Flemish press coverage of cyclist Tom Boonen is analyzed to test empirically the developed research tool. While the emphasis of this paper lies on the empirical testing of this research tool, it also aims to broaden empirical data on the coverage of sport figures in the press. Results clearly show myth at work in the newspaper reporting on Tom Boonen.

Mediating a Global Imaginary: Obama’s “Address to the Muslim World” in the Western European press

Markus Ojala

This article addresses the role of journalism in the construction and mediation of global imaginary. I suggest that the notion of global journalism helps us understand how the image of an interconnected world becomes embedded in the news. The operation of global journalism is illustrated with a qualitative content analysis of the coverage of President Obama’s “Address to the Muslim World” in quality British, German and Spanish newspapers. The analysis examines how the newspapers make sense of the President’s lecture in Cairo as a transnational news event by evaluating it against the political and historical background of the Middle East conflict and the contentious intercultural relations between “the Muslim world” and “the West”. Based on the analysis, I argue that the Western European newspapers craft a strikingly unified narrative of the Cairo event. The article concludes with a discussion on the implications of transnational news narratives and on the relevance of global imaginary in journalism.

Disturbing the Peace: Gender, journalism and the Cypriot press

Mashoed Bailie and Bekir Azgin

This article explores the structures of both the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot press in Cyprus in order to consider the role that gender plays in the construction and distribution of knowledge in Cypriot society. The question is whether columns published across the ideological spectrum in both the Turkish Cypriot and Greek Cypriot daily press challenge preconceived notions of gender in the broader communities or whether they reproduce and reinforce previously held patriarchal views of the roles of men and women as citizens in Cyprus. Such views, it is argued, have systematically marginalized women from visible participation in offering alternative futures for the Cypriot communities in Cyprus and relegated them to the position of secondary agents who more often than not play the role of bringing to fruition the imaginings of their male counterparts.


Book Reviews

Notes on Contributors

Contents and Abstracts of June 2011

(Vol 12 - No 3)



Mapping Journalism Cultures Across Nations: A comparative study of 18 countries

Thomas Hanitzsch, Folker Hanusch, Claudia Mellado, Maria Anikina, Rosa Berganza, Incilay Cangoz, Mihai Coman, Basyouni Hamada, María Elena Hernández, Christopher D. Karadjov, Sonia Virginia Moreira, Peter G. Mwesige, Patrick Lee Plaisance, Zvi Reich, Josef Seethaler, Elizabeth A. Skewes, Dani Vardiansyah Noor and Edgar Kee Wang Yuen

This article reports key findings from a comparative survey of the role perceptions, epistemological orientations and ethical views of 1800 journalists from 18 countries. The results show that detachment, non-involvement, providing political information and monitoring the government are considered essential journalistic functions around the globe. Impartiality, the reliability and factualness of information, as well as adherence to universal ethical principles are also valued worldwide, though their perceived importance varies across countries. Various aspects of interventionism, objectivism and the importance of separating facts from opinion, on the other hand, seem to play out differently around the globe. Western journalists are generally less supportive of any active promotion of particular values, ideas and social change, and they adhere more to universal principles in their ethical decisions. Journalists from non-western contexts, on the other hand, tend to be more interventionist in their role perceptions and more flexible in their ethical views.

From Idealist-Entrepreneur to Corporate Executive: Provincial newspaper editors’ and publishers’ ways-of-thinking from the mid-1800s to the present

Monika Djerf-Pierre and Lennart Weibull

This article describes the changes in the management of provincial newspapers in Sweden from the mid-nineteenth century to the present. Five Swedish newspapers form the focus of the study:Barometern (Kalmar), Borås Tidning (Borås), Jönköpings-Posten (Jönköping), Nya Wermlands-Tidningen (Karlstad) and Sundsvalls Tidning (Sundsvall). The article traces the development of the organizational cultures of the newspapers and the ways-of-thinking that have guided editors and publishers, in particular their ideas of the paper as a business or editorial venture, respectively. The findings indicate that changes in managerial thinking hardly follow a linear development, but are instead characterized by what is known in institutional theory as critical junctures (formative phases) and path dependency. At certain crucial points in a paper’s history choices are made that continue to influence the paper’s development for many years thereafter. Typically, it is the ways-of-thinking regarding the business aspects of newspaper publishing, the ideas about the newspaper’s role in society and the newspapers approach to other political, cultural and social institutions that linger on.

Online Journalism and the Promises of New Technology: A critical review and look ahead

Steen Steensen

Research about online journalism has been dominated by a discourse of technological innovation. The “success” of online journalism is often measured by the extent to which it utilizes technological assets like interactivity, multimedia and hypertext. This paper critically examines the technologically oriented research about online journalism in the second decade of its existence. The aim is twofold. First, to investigate to what degree online journalism, as it is portrayed in empirical research, utilizes new technology more than previously. Second, the paper points to the limitations of technologically oriented research and suggests alternative research approaches that might be more effective in explaining why online journalism develops as it does.

Construction of Semi-Investigative Reporting: Journalists’ discourse strategies in the Slovenian daily press

Melita Poler Kovačič and Karmen Erjavec

In the last few years, a new practice known as semi-investigative reporting has appeared in Slovenian journalism. This article presents a study of the strategies used by reporters to construct an image of investigative reporting and of reporters’ own interpretations of this practice. A critical discourse analysis of reports of institutional scandals in the Slovenian quality daily press during a four-year period is combined with in-depth interviews with reporters. Textual analysis revealed four strategies used in the majority of reports: factism; extensive citing of authoritative official sources; reliance on faceless (secret) sources; and appealing to common knowledge and common sense. The interviewees justified semi-investigative reporting via the changes in contemporary journalism, the tastes and desires of their readers, and market-driven pressures from editors. Semi-investigative reporters do not uncover failures in society’s systems of regulation, but in truth they stabilize relations of power within society. In the long term, this practice is harmful to the readers who are exposed to the agendas and frames of official sources under the veil of investigative reporting, which diminishes the credibility of quality media, which are supposed to make those holding power accountable.

Not One of U.S. Kate Adie’s report of the 1986 U.S. bombing of Tripoli and its critical aftermath

Michael Higgins and Angela Smith

Although the professional activities of the war correspondent have commanded critical attention for much of the last century, discussion has intensified in recent years.  This article seeks to place some of these debates within a longer-term perspective, by examining a broadcast by the BBC journalist Kate Adie, reporting on the US bombing of Tripoli in 1986: a broadcast that attracted widespread media and political hostility at the time, as well as prompting the governing Conservative Party to commission a report on perceived bias in BBC news reports.  Using Adie’s previously unavailable reporters’ notebooks, as well as other contemporary material, the article examines the processes of drafting involved in the broadcast, including the discarded elements.  The article outlines evidence of the configuration of human interest-driven news values for an environment of civilian injury and destruction, drawing upon a tradition of the war correspondent as “witness”.  The article suggests that accusations of a lack of objectivity on Adie’s part failed to account for the role of a particular set of interpretive conventions in reporting the bombing’s aftermath, and such broadcasts may be more productively assessed within discussions of “contextual objectivity” in war reporting.

Agenda-Setting and Attitudes: Exploring the impact of media salience on perceived salience and public attitude strength of U.S. presidential candidates from 1984-2004

Spiro Kiousis

This study examined the relationships among media salience of presidential candidate images, perceived candidate salience, and public attitude strength using media and public opinion data from six U.S. presidential elections. The results indicate that media salience is positively related to both public salience and attitude strength. In addition, the findings offer modest evidence suggesting that the sequence of influence among these variables entails media salience leading to stronger attitudes, which subsequently results in increased public salience. The implications of the findings are discussed.

Examining Professional and Academic Culture in Chilean Journalism and Mass Communication Education

Claudia Mellado

This article discusses key findings from a survey of the professional patterns, scholarly productivity, and educational characteristics of Chilean Journalism and Mass Communication (JMC) educators, as well as documentary information about the schools where they work. The results reveal a weak academic culture that contrasts with a strong professional culture among the members of this community, but also the influence that both organizational and individual variables have on Chilean JMC educators’ orientations. Specifically, the analyses indicated that the level of education, part-time/full-time commitment, and the type of university are the most influential factors in defining both the prevalence of a professional culture and the lack of research productivity. These findings support other international studies, indicating a global tendency across key variables that influence academic development in the field. Likewise, it shows how distant Chilean JCM educators are from the university-scholarly tradition.


Research Review: Center for Journalism Ethics, School of Journalism and Mass Communication, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Stephen J. A. Ward

Book Reviews

Notes on Contributors

Contents and Abstracts of April 2011

(Vol 12 - No 2)



The Wire: Dramatising the crisis in journalism

Roger Sabin

The acclaimed HBO television drama The Wire (2002-2008) is both journalistic and about journalism. It was created by a former journalist, David Simon; it was part-based on two journalistic investigations (which became Simon’s Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets and Simon and Ed Burns’ The Corner: A Year in the Life of an Inner-City Neighborhood); and it tells its story in an almost docu-drama style largely inspired by ‘New Journalism’. Most pertinently, Season 5 of the show focuses on a newspaper, The Baltimore Sun, and explores in methodical fashion the failings of modern journalistic practice. The question posed by the season is a simple one: why isn’t Baltimore, and by extension America, ‘getting the message’?  This essay seeks to explore the roots of The Wire’s analysis, the dramatic techniques it utilises to get its message across, and the reaction to the show in the newspaper industry. Although comparisons with the industry are inevitable, the essay is more interested in The Wire’s manipulation of the ‘rhetoric of the real’ rather than any correlation with ‘the real’ itself (always in inverted commas). It is a contention that the show capitalises on the freedom offered by fictional (TV) writing to present a critique that is reformist and nostalgic, but which is informed by Marxist-derived media theory.

Reality Without Scare Quotes: Developing the case for critical realism in journalism research

Kate Wright

This article builds on initial arguments about the advantages of using Critical Realism as an underpinning ontology in Journalism Studies, by discussing its compatibility with practical journalistic teaching and some aspects of constructivism, its grounds for political and ethical engagement, and its ability to open up new avenues of research in Journalism Research. In particular, it advances ideas about the ways in which Critical Realism allows Journalism scholars to move beyond the rigid categorisation of different fields of research, by encouraging the critical exploration of the inter-relationship/s of structure and agency. It then turns to 'mid-range' theory-building: considering whether the work of Archer, Bourdieu and Bates would help researchers ask more nuanced questions about journalistic processes and products, as well as assisting them in modelling time and change.

Beyond the Broadcast Interview: Specialized forms of interviewing in the making of television news

Mats Ekström and Åsa Kroon Lundell

Based on a mixed-method approach, this article aims at exploring the specialized forms of interviewing that are used as resources in television broadcast news production. Interviews are analyzed as functionally specialized forms of interaction (cf. Heritage, 1985) with various functions in different phases of the news production. We assume that interviews are organized and carried out as communicative activities oriented towards specific tasks, identities and contexts of interaction. In contrast to established definitions of the archetypical on air news interview, we argue that broadcast interviewing is only partially produced for an “overhearing audience” (ibid.). Taking into account the entire process of producing and presenting news, journalism harbours a multitude of interviewing practices and activities which remain invisible if only the taped and transcribed broadcast talk is analyzed. Our study clearly indicates that news interviews contain more diversified and hybrid activities of communication than have been described in previous research.

The Potential of Web-Only Feature Stories: A case study of Spanish media sites

Ainara Larrondo Ureta

This article presents a case study that examines formal, stylistic and functional characteristics of the web-only special features of three Spanish quality newspaper sites. The research, conducted in the framework of the author’s doctoral dissertation, employs a mixed methodology based on an analysis of their links and their hypertextual structure, as well as on interviews with the editors concerned. The results show an extensive use of the technique of non-linear and multimedia writing, as well as specific narrative patterns that require further creative skills. These findings make it possible to understand why this type of production is today one of the main values in the informative and business strategy of the most popular online media. From a less pragmatic point of view, the case studies confirm the potential of this type of microsite for developing stories in depth, which supposes an enriching of the traditional genre of the feature or special report. The article discusses the implication of these findings for reporting practice and the need for further research about the impact of Internet on the principles of journalism genres.

Mothering and Governing: How news articulated gender roles in the cases of Governors Jane Swift and Sarah Palin

Jamie Loke, Dustin Harp and Ingrid Bachmann

Media discourse scrutinized Massachusetts’ Governor Jane Swift when she bore twins but Governor Sarah Palin’s pregnancy garnered different reactions. From a feminist perspective, this research uses articulation theory to examine discursive links and frames in news coverage of Swift and Palin as governors and mothers — both of whom were members of the Republican Party and proponents of heterosexual marriage. Articulations vilified Swift’s parenting and governing because she strayed from a dominant mothering ideology and her husband, a stay-at-home father, disrupted hegemonic white masculinity. News stories about Palin, in contrast, present her circumstances favorably, we argue, because she identified herself foremost as a mother and more closely fitted familial gender roles.

Between Impartiality and Ideology: The BBC’s paradoxical remit and the case of Islam-related television news

Chris Flood, Stephen Hutchings, Galina Miazhevich and Henri Nickels

This article examines the paradoxical requirements of the BBC’s public service broadcasting (PSB) remit, which prescribes impartiality, fairness and balance in news reporting but also requires the broadcaster to serve specified civic values deemed fundamental to British society. Since this combination of civic values is not ideologically neutral, it raises the question of how liberal ideological assumptions are communicated in news items purporting to show due impartiality. The matter is further complicated when the quality of background information and analysis accompanying news stories is included as a factor within the remit, while market pressures and other practical constraints push in a different direction. We examine the tensions arising in this regard with reference to the reporting of Islam-related topics on the BBC’s Ten O’Clock News over two years (November 2006 – October 2008). Our analysis combines a quantitative overview of frequency, salience and patterns of topic selection across the dataset as a whole with a case study of reports on one of the legal trials arising from a protest demonstration by Muslims in London. The concluding discussion reflects on the trade-offs involved in applying the different aspects of the BBC’s remit to newsmaking practice.

Transnational Journalism Education: Promises and challenges

Kevin Grieves

Journalism educators in Europe are gradually implementing training aimed at breaching borders between national newsroom cultures. At the same time, a “European” journalism culture has yet to materialize on a significant scale in the continent’s newsrooms. This article examines this disconnect via a case study of a new transnational journalism education program. Graduates of the Master’s in French-German journalism program face challenges in locating jobs that utilize their abilities, in large part because the media world still seems locked into national ways of thinking about journalism. As a result, these future journalists often find themselves in a sort of limbo, armed with a cutting-edge preparation but stymied by a profession still waiting to advance to a pan-European mindset.


Book Reviews

Notes on Contributors

Contents and Abstracts of February 2011

(Vol 12 - No 1)


Special Issue: Journalism as an Institution



David Ryfe & Mark Ørsten

We introduce a special journal issue on new institutionalism and the news. This tradition began with the publication of Cook (1998) and Sparrow ’s (1999) analyses of American news media. At the time, Cook and Sparrow turned to new institutionalist concepts to explain the relative homogeneity of the American media system. In subsequent essays, the authors articulate research agendas that allow for more variation across media systems and more change over time. The essays collected in this issue take up this theme in analyses of change and variation across several news systems around the globe. Among other things, the authors show that new institutionalist concepts are useful for addressing the following research questions: has the Brazilian media system become “Americanized” in the past half century? Why have American newspapers failed to innovate in response to new technological and economic pressures? What has been the impact of YouTube on broadcast journalism practices? Why do some American news organizations produce higher quality content than other news organizations? What explains the rise of objectivity in turn-of-the-twentieth century American news media? What has been the impact of commercialization on Scandinavian media systems? And, over the past few decades, have Chinese news media become a more autonomous watchdog of the Chinese government? Overall, the articles show new institutionalism to be a vital center linking research projects across the sub-fields of journalism studies to a common theoretical tradition.


Quoting Practices, Path Dependency, and the Birth of Modern Journalism

David Ryfe and Markus Kemmelmeier

Using Hallin’s (1994) analysis of soundbites in network television news coverage as a model, we track the quoting practices of five American newspapers during the transition to modern news (1876-1916). We find that despite variation in the size, geographic location, and partisan orientation of these newspapers, trends in their quoting practices moved in relative lockstep. Drawing on the institutionalist concept of path dependency, we argue that these patterns are not consistent with an economic explanation of the transition to modern news. Rather, we suggest that political change—specifically, the breakdown of the third party system in 1896, served as a “critical juncture” in the transition to modern news. Overall, we argue that detailed analysis of newsgathering practices coupled with an institutional approach may allow historians to trace the timing, sequence and explanation of historical change in journalism in finer detail.

Institutional Effects on the Information Quality of Campaign News

Johanna Dunaway

Recent work highlights the fact that there are clear differences in the quality of the news product offered by different news outlets. What is not clear is why some news outlets consistently produce a more informative and less superficial news product while others do not. Media scholars suggesting an institutional view of the news media have acknowledged the idea that institutions can be multi-layered, and point to the need to understand specific institutional aspects of the media at all levels. Building from the idea that we can benefit from understanding the institutional similarities and differences between local media outlets, this article examines the quality or issue substance in campaign news coverage as a function of the institutional arrangements within media outlets and their economic and political contexts.

Youtube and the Challenge to Journalism

Limor Peer and Thomas B. Ksiazek

News media are an institution where ritualized journalistic practices govern the production of news content. This study analyzes those practices in a new realm, online video, to assess whether this form of video journalism deviates from traditional standards. A content analysis of 882 videos on YouTube reveals that most news videos adhere to traditional production practices (e.g., editing techniques, audio quality), but break from common content standards (e.g., use of sources, fairness). We find that these more relaxed content practices are rewarded with a higher number of views, while adherence to traditional production practices does not predict popularity. Interestingly, online videos that are repurposed from broadcast platforms experience the greatest spike in viewership when breaking from those standards, suggesting that such deviations in traditional television news are especially valued by audiences. We discuss these results in the context of the possibility of a new set of institutionalized practices and address implications for the current and future state of journalism.

Institutionalism, News Organizations, and Innovation

Wilson Lowrey

This study adopts new institutional theory from the sociology of organizations, as well as concepts from the study of social networks, to help explain news organizations’ struggles to innovate in the face of uncertainty. This literature suggests organizations with institutional orientations tend to adopt fleeting change, following industry trends, or even buffering internal processes from innovation in the product. In contrast, organizations that network with markets and readers tend to adopt more substantial change. Factors shaping managers’ decision-making are explored, with a particular focus on the role environmental uncertainty plays in news organizations pursuing connections within the news institution (strong ties) or with audiences (weak ties). Data from a survey of news organizations and an analysis of features on their Web sites suggest levels of innovation are low, and institutionalist tendencies dominate decision-making about product change. Where innovation occurs, it is due to corporate coercion and resources, and concrete evidence from the organization’s market. Uncertainty about audiences and technologies tends to reinforce institutionalist tendencies by encouraging managers to follow present industry trends. Uncertainty does seem to fuel the news organization’s internal capacity to innovate, but it does not lead to actual changes in Web site features. This suggests news organizations are decoupling internal processes from external processes – more evidence of an institutional orientation.

The Copy Desk and the Dilemmas of the Institutionalization of 'Modern Journalism' in Brazil

Afonso de Albuquerque and Juliana Gagliardi

The institutional research of the news media has mainly focused on the American news media and political institutions. By discussing the reform of the Diário Carioca newspaper, in the 1950s – usually referred as the birth of modern journalism in Brazil – this article aims to examine the institutionalization of the news media in a different social context. The reform of Diário Carioca in the 1950s provides an early example of the influence of the American model of journalism overseas. Its purpose was to replace the French-inspired model of journalism, literary and politically engaged by an informative, fact-centered model of journalism. However, Brazilian journalists did not adopt the American model in a passive manner. They reinterpreted it, in order to make it fit the characteristics of the local society. In order to put the new model into practice the Diário Carioca reformers adopted authoritarian modernization methods: They downplayed reporting in comparison to news writing, endowed the copy desk with a core ideological and normative role in the newsrooms, and significantly reduced the autonomy of the journalists at work. By doing so, they fostered a “professionalization without professionalism” model, and hampered the institutionalization of the new rules introduced by the Diário Carioca.

The News Media as a Political Institution: a Scandinavian Perspective

Sigurd Allern and Mark Ørsten

On the basis of Scandinavian journalism research this article discusses the changing political roles of news organizations and journalists after the fall of the party press and the dissolution of broadcasting as a state controlled monopoly. Given these institutional changes, we ask the following:  what new roles, if any, are news organizations and journalists playing in the political system?  What are the characteristics of these new roles, and how do news organizations use their newfound political power? We address these questions in the context of an institutional approach to the news coupled with Hallin and Mancini’s analysis of media systems. 

Yu Lun Jian Du: The Practice of Chinese News Media in an Institutional Perspective

Dan Huang

“Yu Lun Jian Du”, or the Chinese media’s practice of scrutinizing government activity, has become a popular discourse in China. This study stresses that: a) By institutional arrangement, China’s media are “mouthpieces” of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and their “Yu Lun Jian Du” practice has always been under strict party control; b) As a media discourse, “Yu Lun Jian Du” helps journalists pursue professional autonomy under the premise of conformity to party rules; c) the emergence of the Internet affords unprecedented possibilities for free expression, however, it has as yet not subverted China’s established media system. Provided that China’s political system remains intact, the media will remain an organ of the CCP and the practice of “Yu Lun Jian Du” will remain one component of the CCP’s exercise of political power.


The Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism
David Levy

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