Journalism’s “social contract” refers to journalism’s role in democracy, primarily its obligations to inform the public and scrutinize government. The notion of a contract, however, entails the exchange of rights and obligations for mutual benefit. In this exchange, journalism enjoys the rights to free expression and publication, and it is obliged to cover the world fairly and accurately, providing citizens with the information they need to perform their roles as citizens. The notion of a social contract of the press is primarily rooted in liberal philosophy, though there is also a moral side to the contract that can be traced to republican theories of democracy. The question of reciprocity is central to the research on journalism’s social contract, primarily on the relationship between journalists and audiences, an area of research that is gaining traction as networked public spheres grow in importance as new venues of audience participation. Although the notion of a social contract is most visible in discussions of journalism ethics and professional practice, democratic media models also assume that journalism’s social contract constitutes an important conduit of democratic processes. As such, journalism’s social contract largely describes normative dimensions of journalism’s role in society, primarily embedded in notions related to the quality of information and an informed citizenry.
The core of the journalistic style is the newswriting style. Writing news leans upon the objectivity paradigm that has triggered wide academic debate about the biases in defining journalism. The majority of the scholarship regarding the journalistic style and writing gathers around newspapers and news; however, many traditions of writing transgress the traditional newswriting tradition and are supported by literary and cultural production, and the boundaries are becoming increasingly porous. The history of journalistic styles is closely connected to different genres: genres of journalism, such as news journalism and literary journalism, and textual genres, such as feature, column, and essay. Furthermore, style is a contextual term that emerges as a result of a variety of different choices, can be examined at different levels ranging from words to structures of production, and has to be studied in connection with other factors influencing the communication process such as medium, content, form, genre, discourses, and audience. It may thus be hard to separate the way of knowing from the way of presenting knowledge, “the way of using language” as style typically is defined. Indeed, journalism research is characterized by very diverse conceptualizations and operationalizations of style with regard to journalism. Relevant research is typically located in the intersection of language and journalism, literature and journalism, and the socially constructed reality and journalism, drawing on the different subareas of linguistics, literary theory and criticism, sociology, and interdisciplinary approaches. During the history of journalism studies, the scholarly inquiry has made struggles for symbolic power and alternative ways of knowing and presenting visible. The notions of the journalistic style in newspapers, magazines, and online have become more diverse.
Lifestyle journalism is a significant and very substantial field of journalism. Unlike other fields of journalism, however, it has not been the focus of much scholarly debate. Providing audiences as it does with “news you can use,” it is often considered a supplement to breaking news, political news, and news on social and cultural conflicts. Lifestyle journalism has frequently been defined in opposition to the normative ideal of journalism and therefore in terms of what it is not. This means that it has often been defined from within other journalistic fields, or as a fusion of journalistic elements such as soft news, service journalism, consumer journalism, popular journalism, or even cultural journalism. Lifestyle journalism has also been an umbrella term for more specialized beats of journalism such as travel journalism, fashion journalism, or food journalism. But while lifestyle journalism is partly defined by the topics addressed, it is also characterized by specific genres or modes of addressing the audience (as consumers, for example). Common to a lot of characterizations is a strong connection with advertising and public relations, which means that lifestyle journalists often have been accused of running the errands of the market. For this reason the journalistic role and the self-perceptions of journalists in this field have been a special point of interest in the scholarly debate. In addition to being challenged from within journalism, the legitimacy is also challenged by the many new voices that participate in the field of lifestyle issues in a digital media landscape, a participation that increasingly blurs the boundaries between professionals and non-professionals.
The field of lifestyle journalism is, however, itself characterized by blurred boundaries, both between the various subfields and between soft and hard news. Genres traditionally used in hard news, for example, have been adapted to soft news, and topics such as health can in one context be presented as “soft news” (e.g., “how to improve your health”) but in others as “hard news” (e.g., “smoking causes economic expenses”). The relatively new practice of constructive journalism can serve as a case of how approaches associated with lifestyle and service journalism have migrated to more traditional hard news fields.
Richard Lance Keeble
“Literary journalism” is a highly contested term, its essential elements being a constant source of debate. A range of alternative concepts are promoted: the “New Journalism,” “literary non-fiction,” “creative non-fiction,” “narrative non-fiction,” “the literature of fact,” “lyrics in prose,” “gonzo journalism” and, more recently, “long-form journalism,” “slow journalism,” and “multi-platform immersive journalism.” At root, the addition of “literary” to “journalism” might be seen to be dignifying the latter and giving it a modicum of cultural class. Moreover, while the media exert substantial political, ideological, and cultural power in societies, journalism occupies a precarious position within literary culture and the academy. Journalism and literature are often seen as two separate spheres: the first one “low,” the other “high.” And this attitude is reflected among men and women of letters (who often look down on their journalism) and inside the academy (where the study of the journalism has long been marginalized). The seminal moment for the launching of literary journalism as a subject in higher education was the publication in 1973 of The New Journalism, edited by Tom Wolfe and E. W. Johnson. Bringing together the work of 22 literary journalists, Wolfe pronounced the birth of a distinctly new kind of “powerful” reportage in 1960s America that drew its main techniques from the realist novels of Fielding, Smollett, Balzac, Dickens, and Gogol. By the 1980s and 1990s, the study of literary journalism was growing (mainly in the United States and United Kingdom), with some courses opening at universities. In recent years, literary journalism studies have internationalized revealing their historic roots in many societies while another emphasis has been on the work of women writers. Immersive journalism, in which the reporter is embedded with a particular individual, group, community, military unit (or similar) has long been a feature of literary journalism. In recent years it has been redefined as “slow journalism”: the “slowness” allowing for extra attention to the aesthetic, writerly, and experimental aspects of reportage for the journalist and media consumer. And perhaps paradoxically in this age of Twitter and soundbite trivia, long-form/long-read formats (in print and online) have emerged alongside the slow journalism trend. The future for literary journalism is, then, full of challenges: some critics argue that one solution to the definitional wrangles would be to consider all journalism as worthy of critical attention as literature. Most analysis of literary journalism is keen to stress the quality of the techniques deployed, yet greater stress could be placed on the political economy of the media and a consideration of ideological bias. Indeed, while most of the study of literary journalism to date has focused on the corporate media, the future could see more studies of partisan, progressive, alternative media.
Kristy Hess and Lisa Waller
There are more local news outlets operating around the world at any given moment than larger-scale metropolitan newsrooms, and yet it is the latter that have dominated journalism scholarship. As a specific area of inquiry, local journalism—often branded “community journalism” or “hyperlocal journalism”—is a relatively new but rapidly growing field of research in this period of digital disruption. Scholars argue that studying news at the local level can offer rich insights into the role and place of journalism more broadly and reveal much about why people engage with news. Local journalism has been highlighted for its distinct role in reinforcing notions of and building community and the importance of social and public connection among audiences. More recently, attention has shifted to business models sustaining local news given the turbulence facing traditional media and the rapid closure of long-serving local newspapers, especially in the United Kingdom. Scholars have also emphasized the importance of re-conceptualizing local news in a globalized and digital world, highlighting the continued relevance and importance of place to journalists and audiences. Sociology and political science have been the dominant lenses used to examine this sector; however, increasingly scholars are turning to cultural studies to understand the relationship between local news and audiences. Most recent research also indicates there is renewed optimism within the sector, especially among news providers who remain embedded and committed entirely to the local areas they serve.
Oscar Westlund and Stephen Quinn
Journalism and news are so much a part of our lives that most societies take them for granted. To access the news, people have traditionally had to pay for newspapers or acquire television and radio receivers with accompanying licenses or cable subscriptions. To a large extent, accessing the news has been connected to specific physical domains, especially the home. The widespread diffusion of computers, the Web, and news sites that started in the mid-1990s has made news increasingly accessible, and over the past decade, mobile news has fueled this even more. Digital technologies have become an accepted part of our lives. Access to news and information is easier than ever, with an abundance of free news via connected and ubiquitous digital platforms. News is expensive to produce, however, creating concerns about future business models to support journalism. It means we cannot take journalism for granted. News media must produce content that is valuable to society.
Mobile devices and different forms of mobile media and communication have become integral parts of contemporary societies. The nexus of mobile media and reporting has become one of the most important developments for journalism. Research into mobile news production falls into two main strands. On the one hand, we find research taking an organizational approach, with studies of intra-organizational collaborations in developments of mobile services, what mobile platforms to use, business model considerations, and so forth. On the other hand, we encounter research focusing more specifically on news production among mobile journalists (so-called MoJos). For the working journalist, the mobile device has become the key tool for gathering information, images, and video, and for communicating with colleagues and sources.
Jannie Møller Hartley
The focus of news-audience research has shifted from investigating news audiences of single platforms—such as newspapers, television, or radio news—to audiences in an inherently cross-media context; and from examining the audience as passive, choosing between content made available for them; to investigating what audiences do with the news more actively, often coined by the term “news engagement.”
News-audience studies can be divided into five approaches: (1) media-effect studies of news consumption; (2) studies of news-media use and motives; (3) cultural audience studies of news practices; (4) news audiences’ comprehension and recall of news; and (5) news engagement in the digital age.
Due to changes in the media landscape, both technological and commercial, traditional analytical models in news-audience research have been challenged. The final discussion addresses how a tendency to focus on either reducing audiences to quantifiable aggregates in big-data research or labeling news audiences as a thing of the past can be observed—in both cases removing news-audience research from actual empirical audiences.
The relationship between journalists and their sources is central to journalism practice. It is a relationship based on a power struggle over the presentation of information to the public. The nature of that relationship continues to change in response to cultural, social, political, and technological circumstances. Historically, the relationship between journalists and sources has been predominantly characterized as interdependent, oscillating between cooperation and conflict over the control of information. However, the arrival of digital publishing platforms has significantly disrupted this mutually dependent exchange. It has blurred the boundaries between the two roles and released sources from their traditional reliance on journalists to disseminate their messages to citizens. Using digital platforms, sources have the option to bypass the traditional media and communicate directly with the public if it meets their strategic communication goals. Depending on whether the source is trying to reach a specific audience via social media or a wider audience via mass media, he or she can “opt-in” or “opt-out” of a traditional journalist-source relationship. The shift in power between reporters and sources poses a challenge to the authority and control of journalists who have lost their stranglehold over the means of publication. This change points to issues of accountability and scrutiny and raises questions about the ongoing relevance of journalism’s “fourth estate” role in democracy.
How events become news has always been a fundamental question for both journalism practitioners and scholars. For journalism practitioners, news judgments are wrapped up in the moral obligation to hold the powerful to account and to provide the public with the means to participate in democratic governance. For journalism scholars, news selection and construction are wrapped up in investigations of news values and newsworthiness. Scholarship systematically analyzing the processes behind these judgments and selections emerged in the 1960s, and since then, news values research has made a significant contribution to the journalism literature. Assertions have been made regarding the status of news values, including whether they are culture bound or universal, core or standard. Some hold that news values exist in the minds of journalists or are even metaphorically speaking “part of the furniture,” while others see them as being inherent or infused in the events that happen or as discursively constructed through the verbal and visual resources deployed in news storytelling. Like in many other areas of journalism research, systematic analysis of the role that visuals play in the construction of newsworthiness has been neglected. However, recent additions to the scholarship on visual news values analysis have begun to address this shortfall. The convergence and digitization of news production, rolling deadlines, new media platforms, and increasingly active audiences have also impacted on how news values research is conducted and theorized, making this a vibrant and ever-evolving research paradigm.
J. David Wolfgang
Shortly after its emergence as a tool for participatory journalism, online commenting became a popular format for audience public discourse and a subject of controversy for professional journalists. The early 21st century has seen a constant growth in research considering how online comments have influenced journalism by providing new ways to understand the perspective of the audience, by changing the routines and practices of the newsroom, and by encouraging a reconsideration of how content influences readers. News audiences, generally, have been relatively quiet and passive in the past, but online comments have given them the opportunity to speak alongside journalists on professional platforms. This shift in news-mediated public discourse has the potential to reshape the journalist−audience relationship in substantial ways. The research on commenting has provided new evidence on how journalistic practices are changing, how people perceive and process information online, and how journalists negotiate technological change while trying not to upend the profession. However, there is a need for more research that explores critical questions related to comment quality, changing journalistic norms, and the relationship between journalist identity and technology. Online commenting has the potential to help fulfill the journalistic norms of providing a space for public discourse and promoting diverse views from within the community. This potential, however, is reliant upon journalists who uphold the civic function of journalism’s role.
Funding of journalism has become a critical part of journalism and digital journalism studies because no single business model has emerged to solve revenue problems for print and digital news outlets. Despite newspapers’ efforts to expand their income sources, they have remained print reliant in terms of revenue. In 2017, approximately 80% of global news publishers’ revenue still came from print products. While some large news corporations such as The New York Times Co. and News Corp have reported substantial increases in their digital subscription numbers, revenue from subscriptions and digital advertising has not been substantial enough to fund their newsroom structures and journalism. In this context, academia has started to produce more research on news payment systems. Recent studies of payment systems have largely concentrated on people’s willingness to pay for news. Academic researchers have also studied paywall models, content, and revenue. Additionally, crowdfunding as a source of revenue for news has been investigated, and the research on membership models is expanding. Most of the studies about news payment systems have concluded that none of the news payment systems—including paywalls, micropayments, donations, and memberships—is (on its own) sustainable for funding future journalism. Paywall can be understood as a subscription model that limits the public’s access to all or to some digital news content without a payment. Micropayments allow readers to pay per article or per view. Memberships allow the public to access certain content (premium content) or extra services such as events for a fee. Donations refer to the public’s voluntary monetary contributions to produce news articles or projects to the news sites. News publishers have become increasingly dependent on social media platforms such as Facebook for their content distribution. However, there is still very little academic research about news payment systems related to Facebook or other social media companies. This may well be because there is no transparent information about this kind of revenue as the news industry itself is not reporting on it.
Peace Journalism is a set of distinctions in the representation of conflicts. Put forward originally by Johan Galtung, the Peace Journalism model has acted as an organizing principle for initiatives in pedagogy and training, movement activism for media reform, and scholarly research. Exponents have often operated concurrently in more than one of these activity streams, and the field has generally been imbued with an awareness of the need for theory to address issues relevant to professional practice and experience. Taken together, the activities in all three of these streams show a global pattern of distribution and have been called the worldwide “peace journalism movement.”
This movement puts forward remedial measures to the dominance of certain patterns of conflict reporting, characterized as War Journalism. This should not be confused with the everyday term “war reporting,” meaning, simply, to report on wars. Instead, War Journalism describes forms of reporting that make further violence seem logical, sensible, even inevitable.
Galtung first put forward his model as a table showing distinctions under four main headings. Whereas War Journalism was violence-oriented, elite-oriented, propaganda-oriented, and victory-oriented, peace journalism could be identified as peace and conflict-oriented, people-oriented, truth-oriented, and solution-oriented.
Peace Journalism research has concentrated mainly on three issues. The first—constituting the largest proportion of published work—has been to find out how much Peace Journalism is underway in samples of conflict reporting from (usually) print media. Such research proceeds by operationalizing the distinctions in the model to derive relevant criteria for content analysis. In a second strand, scholars have applied the model to new and different kinds of conflict, such as political or cultural conflicts, or extended its geographical reach by using it to consider reporting by media of different countries and discussed its relevance in each case. A third strand has investigated differentials in responses by audiences when exposed to examples of conflict reporting coded as War Journalism and Peace Journalism.
Philip M. Napoli and Sarah Stonbely
The role of government policy in journalism can vary substantially across nations; as in 21st century the primary policy issues surrounding journalism have evolved as technological changes have dramatically configured—and in some cases threatened—the position of traditional journalistic institutions and given rise to new journalistic forms and organizations.
In nations such as the United States, where the commercial model of journalism production has long predominated, we have seen a pronounced expansion in recent years beyond a policy focus on how to maintain sufficient competition and diversity among the organizations that produce journalism (i.e., ownership regulation) to also include consideration of possible policy approaches to preserving and protecting traditional journalism organizations in the face of a much more challenging economic environment. Thus, policymakers have considered options such as legislation allowing commercial newspapers to convert to nonprofit status, as well as engaging in more rigorous governmental assessment of the functioning of local journalism ecosystems and the ways in which news consumers’ critical information needs are being met. In this latter case, the question of what, if any, policy responses may emerge from such investigations has remained unclear and a source of significant controversy.
In nations with a stronger tradition of non-commercial, publicly supported journalism (the focus here is primarily on western Europe), key 21st-century policy issues have included media freedom and pluralism, with particular emphases and mechanisms for protecting journalists and for ensuring ownership transparency and diversity. There have also been comprehensive reassessments of the structure and functioning of public service media in order to ensure that these institutions are effectively evolving in response to the changing media environment in ways that maximize their ability to serve media users’ information needs.
Issues of journalism ethics and performance have found their way into the policy agenda as well. This has most notably been the case in the United Kingdom, where revelations of illegal mobile phone hacking by British tabloid journalists led to a formal government inquiry (the Leveson Inquiry) and recommendations for the creation of a new, independent governance structure with significant sanctioning and dispute arbitration authority.
An important concern that is only now beginning to emerge (particularly in Europe), one that may ultimately take form as a dominant journalism policy issue, involves the question of the increasingly influential role that digital intermediaries (social media platforms, search engines, mobile applications) play in the process via which journalism reaches news consumers. Here, the emerging concern is whether some more formal and authoritative governance structures are necessary to ensure that these intermediaries have positive rather than negative effects on the flow of news and information within communities.
Jesper Strömbäck and Adam Shehata
Political journalism constitutes one of the most prominent domains of journalism, and is essential for the functioning of democracy. Ideally, political journalism should function as an information provider, watchdog, and forum for political discussions, thereby helping citizens understand political matters and help prevent abuses of power. The extent to which it does is, however, debated. Apart from normative ideals, political journalism is shaped by factors at several levels of analysis, including the system level, the media organizational level, and the individual level. Not least important for political journalism is the close, interdependent, and contentious relationship with political actors, shaping both the processes and the content of political journalism.
In terms of content, four key concepts in research on political journalism in Western democratic systems are the framing of politics as a strategic game, interpretive versus straight news, conflict framing and media negativity, and political or partisan bias. A review of research related to these four concepts suggests that political journalism has a strong tendency to frame politics as a strategic game rather than as issues, particularly during election campaigns; that interpretive journalism has become more common; that political journalism has a penchant for conflict framing and media negativity; and that there is only limited evidence that political journalism is influenced by political or partisan bias. Significantly more important than political or partisan bias are different structural and situational biases. In all these and other respects, there are important differences across countries and media systems, which follows from the notion that political journalism is always influenced by the media systems in which it is produced and consumed.
Afonso de Albuquerque
Political parallelism refers to a pattern or relationship where the structure of the political parties is somewhat reflected by the media organizations. A concept introduced by Seymour-Ure and Blumler and Gurevitch in the 1970s, political parallelism became widespread after Hallin and Mancini made it one of the four basic analytical categories of their masterpiece Comparing Media Systems, three decades later. Since then, political parallelism has been often taken as a category with a potentially universal applicability. There are some reasons for cautiousness in this respect, however, as the premise that the political parties are the core organizers of the dynamics of politics makes sense in circumstances existing in Western Europe, especially from the 1950s until very recently, but not at every moment or even everywhere. Otherwise, it is possible to think about political parallelism as one specific pattern of media/politics relations among several others either already existing or possible. The fact that this model in particular receives so much attention does not result necessarily from its intrinsic value, but it may be related to asymmetries existing in the international landscape of the academic research in journalism and political communication, which privileges Western-based standpoints over others. Arguably, taking political parallelism from a broader outlook, considering both Western and non-Western views may provide a richer perspective about it.
Mart Ots and Robert G. Picard
Due to its function as a watchdog or fourth estate in democratic societies and a variety of commercial challenges, policy-makers have undertaken initiatives to support the production and distribution of news. Press subsidies are one such policy initiative that particularly aims to provide support to private news producers. Paid as direct cash handouts or indirect reduced taxes and fees, they exist in some form in almost every country in the world. Subsidies are not uncontroversial, their effectiveness is unclear, and their magnitude, designs, and areas of application, differ across nations and their unique economic, cultural, and political contexts.
After periods of declining political and public interest in media subsidies, the recent economic crisis of journalism, and the rising influence of various forms of click-bait, fake, native, or biased news on social media platforms, has brought state support of original journalism back on the agenda.
Journalism can be defined as a communication process between producers and consumers. Traditionally, both ends have been addressed as separate spheres. Journalism and journalism studies developed around the study of journalism producers—that is, journalists and their professional identities and practices. The audience was long considered the end point of journalism; the public sphere was where journalism was consumed. Rather than also studying audiences’ news use practices, the audience was generally imagined as a mass of passive sensation seekers unappreciative of the value of good journalism and taken for granted as a result. This dichotomous view of users and producers has since then been challenged.
First, the inequality in attention given to producers over users was addressed during a sociological turn in the study of journalism since the 1990s. This “turn” inspired a series of seminal studies focusing on the audience of journalism, showing how layered people’s interpretative practices are and how these are contextually shaped. Although journalism studies in the 21st century still tend to orient their gaze more to producers than users, the audience’s part in shaping the role of journalism in society is being increasingly acknowledged.
In parallel, with the continuing advancements in information and communication technologies, the conceptual distinction between producers and users in itself was questioned. Whereas the role of audiences in producing news was already explored in studies of community media and public journalism, it was the adoption of digital media that led to the blurring of lines between media producers and users. This distinction has encouraged journalism researchers to explore practices such as citizen and participatory journalism, leading to new conceptions of the user/producer dimension in journalism.
The user/producer dimension in journalism may be blurred, but it has not dissolved. Especially from a more structural perspective, professional journalists and news organizations still have preferential access to the news ecosystem and larger impact on the policy agenda. Conceptually however, news users should be conceived as potential contributors to the production and distribution of journalism. As such, news users are not the end point of journalism but an essential part of it.
The study of journalists’ professional roles is a principal avenue to understand journalism’s identity and place in society. From the perspective of discursive institutionalism, one could argue that journalistic roles have no true “essence”; they exist as part of a wider framework of meaning—of a discourse. At the core of this discourse is journalism’s identity and locus in society. As structures of meaning, journalistic roles set the parameters of what is desirable in the institutional context of journalism: they are subject to discursive (re)creation, (re)interpretation, appropriation, and contestation. In other words, the discourse of journalistic roles is the central arena where journalistic culture and identity is reproduced and contested; it is the place where the struggle over the preservation or transformation of journalism’s identity takes place.
Journalists articulate and enact journalistic roles on two analytically distinct levels: role orientations (normative and cognitive) and role performance (practiced and narrated). The four categories of journalistic roles—normative, cognitive, practiced, and narrated roles—correspond to conceptually distinct ideas: what journalists ought to do, what they want to do, what they really do in practice, and what they think they do.
Normative roles encompass generalized and aggregate expectations that journalists believe are deemed desirable in society. Most normative roles of journalists are derived from a view that emphasizes journalism’s (potential) contribution to the proper workings of democracy.
Cognitive role orientations comprise the institutional values, attitudes and beliefs individual journalists embrace as a result of their occupational socialization. These roles tend to appear as evident, natural, and self-explaining to the journalists. They index their individual aspirations and ambitions and the communicative goals they want to achieve through their work. Practiced role performance captures the roles of journalists as they are executed in practice; narrated roles, finally, denominate subjective perceptions of and reflections on the roles that journalists carry out in practice.
Comparative research has demonstrated that journalists tend to subscribe to a variety of cognitive roles, largely depending on the political and social contexts they work in. Here, journalistic roles address six elementary needs of political life: informational-instructive, analytical-deliberative, critical-monitorial, advocative-radical, developmental-educative, and collaborative-facilitative needs. In a time, however, when traditional social institutions cease to provide a normative framework, journalism increasingly provides collective orientation in a multi-optional society. In the domain of everyday life, journalism’s normative roles therefore extend to the contexts of consumption, identity, and emotion.
Over time, researchers have shifted their focus from the analysis of journalists’ occupational values, attitudes, and beliefs to the study of journalistic performance and the way professional orientations are enacted in the world of practice. Studies of this type so far produced seemingly contradictory evidence: one the one hand, there seems to be a gap between the roles journalists aspire to and the roles they execute in practice, but at the same time, many studies also found a robust correlation between cognitive and performed roles of journalists.
Sports journalism is a popular area of contemporary media that has a long history of delivering results, analysis, and opinion to both broad and specialized audiences. Like other media, it has had to adapt consistently with technological developments and demands but continues to gain widespread coverage across print, broadcast, and digital platforms. Sports journalism has often been viewed as “the toy department,” a place of trivial pursuits instead of the chasing of hard news. As a result, its journalists are viewed as having low professionalism and status and are often accused of being controlled by sources. What these criticisms overlook is the value of this significant subfield in relation to the amount of sports content produced across media, the large numbers of journalists involved in producing the news, and its power in attracting readers and viewers. These elements combine to make sports journalism a rich area for academic scholarship. However, in comparison with its place in newsrooms, this topic has also been criticized in research and has not been treated as seriously as a space for scholarship. While there have been recent increases in scholarly work, sport has been described as an underresearched area of the journalistic field.
The field’s literature has streams dedicated to practical, instructional texts and scholarly analysis of contemporary and historical issues. Key areas of investigation involve content within the sports pages, which can involve as much as 30% of editorial material in a media publication, and work exploring the perceptions, routines, and practices of sports journalists. The role of the sports journalist has also been examined, with descriptions often focusing on a tendency to operate as cheerleaders with a home-team bias. However, the position of sports journalist also involves aspects of critical, watchdog-style coverage, including through investigative reporting. Much of the academic work involving sports journalism has been descriptive in scope, which leaves space for greater analysis through a theoretical lens. An important future topic of research is the increasing commercialization of sport, which has implications for journalists, publications, and audiences.
Stephen D. Reese
Journalism seeks to observe and communicate what it learns of social importance, something called news, and in doing so is always in the process of creating a public by bringing it into synchronized conversation with itself. Theories of journalism provide explanatory frameworks for understanding a complex combination of social practice, product, and institutional arrangement. Journalism’s late 20th-century professionalized, high modern version, which is still recognizable today, has continued to change, particularly with the disruptive effect of the Internet, as it has evolved to absorb other forms. The boundaries of profession and news organization have been destabilized within this rapidly shifting media terrain, but still there remain productive approaches for systematically organizing knowledge around the concept of journalism.
The early 20th-century perspectives on journalism—before becoming linked to the communication field and a more narrow media effects focus—were at home in the University of Chicago school of sociology, which emphasized community-based, multi-method participant observation. A sociology of news perspective resurfaced with more ethnographic research in newsrooms in the 1950s, and theories of journalism have continued to highlight the ethnographic method, especially in understanding the impact of technology on a more digitally-oriented journalism practice. A hierarchy of influences perspective, developed by Shoemaker and Reese, incorporates other perspectives beyond the ethnographic by considering factors at multiple levels of analysis that shape media content, the journalistic message system, from the micro to the macro: individual characteristics of specific newsworkers, their routines of work, organizational-level concerns, institutional issues, and the larger social system. At each level, one can identify the main factors that shape the symbolic reality constituted and produced by journalism, as well as how these factors interact across levels and compare across different contexts (e.g., national, technological).
A hierarchy of influences model worked well to disentangle the relationships among professionals and their routines, and the news organizations that housed them, which cohered into institutions. But journalism has been newly problematized, destabilizing and restructuring both the units and levels of analysis in journalism theorizing. The networked public sphere is constituted with new assemblages: of newswork, institutional arrangements, and global connections, which give rise to new emerging deliberative spaces. Journalism theories now have as much interest in process as product, in assemblage as outcome, but still need to be concerned with the nature of quality of these spaces. What shape do they take on and with what implications for healthy democratic discourse?