In the past decade, academic and professional debates about media accountability have spread around the globe – but have done so in a fundamentally different framework. In many Western democracies, trust in media – along with trust in politics and trust in institutions – as eroded dramatically. Fundamental shifts regarding the patterns of media use and the structure of media and revenue markets have made media and journalism more exposed to criticism from various stakeholders, and more vulnerable to the strategic influence of national and international actors. While many “Western” media professionals have reacted to these challenges to its credibility by new initiatives to demonstrate accountability and transparency, policy makers in other countries even in the “Global North” have tightened their grip on independent media and gradually weakened the concept of self-control. At the same time, an ongoing democratization in many parts of the world, along with a de-regulation of media markets, has created a growing demand for self-regulation and media accountability in countries formerly characterized by rigid press control.
Claude-Jean Bertrand defined the development and current structures of accountability in journalism as “any non-State means of making media responsible towards the public.” Key aims of media accountability are “to improve the services of the media to the public; restore the prestige of media in the eyes of the population; diversely protect freedom of speech and press; obtain, for the profession, the autonomy that it needs to play its part in the expansion of democracy and the betterment of the fate of mankind.” Journalists and news outlets have a wide array of responses to professional, public, and political criticisms via press councils, ombudsmen, media criticism, and digital forms of media accountability, while online and offline media accountability instruments have distinct traditions in different media systems and journalism cultures.
Accuracy is a central norm in journalism and at the heart of the journalistic practice. As a norm, accuracy developed out of objectivity, and has therefore an Anglo-American origin. Nevertheless, the commitment to the rule of getting it right is shared among journalists across different journalistic cultures. The history of accuracy is closely related to other central concepts in journalism like truthfulness, factuality and credibility, because it raises epistemological questions of whether and how journalism is capable of depicting reality accurately, truthfully and based on fact. Accuracy plays a particularly important role with regard to the factuality of the journalistic discourse, as it forces journalists not only to ground their reporting on facts, but to check whether presented facts are true or not—which is reflected both in the description of the journalistic profession as the discipline of verification as well as the central relevance of accuracy for instruments of media self-regulation like press councils and codes of ethics.
Accuracy is an important standard to determine the quality of the news reporting. In fact, many studies, most of them carried out Western democracies, have investigated the accuracy of journalistic reporting based on the number of errors that sources mentioned in the articles perceived. As journalism moved online and the immediacy of the news cycle requested a faster pace of publication, news outlets often adopted the strategy to publish first and to verify second, although research has shown that the accuracy of journalistic reporting and trustfulness are related. Especially in the current debate on disinformation, many online fact-checking and verification services have thus seen a global rise of attention and importance.
Actor-network theory (ANT) is a sociological approach to the world that treats social phenomena as network effects. This approach focuses on the evolution of interactions within networks over time and is useful for studying situations of change, unsettled groups, and evolving practices such as current developments in the world of journalism. Journalism is a messy and complex social practice involving various actors, institutions, and technologies, some of which are in a state of crisis or are undergoing rapid change due to digitization. ANT has gained momentum in journalism studies among researchers analyzing journalists’ relationships with the diverse agents they in contact with on a daily basis (e.g., technologies, institutions, audiences, other news producers) and the relationships between news production, circulation, and usage.
ANT practitioners use a set of simple concepts referred to as an infra-language, which allows them to exchange ideas and compare interpretations while letting the actors they are studying develop their own range of concepts (i.e., to speak in their own words). These concepts include actants, actor networks, obligatory passage points, and translation. ANT also proposes a set of principles for researchers to follow. These include considering all entities as participants in a phenomenon (e.g., people can make other people do things, and objects, such as computers or institutions, can as well) and following actors as they trace associations with others. Therefore, journalism scholars who use this approach conduct qualitative studies focusing on the place of a particular technology within a network or situation by following who and what is involved and how entities connect. They collect data such as the content produced, direct observations of news production, or statements from interviews during or after the case is over.
Using ANT, journalism scholars have extended their comprehension of news production by highlighting technology’s role in journalistic networks. Although journalists naturalize technologies through daily use (e.g., search engines, content management systems, cell phones, cameras, email), these tools still influence journalistic practices and outputs. ANT practitioners also consider the diversity of agents participating in news production and circulation: professional journalists, politicians, activists, and diverse commercial and noncommercial organizations. If this diversity is becoming more active and connected in this networked environment, it seems that legacy media is still an obligatory passage point for anyone willing to bring information to the general public. Recent societal changes, such as the generalization of news consumption on smartphones and the rise of platform journalism on multiple apps, indicate that ANT may be useful in the collective endeavor to provide a clear picture of what journalism is and what it will become.
News is produced primarily to inform readers and viewers. However, audiences are charged only a fraction of the high production costs or not asked to pay at all. The reason is subsidy by advertising revenue. Since the beginning of professional journalism, news has been bundled with advertisements. This way, media companies can sell the attention of audiences attracted by journalistic content to advertising companies, which in return seek to attract consumers to their products and brands. Beyond distributing both simultaneously, advertising and journalism can intermingle, which causes ethical concerns. From a normative point of view, news and advertisements should be separated clearly in regard to the production process and the content itself. The separation of “church and state” or the “Chinese Wall” between the newsroom and the business side within a media company are commonly used metaphors used to express the ideal of separation. This principle aims to protect journalistic autonomy from economic influences such as advertising considerations. Nevertheless, advertising interests may influence journalism in different forms and to various degrees. They are regularly discussed as influence on journalistic selection of topics as well as writing style, and as the source of attempts to blend advertising and editorial content. Scholarly concerns are increasingly consumer oriented and less critical journalism, biased reporting on advertisers’ brands or products, and the potential deception of audiences, for example, when hybrid forms of advertising such as native ads camouflage their commercial nature. The relationship between journalism and advertising has been treated as an orphan compared to the relationship to public relations or politics. However, the media organizations’ struggles for sustainable business models in the 21st century fuel discussions in media economics and journalism studies about whether advertising is a blessing or curse to journalism. In a nutshell, the relationship between advertising and journalism is as long-standing as it is ambivalent (see “Evolution of the Relationship”). On the one hand, advertising revenue largely lays the financial foundation for prospering professional journalism (see “Funding Journalism”). On the other hand, this financial dependency causes potential threats to journalistic autonomy (see “Influencing Journalism”).
Ingrid Bachmann Cáceres
A contested term with defenders and critics, advocacy journalism refers to a genre of journalism that combines reporting with a point of view. With roots as far as the origins of journalism itself, as a contemporary practice it can be found—to varying degrees—in all kinds of media outlets across the globe. Its key premise is that journalists participate in the mass-mediated public sphere and that their work deliberately and transparently stands for specific perspectives, with stories actively championing for certain ideas and values. While some authors have labeled advocacy as the binary opposite of objective (factual) reporting, in recent decades several journalism scholars and practitioners have argued that this is not the case, and that advocacy and informing are not necessarily mutually exclusive. At the core of this discussion are normative considerations of how journalism should be, the role of objectivity in news reporting, and professional models shaping news cultures and news content in different regions. Ethical concerns are also common arguments in this debate.
Advocate journalists do not necessarily dismiss objectivity—although some do—and insist they adhere to professional standards nonetheless, since they still do journalism rather than propaganda. Promoters of advocacy also argue that having a situated viewpoint is more transparent, whereas critics argue against what they deem news reporting with an agenda or promoting an ideological campaign. More recently, advocacy journalism has been adopted—and adapted—by nongovernmental organizations and civic movements, which highlights the constant redefinitions of journalism practice outside of legacy media and traditional contexts.
People use the news media to learn about the world beyond their family, neighborhood, and workplace. As news consumers, we depend on what television, social media, websites, radio stations, and newspapers decide to inform us about. This is because all news media, whether through journalists or digital algorithms, select, process, and filter information to their users. Over time, the aspects that are prominent in the news media usually become prominent in public opinion. The ability of journalists to influence which issues, aspects of these issues, and persons related to these issues, are perceived as the most salient has come to be called the agenda-setting effect of journalism.
First described by Maxwell McCombs and Donald Shaw in a seminal study conducted during the 1968 elections in the United States, agenda-setting theory has expanded to include several other aspects beyond the transfer of salience of issues from the media agenda to the public agenda. These aspects include: the influence of journalism on the attributes of issues and people that make news; the networks between the different elements in the media and public agendas; the determinants of the news media agenda; the psychological mechanisms that regulate agenda-setting effects; and the consequences of agenda setting on both citizens’ and policymakers’ attitudes and behaviors. As one of the most comprehensive and international theories of journalism studies available, agenda setting continues to evolve in the expanding digital media landscape.
News aggregation—or the process of taking news from published sources, reshaping it, and republishing it in an abbreviated form within a single place—has become one of the most prominent journalistic practices in the current digital news environment. It has long been an important part of journalism, predating reporting as a form of newsgathering and distribution. But it has often been a poorly, or at best incompletely, understood practice. Aggregation was widespread in the 18th and 19th centuries through copying and republishing of newspaper articles in ways that sometimes showed little regard for copyright or individual authorship. But in recent decades, more sophisticated forms of aggregation have proliferated, both automated and manual, and on virtually every digital platform on which news is disseminated. Aggregation draws from the norms and values of both modern professional journalism and Internet culture and writing. That amalgam of standards and practices shapes aggregation as a hybrid practice that is built on professional journalism yet marginal within it.
News aggregators’ economic effect on the online news marketplace has been intensely debated, but research has shown them to be generally helpful to the news sites they aggregate from, expanding the news ecosystem and sending readers through hyperlinks. Their legal legitimacy has also come under scrutiny, though they have encountered significantly more restrictions in Europe than in the United States or elsewhere. Professionally, aggregation is built on the practices of reporting and relies on reporting as both the predominant source of its information and the blueprint for its methods of verification. But its defining characteristic is its secondary status relative to reporting, which shapes its methods of gathering evidence as well as its professional identity and values. Overall, news aggregation plays a growing role in the contemporary news environment, though its influence is complex, multifaceted, and ambiguous.
Algorithms today influence, to some extent, nearly every aspect of journalism, from the initial stages of news production to the latter stages of news consumption. While they may be seen as technical objects with certain material characteristics, algorithms are also social constructions that carry multiple meanings. Algorithms are neither valueless nor do they exist in isolation; they are part of algorithmic assemblages that include myriad actors, actants, activities, and audiences. As such, they are imbued with logics that are only sometimes reflective of journalism’s.
Algorithms have played an active role in a broader quantitative turn within journalism that began in the 1970s but rapidly accelerated after the turn of the century. They are already used to produce hundreds of thousands of articles per year through automated journalism and are employed throughout the many stages of human-driven newswork. Additionally, algorithms enable audience analytics, which are used to quantify audiences into measures that are increasingly influencing news production through the abstractions they promote. Traditional theoretical models of newswork like gatekeeping are thus being challenged by the proliferation of algorithms.
A trend toward algorithmically enabled personalization is also leading to the development of responsive distribution and curated flows. This is resulting in a marked shift from journalism’s traditional focus on shared importance and toward highly individualized experiences, which has implications for the formation of publics and media effects. In particular, the proliferation of algorithms has been linked to the development of filter bubbles and evolution of algorithmic reality construction that can be gamed to spread misinformation and disinformation.
Scholars have also observed important challenges associated with the study of algorithms and in particular the opaque nature of key algorithms that govern a range of news-related processes. The combination of a lack of transparency with the complexity and adaptability of algorithmic mechanisms and systems makes it difficult to promote algorithmic accountability and to evaluate them vis-à-vis ethical models. There is, currently, no widely accepted code of ethics for the use of algorithms in journalism.
Finally, while the body of literature at the intersection of algorithms and journalism has grown rapidly in recent years, it is still in its infancy. As such, there are still ample opportunities for typologizing algorithmic phenomena, tracing the lineage of algorithmic processes and the roles of digital intermediaries within systems, and empirically evaluating the prevalence of particular kinds of algorithms in journalistic spaces and the effects they exert on newswork.
As a phrase, “alternative journalism” may be thought of as a 21st century phenomenon, but as a set of practices it is arguably as old as journalism itself. The label is generally applied to more journalistic elements of alternative forms of media that exist outside dominant commercial or state-controlled media industries, and what is thought of as alternative journalism tends to differ over time and space. Alternative journalism might refer to the output of a lone blogger or fanzine creator, a small collectively-run publication or website, a relatively large and slick multimedia news operation, or a wide range of other formats, platforms, and practices. While alternative media may be multivarious in form, content, and ethos—ranging from graffiti to experimental movie-making—the scope of alternative journalism is more narrowly concerned with reporting and/or commenting on factual and topical events or current affairs. While some such journalism may be intended merely to fill in gaps left by the mainstream, and some practitioners may employ a hybrid mixture of alternative and mainstream approaches and techniques, others are concerned with playing a more consciously counter-hegemonic role within the public sphere. This implies, and may state explicitly, that its adherents eschew many of the avowed practices of mainstream journalism, such as balance and objectivity, in favor of a more “committed” approach. To this end, practitioners are often concerned with redressing and countering what they see as the failures of mainstream media to adequately report certain issues, perspectives, or communities. As a result, alternative journalism may involve working to a different sense of news values; covering different stories and offering alternative analyses; giving access to and foregrounding different sets of news actors and sources; adopting a more participatory approach that may blur distinctions between journalist, source, and audience; operating within an alternative ethical framework that is more concerned with facilitating active citizenship than with following industry norms or regulatory guidelines; and even, in a sense, setting itself up as a form of watchdog on the shortcomings of mainstream forms of journalism.
Academic research into alternative journalism is a relatively young discipline and has to date tended to be dominated by scholars from—and studies of activity within—North America, Western Europe, and Australasia. However, recent years have seen a notable increase in the number of researchers and studies focusing on the output—journalistic and otherwise—of “citizens’ media” from elsewhere. Whereas some researchers and commentators approach alternative journalism as being entirely separate from the mainstream, others have noted more of a “continuum” of practices and content. To date there have been relatively few studies of the audience for alternative journalism. Scholarship in the field of alternative journalism has traditionally focused on forms associated with the political left in the broadest sense of that term (including media informed by feminism, peace journalism, environmentalism and anti-racism), but in the future researchers may well be paying increasing attention to the way so-called “alt-right” media have utilized rhetoric previously associated with left–liberal alternative media to advance far-right arguments.
Angela M. Lee
The association between audience fragmentation and journalism is an intricate one. On the one hand, the word “audience” refers to an assembly of a group of consumers, such as book or magazine readers, moviegoers, radio or podcast listeners, television viewers, and website visitors, and they are primarily distinguished by the particular media product, genre, or outlet that they choose to consume. Webster stated in 2016 that oftentimes the purpose and consequence of audience research are financial—i.e., book publishers tend to break down their market by readers of different genres, which allows them to better tailor their content and promotions to relevant audiences in order to maximize book sales—and thus the goal of audience research in such contexts lies in finding the balance between capturing the largest number of media users who share similar consumption patterns and the narrowest content clusters—i.e., those separated by topic or genres.
On the other hand, whereas the purpose of audience conceptualization fundamentally revolves around fragmentation, the motivation for journalism in democratic societies is arguably the opposite. That is, if one were to believe, as Kovach and Rosenstiel posited in 2007, that the purpose of journalism is to inform and educate the people so they can self-govern and make better civil decisions in democratic societies, then it follows that the primary objective of journalism lies in serving as many citizens with the same information as possible. In short, the purpose of audience fragmentation and journalism is—in many ways—ontologically contradictory, with the former being more pluralistic in nature.
The topic of audience fragmentation is approached primarily from a commercial perspective, and in the context of the US market. It should be acknowledged, however, that this topic can and has been approached differently, via critical studies and across other markets. The end of this article offers a cursory comparative analysis between the USA and other Western countries to help contextualize findings from the USA in a global context. For those with deeper interest in such other inquiries, the recommended readings provided at the end of this article may offer a good starting point.
It should be noted that one of the biggest obstacles in the study of audience fragmentation, at least in the USA, lies in the fact that large-scale media reports of such data (e.g., those published by the Pew Research Center) often compare apples and oranges (e.g., either using survey questions with different operationalizations as the basis for comparison or reporting on different facets of audience fragmentation in its longitudinal studies, as this article will explain). To this end, this article is a first step in offering a baseline cross-sectional overview of how American audiences are consuming the news in 2018 via analysis of select Pew data files with comparable sampling method and survey instruments.
In spite of journalism’s transnational nature, there is no common history of the subject and thus no common history of journalism in authoritarian societies, a field which can only be studied by bringing together historical facts about journalism in societies that experienced authoritarian regimes at some point in their history. Journalism in authoritarian societies is closely linked with forms of manipulation and censorship. While censorship is older than journalism, it was the rise of journalism as a profession that prompted authoritarian states to develop fully fledged censorship mechanisms and systems.
The first forms of censorship of the printed word were introduced by the Catholic Church shortly after the printing press was invented in the 16th century. But it was from the 17th century on that censorship models aimed at controlling the emergent periodical press were created by absolutist monarchies. Secular institutions gradually took over censorship from the church, developing a more complex control system that would methodically check on the printed information distributed widely to the general public.
While censorship systems were scrapped in most of Europe for a short period during the 19th century, the following century saw the rise of more sophisticated and repressive forms of censorship. They were developed by fascist dictatorships in several European countries and by the Soviet system in Russia. These models, particularly the Soviet propaganda system, influenced a spate of authoritarian regimes in communist nations all over the globe during the Cold War.
The collapse of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s sounded the death knell of a series of authoritarian regimes, heralding an era of press freedom and independent journalism. But many regimes, particularly in the former Soviet Union, soon revived old authoritarian practices to keep their people under control.
In spite of the limitations on journalistic coverage in authoritarian societies, journalists reacted in various ways to all sorts of authoritarian practices, ranging from harsh censorship systems to less intrusive, yet effective, controlling mechanisms. They did so either by seizing opportunities that appeared during more relaxed political times or by developing circumvention tools that allowed them to reach out to their audiences. The rise of the Internet brought about new opportunities for journalism to reach and engage audiences, as governments struggle to push back by designing new forms of control and censorship.
Melanie Magin and Peter Maurer
Beat reporting refers to thematic specialization and routines (places to go, people to see) in journalism. The term reflects the distinction between general assignment reporters and specialized (beat) reporters covering a specific area (beat) as well as the subject-matter or geographic divisions between areas of reporting by which media organizations seek to structure the social environment they cover. Beat reporting marks the beginning of modern journalism. It was invented at the end of the 19th century in the United States with the aim to increase the efficiency of journalistic work. Thus it relates to the professionalization and rationalization of newspaper journalism and the transformation of newspapers into a mass product. In everyday work, beat reporting has undeniable advantages. It saves resources since beat reporters are very experienced on their beat and know well where and how to get exactly the information they need. Due to their long-term relationship of trust with relevant sources, beat reporters obtain exclusive, trustworthy, and newsworthy information. Along with this specialization come, however, several challenges; for example, the diversity of views represented in a beat might be limited, which can also affect the diversity of news coverage. At the extreme, this can even lead to pack journalism as a form of groupthink. Concerning the reporter–source relationship, there are three risks of losing professional distance: (a) If beat reporters become too loyal toward their sources, they can be instrumentalized; (b) being too adversarial toward their sources might entail a loss of trust and an increasing cynicism of the audience; (c) if beat reporters start feeling like advocates of their own interests, they might behave as activists rather than detached observers. Most recently, online journalism has changed the understanding of beat journalism (e.g., data journalism, local online beat) compared to the traditional understanding. Research on beat journalism has so far focused on stable, high-income democracies and on the political beat as the most fundamental and prominent beat.
Behavioral journalism is a term used to describe a theory-based health communication messaging strategy that is based on conveying “role model stories” about real people and how they achieve healthy behavior changes. The aim is to stimulate imitation of these models by audiences of their peers. Theoretical foundations for the strategy itself are in Albert Bandura’s social cognitive theory and Everett Rogers’s model of diffusion of innovations, but it can be used flexibly to convey various kinds of theory-driven message content. Behavioral journalism emerged as an explicit health communication technique in the late 1970s and was developed as a distinct alternative to the social marketing approach and its focus on centrally generated messages devised by experts. It has been used subsequently to promote smoking cessation, improvements in nutrition and physical activity, avoidance of sexually transmitted diseases and unplanned pregnancy, reduced intergroup hostility, advocacy for healthy policy and environmental changes, and many other diverse health promotion objectives. Formats used for behavioral journalism include reality television programs, broadcast and print news media, printed newsletters for special audiences, documentary film and video, digital and mobile communication, and new social media. Behavioral journalism is intended for use in concert with community organization and actions to prompt and reinforce the imitation of role models and to facilitate and enable behavior change, and its use in that context has yielded many reports of significant impact on behavior. With citations of use growing steadily in the past two decades, behavioral journalism has proven to be readily adaptable to new and emerging communication technologies.
The emergence of citizen journalism has prompted the journalism field and scholars to readdress what constitutes journalism and who is a journalist. Citizen journalists have disrupted news-media ecosystems by challenging the veracity and representativeness of information flowing from mainstream news-media newsrooms. However, the controversy related to the desired level of citizen involvement in the news process is a historical debate that began before the citizen-journalism phenomenon. As early as the 1920s, journalist and political commentator Walter Lippman and American philosopher John Dewey debated the role of journalism in democracy, including the extent that the public should participate in the news-gathering and production processes.
This questioning of citizen involvement in news reemerged as an issue with the citizen journalism phenomenon around the late 1990s. People with no news-media organizational ties have taken advantage of the convenience and low cost of social computing technologies by publishing their own stories and content. These people are referred to as citizen journalists. Scholars have assessed the quality and credibility of citizen-journalism content, finding that citizen journalists have performed well on several standards of traditional news-content quality. Levels of quality differ dependent upon citizen journalists’ goals and motivations, such as serving the public interest, increasing self-status, or expressing their creative selves.
As it is an emerging area of study, unarticulated theoretical boundaries of citizen journalism exist. Citizen-journalism publications emphasize community over conflict, advocacy over objectivity, and interpretation over fact-based reporting. In general, citizen journalists have historically acted when existing news-media journalists were not fully meeting their community’s informational needs. Scholars, however, vary in how they label citizen journalists and how they conceptually and empirically define citizen journalism. For example, researchers have shifted their definitional focus on citizen journalists from one of active agents of democratic change to people who create a piece of news content. The mapping of the citizen-journalism literature revealed four types of citizen journalists based on their levels of editorial control and contribution type: (1) participatory, (2) para, (3) news-media watchdog, and (4) community. Taken together, these concepts describe the breadth of citizen-journalist types. For those of us interested in journalism studies, a more targeted approach in the field of citizen journalism can help us build community around scholarship, understand citizen journalists’ contributions to society and practice, and create a more a stable foundation of knowledge concerning people who create and comment on news content.
Amy E. Chadwick
Climate change, which includes global warming, is a serious and pervasive challenge for local and global communities. Communication theorists, researchers, and practitioners are well positioned to describe, predict, and affect how we communicate about climate change. Our theories, research methods, and practices have many potential roles in reducing climate change and its effects. Climate change communication is a growing field that examines a range of factors that affect and are affected by how we communicate about climate change. Climate change communication covers a broad range of philosophical and research traditions, including humanistic-rhetorical analyses, interpretive qualitative studies, and social-scientific quantitative surveys and experiments. Climate change communication examines a range of factors that affect and are affected by how we communicate about climate change. Much of the research in climate change communication focuses on public understanding of climate change, factors that affect public understanding, media coverage and framing, media effects, and risk perceptions. Less prevalent, growing areas of research include civic engagement and public participation, organizational communication, and persuasive strategies to affect attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors related to the climate. In all of these areas, most of the research on climate change communication has been conducted in the United States, United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, and Western European countries. There is a need to expand the climate change communication research into other regions, particularly developing countries. In addition, climate change communication has natural links to environmental and health communication; therefore, communication scholars should also examine research from these areas to develop insights into climate change communication.
The relationship between the practice and field of journalism and the interdisciplinary field of memory studies is complex and multifaceted. There is a strong link between collective memory production and journalistic practice, based on the proposition that journalists produce first drafts of history by using the past in their reportage. Moreover, the practice of journalism is a key agent of memory work because it serves as one of society’s main mechanisms for recording and remembering, and in doing so helps shape collective memory. Journalism can be seen as a memory text, with journalists constructing news within cultural-interpretive frames according to the cultural environment. Journalism also plays a key role in the production of visual memory and new media, including social media. Journalism is thus a key agent of memory work, providing a space for commentary on institutional and cultural sites of memory construction.
Nina Kvalheim and Jens Barland
Commercialization of journalism is not a new concern. Indeed, journalism has always been bought and sold in the market, and commercialization has thus always been a central part of the production of journalism. In a modern sense, however, commercialization became an issue with the emergence of the penny press in the United States and the abolishment of the “taxes on knowledge” in the United Kingdom. These developments altered the content of newspapers and brought along discussions concerning the effects of commercialization. In the late 20th and early 21st century, commercialization of journalism again took a new turn. Developments such as digitalization and the emergence and communization of the internet, has led to an increased attention to market logics. This, in turn, makes studies of the commercialization of journalism increasingly more important.
Hans Meyer and Burton Speakman
It is all too common to think of community journalism as being like all other types of journalism, just on a smaller scale. With the growth of the Internet and virtual community, this form of journalism cannot be distinguished solely by circulation size or geographic delineations.
Within the larger journalism research sphere, community journalism remains underrepresented, even though the majority of publications in the United States can be classified as community journals, and throughout the world, small publications, both in print and online are commanding respect. If community media outlets are defined as having a circulation of lower than 50,000, then there are 7,184 community daily or weekly newspapers in the U.S. compared to only 4 publications with circulations of more than 500,000. Worldwide, data cannot be as easily condensed into percentages, but it is reasonable to think the figures are similar. Yet, media research typically focuses on the work and attitudes of the elites, i.e. the larger and best-known publications.
Existing research on community journalism has identified key distinctions between community journalism and other types. First, community media focus on information connected to everyday life, and second, its media members tend to develop a closer, more intimate connection to the community they serve.
The idea of closeness began with early research into the idea of community itself. Community as a concept revolves around emotional connection and membership. The two necessary elements for community formation are for a group of people to have something in common, and something that differentiates them from other groups.
Community media build upon these concepts to give communities a voice. The audience for community news is often connected by an interest in, and emotional attachment to, a geographic area, which represents one form of community or a specific viewpoint, interest, or way of thinking which often represents virtual community. Both groups need journalists, who provide factual information on the community and enable and support strong community ties. Community journalists can also help build place attachment and create third places for community members to congregate and interact socially in.
Comparative research in journalism studies typically involves systematic comparison of two or more countries or territorial entities with respect to some common dimension (e.g., journalistic practices, orientations, and cultures). Early works in this tradition can be traced back to the 1930s, but it was not until the late 1990s that cross-national research gained popularity in the field. Comparative journalism studies have historically evolved and developed around four distinct but partly overlapping paradigms: the United States and the rest (1950s–1960s), the North and the South (1970s–1980s), the West and the West (1980s–2000s), and the West and the world (2000s–2010s). In all these eras, comparative journalism researchers have focused on three topical areas: journalists’ professional orientations (journalistic roles and professional ethics), the contexts of news production (influences on news work and their subjective perception), and news cultures (normative and empirical analyses of press systems and journalistic cultures). Overall, a growing awareness of the advantages of comparative research has led to an explosion of these studies since the turn of the century. Comparative journalism research has thus become a principal avenue of study in the field, and it has meaningfully contributed to both knowledge about journalism and the formation of journalism studies as a discipline.
The 20th century was defined by violent conflict: war, genocide, and military occupation. World War I left approximately 10 million dead and World War II had a death toll estimated at 55 million. It has been conservatively calculated that the total number of dead killed in wars during the century was 108 million, as the casualties shifted from armed combatants to victims of mass extermination in civil wars and wars of colonization. Civilian collateral damage and the targeting of civilians by ethnicity and religion became tragically common.
Journalists have witnessed and chronicled the seismic military, social, cultural, and political transformations, as well as providing a vital democratic function. Paralleling this age of devastation was the ascendant power of legacy media and its golden age in the West. The combination of technological advancement, the professionalization of the industry, greater literacy and expanded newspaper readerships, and mass culture brought the press to the frontline in unprecedented numbers and in a new and intimate relationship. Journalists functioned and continue to operate as witnesses, communicators, recorders, and interpreters, on both the battlefield and the home front, as well as negotiating the competing demands of their media organizations, the public, political, and military elites, and their professional lives.
This century had barely dawned when armies and a largely jingoistic press were marshalled in Afghanistan and Iraq after the attacks in the U.S. on September 11, 2001. The nature of warfare had evolved—from limited wars with clearly identified armies on demarcated fronts to non-conventional wars and wars of insurgency—and, with it, changes in the relations between the state, military, and media. The conflicts in this millennium provoked both long-standing and new debates surrounding the role of the press and how it actively mediates conflict, censorship, and patriotism in a hostile media environment.
Journalism also experienced profound change technologically and industrially. With the fragmentation of the media business model and editorial gatekeeping, and liberated by new media, the legacy media’s relationship with conflict has changed. New voices have gained prominence. Non-Western journalists have been accorded greater recognition when reporting invasion and conflict from a local perspective. Civilians also became both an important conduit and problematic source of news, there has been an upsurge of government and military propaganda, and terrorists have become chilling media producers. For other state media organizations in the East, their global footprint has expanded rather than diminished. Nevertheless, the debates about the image and role of journalism during armed conflict; censorship; media power, technology, and mediatization; and the physical and psychological dangers experienced by journalists when witnessing and reporting conflict, prevail.