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Satire and Journalism  

Jason Peifer and Taeyoung Lee

Satire represents a form of public discourse that invites critical judgment of some sociopolitical folly, absurdity, or contradiction. Through devices like exaggeration, irony, and imitation, a satirical text aspires to cut through spin, deception, and misrepresentation in order to spotlight a given state of affairs as they are or could be. That is, satire is propelled by an impulse to elucidate; to highlight some truth. In many respects, journalism’s normative aspirations are similar to that of satire. Journalism’s guiding principles are commonly discussed in light of a central mission to seek and report the best obtainable version of the truth. Though satirical and journalistic endeavors are often carried out with contrasting tones of sobriety, both forms of discourse exhibit idealism in offering unblinking assessments of social realities. Accordingly, it is hardly surprising that satire and journalism have an extensive history of interplay, dating back to some of the earliest venues of modern journalism. Given satire’s penchant to freely draw from the conventions and norms of a wide range of cultural practices in its pursuit of mounting social critiques, it follows that satire would frequently leverage the tools of journalism for its purposes. The journalism profession has long laid claim to privileged legitimacy in the public sphere, positioning itself as a voice of authority in interpreting public affairs events and issues. Journalism’s traditional (though certainly not uncontested) position of privilege has proven useful to satirists. Likewise, satire’s entertaining and attention-getting qualities have long enticed news media actors. Academic scholarship centered on the interplay of satire and journalism emanates from a variety of research orientations, employs a diversity of methods, and focuses on a wide range of topics and cultural contexts. The bulk of this body of research highlights satirical work that draws from journalism-based conventions and practices (for example, The Daily Show with Jon Stewart), but pockets of scholarship also consider conventional journalism’s engagement with satire. Still other scholars focus more on how the convergences of journalism and satire spawn hybrid forms of discourse that contribute to public culture in meaningful ways. Building on the insights afforded by these diverse lines of research, future satire–journalism scholarship would be well served by continuing to draw from across these multifaceted research streams.

Article

Science Journalism  

Lars Guenther

Science journalism is a specialized form of journalism predominantly covering issues such as science, medicine, and technology; it only professionalized in the second half of the 20th century. For many people, print, audiovisual and online media are the main source they use to get to know something about these fields; hence, science journalism has an important role for the society. However, when looking at science journalism and the research in that area more closely, then a variety of different approaches paint a rather dark picture. Firstly, there is a lot of research criticizing science journalism and science journalists. What these studies focus on is science journalists’ work and role for the society, their routines and practices, their reporting on specific scientific issues, as well as the relationship between journalists and scientists. Secondly, in some countries, science journalism seems to be in a crisis due to increasing digitization and changing media landscapes. Science journalism is declining in these countries and many journalists have lost their jobs. However, assessing the quality and appropriateness of science journalism should be based on journalistic and not on scientific criteria, and these criteria should be used when trying to describe what science journalism is and what not, how science journalism operates and how not, and how best to describe the role science journalism has for the society. In addition, although increasing digitization may change routines and practices of science journalists, these specialized journalists may be able to adapt to new media landscapes and still maintain their important role for the society as the most disinterested source that informs about science, medicine, and technology.

Article

Skills and Journalism  

Henrik Örnebring

What skills do journalists need? Why do they need them? What do we even mean by “skill” in the first place? In journalism research, the issue of skill has mainly been studied as an applied issue closely linked to journalism education. The main concern has been whether journalism education equips students with the skills they need to succeed in the job market, as well as with the skills they need to fulfill journalism’s democratic function. There is a long-standing conflict between these two “skill goals” of journalism education, where vocational or practical skills are often viewed as (at least potentially) in opposition to academic or theoretical skills. Journalism students need vocational skills in order to satisfy employer needs, and academic skills in order to satisfy wider societal needs. Another key research concern in this area has been the issue of de-skilling: the idea that journalistic work gradually becomes less and less skilled as employers mainly demand quicker outputs across different media platforms, rather than the production of quality content. Another element of the deskilling idea is that experienced (older) journalists are phased out and/or replaced with less experienced (younger) and therefore cheaper journalists who do not necessarily possess specific or very in-depth training in journalism. This process is mainly linked to the ongoing commercialization and digitalization of journalism. Empirically, however, many research results point instead either to a general upskilling of journalism (a higher and higher share of the workforce have a university degree, for example) or to the fact that deskilling may occur in parts of the occupation, whereas other parts may experience upskilling. All of this research has in common that skill is rarely defined and that analyses of skill rarely reference the wider sociological and psychological literature on skill, expertise, and competence. A few scholars have analyzed skill among journalists at a higher level of abstraction, attempting to define what the core expertise or skill of journalism actually is. This research direction is key to the future development of research on journalism and skill.

Article

Sports Journalism  

Peter English

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.

Article

Systems Theory and Journalism  

Armin Scholl and Maja Malik

Observing, describing, and analyzing journalism as part of society requires theories on a macro level. Unlike normative theories, which criticize journalism with respect to its achievements and failures within society, systems theory operates with the concept of function in a non-normative sense. Based on the groundwork of Talcott Parsons’ theory of social systems, Niklas Luhmann developed systems theory further and radicalized it by strictly avoiding any kind of structural conservatism. His approach is built on the assumption that social systems operate autonomously on the basis of the functional differentiation to their environment. Macro-level systems, i.e., societal systems, fulfill unique functions for and within society. Functional autonomy and singularity make a modern society highly efficient but force each system to rely on the functional performances of all other societal systems. Hence, societal systems are structurally coupled and interdependent. Epistemologically, systems do not exist as ontological units but are strictly observer-related, be the observer the system itself or an external observer, such as the scientific community is. In journalism research, Luhmann’s systems theory has been applied to journalism as a societal system. Several competing approaches with different perspectives on the system observed (journalism, the mass media, or the public sphere) have been developed with respect to identifying the basic characteristics on which the system operates. Despite their differences they have this in common: journalism is not considered the sum of individual journalists and their (individual) way of working, instead, the systems-theoretical perspective is holistic. However, compared to theories of professionalism, which is also a holistic concept, systems theory neither identifies journalism with the profession of journalism, nor commits it to professional journalism. Instead, the structure of journalism is flexible, i.e., functionally equivalent, as long as its function is fulfilled. This function can be specified: journalism provides society periodically with current, independent, factual, and relevant information. Empirically, systems theory helps defining the population of journalists by deducing it from its function. Unlike mere empirical approaches, which arbitrarily draw samples from an unknown population, it is possible to clearly draw distinctions between journalism and other forms of public communication, such as public relations, advertising, propaganda, or lay communication. Still, it is challenging to operationalize such an abstract theory, as it is not specially made for hypothesis-driven research.

Article

Tabloid Journalism and Tabloidization  

Sofia Johansson

Tabloid journalism has long been a highly contested news form. With a sensationalist approach and an easily digested mix of entertainment and news, it has often attracted mass audiences at the same time as it has stirred controversy and raised concern about its impact on public discourse. Originating in the tabloid newspaper, associated both with a small newspaper format and a particular news style, the term “tabloid” is today considered to characterize a range of other media content, extending to popular TV programs and certain kinds of online news. The rise and development of tabloid journalism, in combination with wider processes shaping the media, has moreover led to a debate about “tabloidization,” involving ideas about shifting priorities in journalism and the media landscape as a whole. Although tabloidization has no standard definition, an overview of empirical research using the concept as a starting point highlights analyses of various media, historical periods, and media markets, adding to understandings of tabloidization as multi-faceted and context-bound. Such a process, furthermore, has been viewed both as a possible threat to the public sphere and as potentially entailing democratizing elements, relating to long-standing depictions of tabloid journalism as either “dumbing down” or “reaching out.” Yet contemporary analysis in this field has tended to paint a more complex picture of both phenomena as well as pointing to emerging questions around the category of tabloid journalism in digital settings.

Article

Theories of Journalism  

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?

Article

Transnational Cooperation in Journalism  

Maria Konow-Lund, Amanda Gearing, and Peter Berglez

The journalism industry has used technology and cooperation to convey information around the world since the mid-1800s when six American newspapers aligned to form the Associated Press. The nonprofit news agency was a business collaboration that allowed members to share content with one another. Cooperation in journalism was not always compatible with the industry’s traditional business model, however, which valued exclusivity. As technology progressed, cooperation grew ever easier and more productive. The ultimate emergence of the internet has consummated this trend, facilitating collaborations among groups of reporters across the globe. These collaborations allow individual groups to retain and capitalize upon their geographical exclusivity while enhancing their collective ability to provide domestic stories with a transnational context or to cover cross-border or even global issues.

Article

Transnational News Flows  

Daya Kishan Thussu

The international flow of news has traditionally been dominated by that from North to South, with the West being at the core. Within the West itself, news flow is dominated by Anglo-American media, a situation which has its roots in the way that journalism developed historically. The historical context of global news begins with the introduction of the telegraph and undersea cables in the nineteenth century, which created a global market for news. Major players emerged—including news agencies—and shaped the transnational news flows. What emerges is that, in all ages, key innovations in transnational news flows have been closely linked to commerce, geopolitics, and war, from the telegraph to online news outlets. The increasing availability and use of news media, from major non-Western countries, are now affecting transnational news flows. Global journalism has been transformed in the digital age by internet-based communication and the rise of digital media opportunities—allowing for multi-directional news flows for growing global news audiences.

Article

Transparency in Journalism  

Michael Koliska

Transparency is the most recently established ethical principle for professional journalists, even though its roots stretch back almost a century. The emergence of transparency as a core journalistic ethic and value has been fueled mainly by three distinct yet interdependent developments. First, sociocultural advances in society have gradually increased the availability and demand for more information, including in areas such as politics and business. This development instilled an expectation of the “right to know,” also impacting the journalistic institution. Second, the introduction of digital media technologies has provided more means to disclose information, interact with journalists, and witness news production. Third, ethical and normative discussions by journalists and scholars have promoted more openness about journalism. Transparency has frequently been advocated as an effective way to combat the ongoing decline of trust and credibility in the news media. A central rationale supporting information disclosure and providing direct access to journalists and news organizations is that the audience will be able to ascertain which journalism it can trust to be true or which journalism may be superior. Specifically, in times when the news media is being labeled as fake or lying to the public, transparency may indeed be an important mechanism for the audience to hold journalism accountable. Yet, while the promise of transparency is an enticing prospect for the journalistic institution, empirical research has not quite been able to support all the claims that transparency will indeed improve credibility and trust in the news media. However, transparency is a nascent ethic and practice in journalism, and has only recently been officially recognized. Journalists and news organizations are still in the process of finding new ways to openly engage with the public, showing them the journalistic production process and building relationships with their communities. After all, building trust takes time and may only be achieved in a continuous effort to engage in an open, honest, and personal dialogue with the people.

Article

Trends: Women in International Journalism  

Marilyn S. Greenwald

For women in international journalism, it is the best and worst of times. Their numbers have grown dramatically in the last 100 years, and more women are being recognized for their journalistic accomplishments and bravery. In the last few decades, women journalists have banded together to form regional and international organizations to monitor coverage by and about women and to study the employment of women in newsrooms. In addition, some women journalists find that their gender allows them to speak to some people that men cannot – women subjects and sources in restrictive nations often feel more comfortable talking to women journalists. Yet their numbers as journalists in most countries are low when compared to those of men, and few women have been named to management positions within media organizations. Global changes, including political upheaval, technological changes, and economic cutbacks, have led to their diminished status in global media. Technological advancements within media organizations may make the dissemination of news easier, but it means reduced access to some poor and rural areas that often cannot afford expensive technology. Also, media concentration worldwide has reduced the number of small and independent media organizations that often employ women. And the elimination of international bureaus by many news outlets translates into many journalists—men and women—losing their jobs.

Article

Types of Explanations in Health and Risk Messaging  

Katherine E. Rowan

Explanations designed to teach, rather than to support scientific claims in scholarly works, are essential in health and risk communication. Patients explain why they think their symptoms warrant medical attention. Clinicians elicit information from patients and explain diagnoses and treatments. Families and friends explain health and risk concerns to one another. In addition, there are websites, brochures, fact sheets, museum exhibits, health fairs, and news stories explaining health and risk to lay audiences. Unfortunately, research on this important discursive goal is less extensive than is research on persuasion, that is, efforts to gain agreement. One problem is that explanation-as-teaching has not been carefully conceptualized. Some confuse this communication goal and discursive type with its frequent verbal and visual features, such as simple wording or diagrams. Others believe explanation-as-teaching does not exist as a distinctive communication goal, maintaining that all communication is solely persuasive: that is, designed to gain agreement. Explanation-as-teaching is a distinct and important health communication goal. Patient involvement in decision making requires that both clinicians and patients understand options underlying health-care choices. To explore types of explanation-as-teaching, research provides (a) several ways of categorizing health and risk explanations for lay audiences; (b) evidence that certain textual and graphic features overcome predictable confusions, and (c) illustrations of each explanation type. Additionally, explanation types succeed or fail in part because of the social or emotional conditions in which they are presented so it is important to note research on conditions that support patients, families, and clinicians in benefiting from explanations of health and risk complexities and curricula designed to enhance clinicians’ explanatory skill.

Article

U.S. Freedom of Information Act and Democratic Accountability  

Michael Schudson

In the 1950s and 1960s, the U.S. Congress, with allies in the news media, created legislation that came to be known as the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). It was designed to help hold the federal executive accountable to the public. It became law in 1966. Its significance can be understood in several contexts: (1) in connection with a special relationship of journalists to the operation of the FOIA; (2) in terms of arguments that transparency in government is necessary for citizens’ informed participation in democracy and that, on the other side, there are strong democratic arguments that transparency should be limited in the pursuit of other legitimate values, some of them recognized in the language of the FOIA itself that government agencies may deny a citizen's request for information on the grounds that honoring the request could endanger national security, personal privacy, the integrity of internal government deliberations, or other significant objectives; and (3) that freedom of information law are one institution within a wider web of institutions and practices dedicated to holding government accountable. In this regard, the U.S. Freedom of Information Act can also be seen in a broad context of a cultural shift toward “openness” and a political shift toward what has been called a “monitory” model of democracy.