J-School: Educating Independent Journalists

“If tools could make anyone who picked them up an expert, they’d be valuable indeed.” Plato, The Republic

Archive for February, 2006

Participatory Journalism as a Two (or Three) Axis Field (Pt II)

Posted by chanders on February 25, 2006

Here’s an example of what I mean:

The x axis represents that degree to which the form cultural production in question is an autonomous from politics, the economy, and the consumers of that culture. In this case it is worth contrasting the example of "pure science" with that of journalism in order to get a better idea what I mean. Science purports to be an extraordinarily autonomous field– its producers answer only to other members of the scientific community, and research, which often requires an extraordinarily high level of investment, can take years and even then often fails in its goals. Journalism, on the other hand, produces a daily product that is (in the West) almost totally subservient to the economic field and the tastes of its audience (in fact, one of the major historical changes in journalism over the course of the late 19th to early 20th century was its shift from a dependence on politics to a dependence on the market.)

As we can see, therefore, the field of science lurks near the right of the x-axis while journalism sits to the left.

The y-axis represents the degree to which the professional knowledge base of the cultural field is closed ("jealous") or open ("generous"). Science, especially in its pure form, represents the one of the most closed of the culture producing disciplines, while journalism’s knowledge base is much more open to outside penetration. As Michael Schudson has noted, "There is an insistence [within journalism] that J-school is entirely unnecessary, and there remains plenty of evidence that this is so." And some of the most famous journalists, historically speaking, have been writers of another sort– like Mark Twain or Upton Sinclair.

The primary object of interest here is, of course, the field of online journalism, to which the other fields are added for the sake of comparison. Online journalism, which its "pro-am" or deprofessionalized ethos, is even more generous than traditional journalism. And online journalism, at least in its current form, is more autonomous that traditional journalism– although some bloggers obviously feel some obligation to their readership, and others are tied closely to the political sphere, it would be foolish to argue that online journalism is less autonomous than the capital intensive projects that comprise most forms of traditional journalism. Despite these differences, these forms of journalism are much more similar to each other than they are, say, to science.

Key points:

*** Relationship between the various forms of professional journalistic closure and generosity, given the comments below and the expertise paradox identified by Schudson.
*** Historical movement within the axis– trad. journalism moving towards a more closed form of knowledge; online journalism doing the same (??) or losing its autonomy(??).

By the way, its good to be able to find one of the earlier attempts I made to graph this all out back almost a year ago to this very day! Lets here it for keeping a journal.

PS: this line of thinking is almost entirely ripped off from

Eyal, "Dangerous liaisons between military intelligence and Middle Eastern studies in Israel" (Theory and Society, 2002)

Rose, "Engineering the human soul: Analyzing psychological expertise" (Science in Context, 1992)

Benson, "Field theory in comparative context: A new paradigm for media studies" (Theory and Society, 1999)


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Participatory Journalism as a Two (or Three) Axis Field

Posted by chanders on February 25, 2006

Way too much background thinking to go into in this post for now; apologies,

But can we discuss mapping the participatory journalisitic field along two axes: autonomy of cultural production / jealous" or generous" nature of professional knowledge?

or three axes? :  autonomy from the political field / autonomy from the audience / "jealous" or generous" nature of professional knowledge?

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Teaching the Future of Journalism, from OJR

Posted by chanders on February 16, 2006

Teaching the future of journalism, by Larry Pryor:

"Convergence? It’s dead. No, it’s alive. No, it lurches through the battlements like the Ghost of Hamlet, joined by other media visions: Community, Authenticity, Diversity, Objectivity, even ("most horrible") Who Is A Journalist."

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Journalism as a Knowledge Claim

Posted by chanders on February 13, 2006

Modern journalism is, at its root, a knowledge claim:  an assertion of authoritative knowledge with regard to the occurrence and meaning of public events. Journalists claim to know “all the news that’s fit to print”– both what constitutes “the news” and why “it fits.” This authoritiative claim-making is not the only social role of journalism, nor is journalism the only social organization to boldly affirm its own epistemological authority. Nevertheless, journalism is one of those unique institutions and social practices which avows that it possesses a special insight into the shape of and
meaning of the endless torrent of events that constitute our lived

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Revising “The Deprofessionalization of Journalism”

Posted by chanders on February 9, 2006

This semester I’m begining what (I hope) will be my last major revision to "The Deprofessionalization of Journalism", an essay which began as an MA Thesis and then, under the stimulating and productive influence of my readings in the sociology of the professions,  morphed into the draft paper you see linked above. The current (and last?!?) revision will take into account my growing interest in a specific domain of the sociology of the professions– professional claims to expert knowledge– my current (and last!) class on the sociology of expertise, comments from various readers of the previous paper, and a few weeks to refect on the previous draft. With any luck, the latest draft might be publishable (or at least conference-presentable) and might serve as the general theoretical backdrop to my dissertation (ie, Chapter One).

As a side note: I am really starting to feel the need and the urge to put this theoretical mumbo-jumbo behind me and get a plan together to get out into the field and actually start to "find things out." I suppose this is at it should be– a prof. once told me that its easy to get lost in "theory" and eventually you just need to stop thinking and start working.

The (new-ish) outline of my latest draft go something along thse lines (I want to get this outline written before I heavily reexamine my draft so the outline will guide my revisions, rather than the other way around):

A. Introduction

B. Journalism as a Profession and Object of Study
    1. Journalism as a profession (mostly the professional literature itself)
    2. Journalism as an ethnographic domain
    3. Historical perspectives on profession of journalism
    4. New approaches to the journalism profession
        a. Journalism as a field (Benson, et. al.)
        b. Rosen
        c. Singer
        d. Deuze
C. Sociological Perspectives: From "Professions" to "Expert Knowledge."
    1. Functional perspectives
    2. The stuctural / monopoly perspective
    3 . Professions as a claim to expert knowledge
D. Journalism and the Epistemology of News
    1. Does journalism make a claim to expert knowledge?
    2. Erkstrom
    3. Matheson
    4. Lowry
    5. Reexamining journalism and the professions through the "epistemological lens."
E. Avenues for Future Research: tying work into theory

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