J-School: Educating Independent Journalists

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

What I’m Doing (1): The Big Picture

Posted by chanders on July 9, 2008

Since I’ve been enrolled in the Columbia University Communications PhD program, I’ve had four general areas of interest:

First: What do journalists know? What is journalistic knowledge, both in a formal sense, and in a practical professional sense (i.e., what are journalists taught?) In pursuit of this question, I spent most of 2007-2008 conducting ethnographic fieldwork in journalism school classrooms and reviewing curricular documents.

Second: What do journalists do? What is journalistic work? In approaching this question, I’ve tried not to define “journalists” ahead of time, but keep an open definition and let journalists define themselves. This is my current focus: I’m in Philadelphia to study journalistic work in one mid-sized metropolitan area.

Third: (and this is where interests one and two unite) … how is journalistic authority maintained by enacting journalistic knowledge through journalistic work? Basically, I take the line that occupations maintain their cultrual authority by displaying their “special,” “unique” knowledge in the work they do.

This third topic ties into to my fourth and broadest area of interest: how are power and authority maintained in our (pre/post/a)modern world, how do power and authority relate to each other, how can power and authority be legitimized democratically, and how is the structure of power / authority changing? This interest goes beyond “journalism,” per se, though journalism is an interesting case study inside these broader questions.

[As a side note: questions of knowledge and authority are currently being overwhelmed by the massive amount of data I’m getting this summer regarding journalistic work. Basically, I could write three dissertations about my fieldwork in Philadelphia alone. I want to maintain questions of journalistic authority– at least in the background– but I’m becoming pretty certain that my time in j-school classrooms might be more useful for another, later project. We’ll see]

One Response to “What I’m Doing (1): The Big Picture”

  1. […] means in the digital world. This is a topic that I have a particular interest in (see here, here, and here) and so I wanted to follow up one of my earlier comments with a more extended discussion […]

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