News as Genre
News as Genre
- Jelle MastJelle MastBrussels Institute for Journalism Studies, Vrije Universiteit Brussel
The term “genre,” typically understood as a conventional categorization of recognizable texts or discursive practices based on perceived similarities and differences, has become quite commonsensical across academic, professional, and everyday settings. One has to look no further than, for instance, the catalogues or profiles of on-demand (streaming) services and (other) niche providers in today’s fragmented news media landscape, categories of professional press or broadcast award competitions, or, for that matter, the sections of an average newspaper, news website or app, or television schedule, to see a genre logic at work. Hiding behind this ubiquity, though, is a complex multidimensional notion that weaves together authorial intentions or industrial practices, textual configurations, and audience interpretations and uses, evoking a web of interactions between the textual and contextual, the material and immaterial, the consistent and contingent. A tripartite conception of genre as an enabling, shared set of codes and conventions thus suggests the term’s associated overtones of the “generic,” “patterned,” “recurrent,” “routine,” and the like. Yet, at the same time, by shedding light on the practical uses of genres and the wider contexts of their production and reception, it also opens up to contemporary conceptions looking afresh at genre by primarily accentuating its discursive, dynamic, and contingent qualities.
As such, genre has been defined as a purposive communicative event that is socially embedded in a particular discourse community and materializes through the affordances of available media (technologies) while providing an entry point into broader group identities, sociocultural belief systems and normative political ideals or epistemologies. Applied to the present context, an image emerges of journalistic genres as a heterogeneous and hierarchical set of socially situated groupings of texts or practices tied to a range of coexisting journalistic (sub)cultures and the normative professional values they adhere to, emerging and evolving in interaction with technological developments, social change, and the wider cultural atmosphere. Understanding news through the lens of genre resonates particularly well, then, in a networked, hybrid and (self-)reflexive media environment, where the normative foundations of (the) news (paradigm), and journalism broadly are being reexamined. Developments in the shifting landscape of news/journalism such as an interpretive turn, a (new) narrative wave, soft news, and the appropriation and transgressions of taken for granted conventions and expectations in “fake news” and cross-generic forms, render the concept of “genre” ever more visible, and valuable for the field of journalism studies. For in line with journalism studies’ multidisciplinary constellation, a multiperspectival view on genre provides a rich, dialogic site where scholars adopting different approaches could meet around the heterogeneous subject of what news is, could be, or should be.
- Journalism Studies