Florence Le Cam
From the end of the 19th century until the present, journalists have created associations, trade unions, clubs, and major international networks to organize workers, defend their rights, set out their duties, establish rules of good conduct, and structure their professional journalistic skills. These journalistic organizations are central actors in the history of the professionalization of journalistic groups around the world. They have enabled journalists to make their demands public, exchange views with journalists from other countries, and sometimes even promote and achieve legal recognition of their profession. In general terms, they have provided journalists with fora to discuss their working conditions, their profession, and the social role of the media and journalism. In this way, they have helped to structure not only discourses and practices, but also networks of solidarity at both national and international levels.
These organizations can exist in different arenas: within media companies, at the national level, or internationally. And, despite their variety over time, they have often pursued similar objectives: protect journalists’ pay and employment conditions and status; conceive strategies to maintain a certain form of autonomy in authoritarian political contexts; nourish international networking ambitions that have made it possible to disseminate ways of doing and thinking journalism; and finally generate a set of actions that aims to defend the ethics of journalism, the quality of news, and the lives of journalists.
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.
Professional roles are a key topic in journalism research along with the fundamental elements in defining journalism as a profession. For many decades, scholars have devoted their efforts to analyzing normative standards and journalistic ideals, while their analysis through the lens of professional performance has remained in the background. Nevertheless, considerably more attention has been paid over the past decade to the theorization of the different concepts in play when analyzing professional roles in journalism, especially the study of journalistic role performance (i.e., the manifestation of professional roles in both news decisions and the news outcome that reaches the public). Studies on journalistic role performance are able to tell us how or to what extent news professionals have enough autonomy for their role conceptions or perceptions to be manifested in journalistic practices, as well as in the news product made available to the public.
So far, research on journalistic role performance has systematically found patterns of multilayered hybridization in journalistic cultures across and within advanced, transitional, and non-democratic countries. Several studies have also shown significant discrepancies depending on societal, organizational, and individual factors, as well as a wide gap between journalistic ideals and professional practices. Some of these studies have also found significant discrepancies between journalists’ role conceptions and their perceived role enactments.
Future studies need to address the intrinsic capacity of social media platforms to deinstitutionalize communication through parallel channels, which may turn out to be a crucial element when it comes to performing both traditional and new journalistic roles.
Andrew T. Kenyon
Defamation law seeks to reconcile protecting reputation and free speech, which has long made it significant for journalism. Common law systems have taken three broad approaches to the reconciliation: the traditional law protected reputation strongly; U.S. law became much more protective of speech from the 1960s on; and more recently, most other common law jurisdictions have protected speech slightly more. Civil law systems differ in many details from the common law: the relationship between defamation and privacy is generally stronger; criminal defamation is the standard action; and litigation is comparatively speedy. Overall, however, civil defamation laws in Europe have broad parallels with many common law countries outside the United States. Varied approaches exist across Africa, Asia, and South America, with some jurisdictions having much more restrictive defamation laws in practice. In almost all instances, it remains possible for powerful interests to use defamation law strategically against critics to try to manage their reputations.
Traditional defamation law has often been said to have a “chilling effect” on speech where public interest stories are not published because of fear of defamation liability. As public debate has become more valued in many societies, defamation law has evolved to protect more speech and lessen the chilling effect. The most dramatic change has been to U.S. law. Much greater burdens have been placed on public officials and public figures. These public plaintiffs need to prove what is called actual malice, which involves proving a false and defamatory fact was published that the publisher knew to be false or recklessly disregarded the likelihood of its falsity. This must be proven to a higher standard of proof than normal, or the case can be dismissed early in the litigation. The U.S. approach also provides much greater protection for opinion and comment. The requirements for public plaintiffs go much further than traditional law, where there is no requirement to prove a defamatory allegation is false, caused harm, or was published with fault. Other common law jurisdictions have developed new defamation defenses in response to the chilling effect; many now provide a defense for material that cannot be proven substantially true, but is of public interest and was published reasonably in all the circumstances.
Damages are the usual remedy for common law defamation, despite long-standing calls to develop wider remedies. Their amount has long been contentious, and the risk of very substantial awards and high litigation costs for defamation in common law systems are important challenges for publishers. Under civil law systems, fines paid to the state, and even imprisonment, are possible penalties, with damages often also available to those defamed, and rights of reply to people criticized in the media also possible.
Much defamation research is technical and aimed at practitioners. But empirically informed, sometimes interdisciplinary, research into defamation law, news production and media content also exists. Future challenges for defamation law and its research include the effects of Internet communication on who gets sued and where, and the role of intermediaries in relation to the content they make available.
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.
Edda Humprecht and Linards Udris
The way news is produced and consumed has changed dramatically during the first two decades of the 21st century due to digitalization and economic pressures. In a globalized world, current events are reported in almost real time in various countries and are diffused rapidly via social media. Thus much scholarly attention is devoted to determining whether these developments have changed news content. Comparative research in the area of journalism focuses on whether news content across countries converges over time and to what degree national differences persist across countries.
When studying the research on long-term trends in news content, three main observations can be made. First, theoretical assumptions are often rooted in different models of democracies, but they are rarely explicitly discussed. Second, many studies focus on the organizational level using theoretical concepts related to increased market orientation of news outlets, such as personalization, emotionalization, or scandalization. Furthermore, commercialization is associated with the effects of digitalization and globalization, namely, decreased advertising revenues and increased competition. A commonly expressed fear is that these changes have consequences for democracy and informed citizenship. Third, in recent years, there has been a steady increase of studies employing international comparisons as well as a growing standardization for measurements. These developments lead to more multicountry studies based on large samples but come at the expense of more fine-grained analysis of the way news content changes over time. Finally, the vast majority of cross-national and single-country studies focus on Western democracies. Thus our knowledge about recent changes in news content is limited to a small set of countries.
Overall, many studies provide evidence for constant changes of news content driven by social, political, and economic developments. However, different media systems exhibit a sustained resilience toward transnational pressures reflected in a persistence of national differences in news content over time.
Helle Sjøvaag and Jonas Ohlsson
Media ownership is of interest to research on journalism due to the assumption that ownership can have an impact of the contents and practices of journalism. Ownership of news media take many forms: state ownership, family ownership, party ownership, trust ownership, public or corporate ownership. The main concern with ownership in journalism scholarship is market concentration and monopolization, and the undue effects this may have on media diversity, public opinion formation, democracy and journalistic autonomy. Throughout the research, ownership motivations are assumed to lie with the potential financial and political benefits of owning journalistic media. Benevolence is seldom assumed, as the problematic aspects of ownership are treated both from the management side of the research, and from the critical political economy perspective. News and journalism are largely understood as public goods, the quality of which is often seen as threatened by commercialism and market realities, under the economic aims of owners. However, the many forms and shapes that ownership of news media assume have different impacts on the competition between media outlets, the organization of editorial production, journalistic and professional cultures, and the intensity of corporate and profit maximizing philosophies that journalists work under. Ownership, however, assumes different forms in different media systems.
In the early days of media studies researchers essentially devoted their attention to the effects of the media message. This has led to a major focus on the choices of single individuals while the analysis of more complex entities and phenomena has often been given secondary importance. This has created a delay in dealing with the aggregate level of system that had already been at the core of sister scientific fields such as political science. From these fields, communication studies has derived many possible directions for a systems approach, in particular a focus on the complex framework of interactions with other systems and their reciprocal influences. Comparative research in particular has gained from the adoption of a systems approach. Nevertheless criticism has not been lacking and has pointed out some major weakness in the systems approach: the difficulty in setting the borders of a system and the risk of underestimating the processes of globalization that makes the identification of media systems with the nation state difficult.
Allison J. Steinke and Valerie Belair-Gagnon
In the early 2000s, along with the emergence of social media in journalism, mobile chat applications began to gain significant footing in journalistic work. Interdisciplinary research, particularly in journalism studies, has started to look at apps in journalistic work from producer and user perspectives. Still in its infancy, scholarly research on apps and journalistic work reflects larger trends explored in digital journalism studies, while expanding the understanding of mobile news.
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.
The concept of nation-state has historically been defined as peoples having some manner of territorial and political self-determination; cultural, linguistic, or religious affinity; and economic independence. Recent forces of globalization have made the nation-state increasingly vulnerable to and dependent on capital, corporations, and/or more powerful states. Such integration of the nation-state in the global world has also led political actors to reverse course and seek ethno-nationalist agendas where differences in race, ethnicity, religion, gender, caste, and other identity markers are used to inflame fears or defend against economic, cultural, and environmental dislocation among a nation’s citizens. Journalists face critical challenges as the nation-state gets reconfigured. These challenges include the rise of new media technology as a force of division and the rise of ethno-nationalism. Research shows that new media platforms expanded not only the definition of who can create content but also the range of topics covered. Positive opportunities, alternately, are undermined by the reality that non-media factors—historical, political, economic, and social divisions—continue to determine not only the diffusion and adoption of new media but also its influence; each nation has its own cultural equations and socio-historical footprints on which new media gets imposed. Journalists, as part of national media systems, increasingly find themselves operating in an environment where they are competing with non-regulated technologies and supra-national information landscape. A core belief propagated by new ethno-nationalists is an anti-media bias, where all news is perceived to be left leaning or “liberal” in nature and content, and therefore open to criticism and censorship. The reprieve from such narratives of ethno-nationalism is the model of global journalism, which makes possible transnational information sharing.
Native advertising has become an increasingly important revenue component for many online journalism publications. Because Web consumers engage in advertising avoidance strategies when using the Web, advertisers have gradually come to rely increasingly on paid advertising that resembles in format, appearance, and content non-advertising content on websites. On news websites, native advertising forms include sponsored content, sponsored homepage links, and sponsored article-referral links. The spread of native advertising news content has led to concern that news consumers fail to recognize it as advertising, and questions about whether it is unethical or deceptive.
Contemporary native advertising is not the first content delivered alongside news that blurs the boundaries between editorial and paid promotional content. Print advertorials, which took root in newspapers and magazines in the mid-20th century, are a direct analogue, but host-read ads on radio and television programs, text-based search engine result advertising, and newspaper special advertising sections can all be seen as advertising content designed to feel like non-paid content. However, because contemporary native advertising takes so many different forms, and because practices of disclosure to the user are so varied, there has been a rise in public concern and academic inquiry into the prevalence and effects of native advertising.
Native advertising on online news sites has generated a number of ethical concerns from practitioners, media critics, and consumers. On the production side, scholars and practitioners worry that the creation of content on behalf of, or in partnership with, advertisers may erode norms of editorial independence that have governed media organizations’ practices for over half a century. Others are concerned that as consumers become accustomed to seeing articles produced with advertiser input, the credibility of news organizations and trust in their non-advertising content will decrease. Perhaps most prominent have been concerns that native advertising deliberately disables consumers’ ability to recognize advertising elements on a website, rendering advertiser and publisher liable for deceiving consumers.
Research on native advertising has focused primarily on understanding how consumers detect and perceive native advertising, with additional streams focused on descriptive analyses of native advertising content and practitioner perspectives. Empirical studies show that many consumers do not recognize native advertising, and that there are substantial differences in how the content is received and trusted between those who recognize it and those who do not. Scholars have also identified characteristics of content, disclosure practices, and individual characteristics that influence the likelihood of advertising recognition.
Many national news agencies (press associations) are facing significant transformations and some of these longstanding institutions, which we once thought would last forever, may even cease to operate. Most academic research concentrates on the biggest Western agencies, with very little research done on agencies outside the West. News agencies have also been studied either without a theoretical lens, or with a theoretical lens that does not necessarily help us to understand the essentially transnational character of news agencies, many of them operating both nationally and internationally.
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.
Jacob Ørmen and Andreas Gregersen
In recent years, academics and pundits have taken great interest in the role of storytelling in journalism. The spread of rumors, misinformation, and disinformation in public discourse has intensified, as has the need to decipher the ways in which stories—fake or factual—work. Narratives play a key role in this process. Since time immemorial, stories have been structured in similar styles and around common themes to captivate audiences around the world. Scholars of the arts have for millennia debated what characterizes prototypical and universal stories. They have emphasized narrative elements, such as the organization of events into causal accounts, the choice of narrative perspective, the description of events as intentional actions, the casting of actors into character roles, and the fitting of those roles to types of story plots involving heroes and villains in conflict. News as a form of storytelling also follows conventional structures and organizing principles. As a result, narratives have also played a role in how journalism scholars and practitioners alike understand the particular genre of public communication that is news. The discussion of news as narratives can be approached from at least three perspectives: one emphasizes narratives as a set of conventions for telling any story; another approaches narratives as a particular genre of news reporting—that is, narrative journalism; and a third sees narratives as the core myths that circulate in our society through news, among other forms of communication. Increasingly, scholars also take an interest in how narrative elements affect the ways in which audiences perceive and engage with news.
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.
Studies of how children and young people relate to news have made important contributions to the field of journalism. As early as the early 1900s, children’s and young people’s news exposure was considered with interest. News exposure plays an important role for citizenship in democracies, and for news media organizations, recruiting new generations of audiences is important for survival in the future. From the early days, scholars have mainly focused on four areas in studies of news children and young people. First, the role of mass media as an agent of political socialization and how news exposure can inspire children and young people to civic engagement. Second, the introduction of television and television news increased the numbers of studies of children’s and adolescent’s emotional reactions to news coverage, and the emotional reactions to violence in the news coverage in particular. Third, an increasing focus on children’s rights and children as a minority group has further inspired studies of representation of children and young people in the news. Finally, inspired by methodological approaches focusing on people’s motivation for the use of different media and how they were used (“uses and gratification” studies), a main area for researchers has been to grasp how children and young people engage with news and how they do so in changed media environments. In the last decade, journalism studies have increasingly focused on how children and young people receive, evaluate, produce, and share news in social media.
Joshua A. Braun
Media distribution plays a key role in defining publics by determining which groups are able to access and share news. Put more broadly, decisions about how content circulates, whether they are made by corporations, platforms, street vendors, or file sharers, are central to the question of who has access to cultural resources and on what terms. This is significant for scholars of journalism insofar as a central concern of journalism studies is the role that news media play in public life. As media distribution has become increasingly dependent on digital intermediaries like search engines and social media, responsibility for media circulation has become an increasingly significant aspect of news work, shifting journalistic routines in the process. Though journalism studies researchers have typically paid less attention to distribution than to news production, news content, and audience reception, the disruptive changes wrought by the widespread adoption of digital media have begun to inspire renewed interest in distribution across media industry studies. And while various industries and regulatory regimes define distribution differently, it is important for scholarship on distribution to forge its own conception of the subject matter, both to avoid industry capture and to grapple with a changing media landscape in which formerly distinct professional boundaries between distribution and other media practices like production and marketing are rapidly blurring and shifting.
A variety of scholars have argued that news distribution plays an important role in creating the imaginaries that sustain public life by enabling the conceit that media are addressed to the same audience over an extended period of time. It is true, too, that distribution networks can sow social divisions by extending the reach of messages and images beyond their intended contexts. The impact of the Internet on these dynamics has drawn a great deal of attention.
Distribution platforms—even digital ones—should also be understood as having material underpinnings that can constrain their form and functionality, and arguably favor particular organizational forms. The resulting dynamics can dramatically impact news providers’ access to distribution networks and, by extension, audiences. This is true for physical distribution networks and also, mutatis mutandis, in online space, where news providers have become highly dependent on a small set of companies—Google, Facebook, and their ilk—for access to audiences. At the same time, many media organizations pay substantial amounts to vendors for access to white-label technologies and infrastructures to maintain their own distribution channels.
The changing distribution landscape has led to changes in production dynamics at news organizations. In particular, the online advertising industry has now built its own distribution systems for ads, fundamentally changing the relationship between advertisers and the commercial news organizations on which they once relied for access to consumers. This, in turn, has led to changes in editorial logics at many news organizations aimed at preserving rapidly diminishing advertising revenues. Simultaneously, news distribution has become an increasing part of the work that goes on in news rooms, as optimizing the news for circulation via search and social media has become an editorial responsibility. These changes across media industries have generated a surge of interest in media distribution within academia.