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Journalism of the Populist Movement  

Timothy Vest Klein

In the 1880s and 1890s working class Populists from the American South and Midwest started approximately 1,000 small newspapers in support of the Populist movement. Populist journalists, such as Henry Vincent, Mary Elizabeth Lease, Thomas E. Watson, Charles W. Macune, Ignatius Donnelly, and James “Cyclone” Davis, saw themselves as writing on behalf of the nation’s struggling farmers and working poor. They attempted to unite the economic suffering of sharecroppers and indebted farmers with the despair of wage laborers and the declining fortunes of independent craftsmen, who were being put out of business by massive corporations. Populist journalists focused on economic suffering along with the political and social isolation of life on the geographic periphery. They contrasted the wealth and power of industrialists and political elites in the boardrooms and exclusive social clubs of the Eastern seaboard with life in the slums of urban metropolises and in rural America. Out of the Populists’ isolation came a form of journalism that was full of intensity for their cause and a certainty in their moral superiority. For instance, Populists did not simply advocate for increasing the nation’s money supply through the free coinage of silver—they declared that “free silver will save us” and “God will raise up a Moses to lead us out” of the bondage of the gold standard. Although free silver may be the most widely remembered Populist plank, its emphasis in 1896 was seen at the time, and by later historians, as a strategic miscalculation that split the Populist movement and played a major role in the movement’s downfall. Nonetheless, the fervor and moral certitude that Populists expressed around free silver was also evident in their advocacy for the sub-treasury agricultural loan program, farming cooperatives, the graduated income tax, postal savings banks, regulation (or public ownership) of the nation’s monopolies, and numerous other Populist policies. The boldness of Populist communication gave farmers and political outsiders the confidence to enter the political arena and fight for their ideas, but it also created intense hostility against the movement. Many Populist journalists preached the superiority of rural areas over urban areas, of the South and Midwest over the East Coast, of manual labor over office work, and of the “plain people” over political and economic elites, and in the process they made many powerful enemies who were committed to defeating the Populist movement. Populist journalism was sandwiched between two broader journalistic trends. With the rise of the yellow press in the 1890s, journalism was moving toward a hypercommercialization, where newspapers were attracting a mass audience and news was becoming a big business. At the same time, journalism was also moving toward greater professionalism, with the rise of journalism education and the flourishing of Progressive journalism in the decades following the Populist movement. Populist journalism did not fit into either of these conflicting trends, and it was instead a vestige of the partisan press era of personal attack journalism that was common in the United States in the early 19th century.

Article

The Ethnic Undercurrents in the Ethiopian Media  

Terje Skjerdal

The ethnic aspect of Ethiopian media development can be described in four phases: During the Ethiopian empire, a lasting media policy was established reflecting Amharic hegemony. In the years of the communist Derg regime (1974–1991), cultural origin was suppressed for the sake of political control. With the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) (1991–2018), the media sector developed through emerging ethnic representation and regional self-governance. After Abiy Ahmed came to power and transformed the EPRDF into the Prosperity Party (2018–), media markets became freer and ethnic frictions surfaced. Ethnicity transpires as an undercurrent in all of Ethiopia’s media history as well as in newsrooms. The situation is reflective of a society of more than 80 ethnic groups and a similar number of languages. The political history of the country can be read as a contestation between different regions and peoples and between ethno-nationalistic and unitarian preferences. Fault lines in the media sector can be understood in similar terms. Ethnification of the media augmented after 2018, witnessed not least by the rise of ethno-nationalistic media channels established by the returned digital diaspora. The armed conflict which broke out between the federal government and the Tigray region in 2020 amplified the ethnic discord in the media. The media in Tigray pledged allegiance to its region, while the federal media remained loyal to the central government. Various newsrooms and departments in Ethiopia news organizations appear as professional monocultures where groups among staff have a similar ethnic background. The identity question has gained little attention in Ethiopian media analysis, but recent studies have put the issue on the research agenda.

Article

Race, Ethnicity, Gender, and Communication in Africa: An Intersectional Perspective  

Kristin Skare Orgeret

When examining diversity in mediated spheres of communication, crucial questions to be asked would be whose stories are told and through which voices, to be relevant for the widest spectrum of a society and secure an informed citizenry. Approaching questions of access and representation in media and communication, it is valuable to allow for intersecting perspectives. Instead of the binary terms associated with power relations and oppression the intersectional model references the ability of race, ethnicity, class, gender, and sexual orientation (oppressions) to mutually construct one another and ensures a broader scope of relevant representations and mediated stories. Hence it is necessary to combine knowledge from several sources, such as the Négritude movement, feminism, and queer theories. An intersectional approach proves relevant when discussing African contexts where specific historical, cultural, and economic/political contexts play together and the populations are often complex and manifold, as, for example, the Rhodes Must Fall campaign and the media coverage of athlete Caster Semenya show.

Article

Ethnic Media: A Reflection and Outlook on Ethnic Media Research  

Sherry S. Yu

Ethnic media have been studied consistently across various regions since the early 1900s. This chapter reflects on ethnic media research in the digital age, specifically focusing on research published in the past two decades. The purpose is to understand how ethnic media have been conceptualized and researched, and to suggest future research directions. This reflection identifies the persistent conceptualization of ethnic media as “media for the Other,” with increasing attention to the broader role of ethnic media as “media beyond the Other.” This reflection also identifies three approaches to ethnic media research: assimilationist/pluralist, journalistic/media-centric, and interdisciplinary approaches. Among these approaches, the journalistic/media-centric and interdisciplinary approaches were notable. As attempts to move beyond the assimilationist/pluralist binary, the journalistic/media-centric approach tends to explore the production, consumption, and content of ethnic media within or in relation to the broader societal context of social, economic, political, policy/regulatory, and technological factors, while the interdisciplinary approach tends to emphasize hybrid diasporic identities of migrants and their sense of belonging and media practices in a transnational context. Future research requires more attention to ethnic media in the Global South, the diasporic nature of ethnic media, and the intercultural role of ethnic media.

Article

Digital Journalism and Epistemologies of News Production  

Rodrigo Zamith and Oscar Westlund

News is the result of news production, a set of epistemic processes for developing knowledge about current events or issues that draw upon a range of newsgathering techniques and formatting choices with the objective of yielding a publishable and distributable product designed to inform others. That process, however, has changed considerably over time and in parallel to broader economic, political, professional, social, and technological changes. For example, during the past two decades alone, there has been greater audience fragmentation and an emphasis on audience measurement, new forms of strategic exploitation of information channels and digital surveillance of journalists, greater aggregation of news and more avenues for professional convergence, a media environment awash in user-generated content and challenges to traditional outlets’ epistemic authority, and more opportunities for interactivity and miniaturized mobilities. In concert, these and other forces have transformed news production processes that have become increasingly digital—from who the actors are to the actants that are available to them, the activities they may engage in, and the audiences they can interact with. Such impacts have required scholars to revisit different theories that help explain how news is produced and with what consequences. Whereas the field of journalism studies draws on a rich history of multidisciplinary theorizing, epistemologies of journalism have received increased attention in recent years. There is a close link between news production and epistemology because the production of news inherently involves developing news information into one form of knowledge. As such, an epistemological lens allows scholars to examine the production, articulation, justification, and use of knowledge within the social context of digital journalism. An analytic matrix of 10 dimensions—the epistemologies of journalism matrix—helps scholars examine different forms of journalism through an epistemological lens. The matrix focuses on identifying the key (a) social actors, (b) technological actants, and (c) audiences within a space of journalism; examining their articulation or justification of (d) knowledge claims and their distinct (e) practices, norms, routines, and roles; differentiating between the (f) forms of knowledge they typically convey; and evaluating the similarities and dissimilarities in their typical (g) narrative structure, (h) temporality, (i) authorial stance, and (j) status of text. By applying that matrix to four emerging forms of journalism (participatory journalism, live blogging, data journalism, and automated journalism), it can be seen that digital journalism and news production are becoming even more heterogeneous in terms of their implicated entities, cultures and methods, and positionality in relation to matters of knowledge and authority. First, contemporary news production is deeply influenced by myriad technological actants, which are reshaping how knowledge about current events is being created, evaluated, and disseminated. Second, professional journalists are losing epistemic authority over the news as key activities are delegated to algorithms created by non-journalists and to citizens who have become more present in news production. Third, the outputs of news production are becoming more diverse both in form and in content, further challenging long-standing norms about what is and is not “journalism.” In short, history has shown that news production will continue to evolve, and an epistemological lens affords scholars a useful and adaptable approach for understanding the implications of those changes to the production of knowledge about news.

Article

Race, Ethnicity, and Cultural Racism in Soviet and Post-Soviet Ideology, Communication, and Practice  

Victor Shnirelman

A racist stance in contemporary Russia is rooted in the Soviet period. Yet, a favorable climate for its blossoming has emerged since the 1990s. Seemingly obsessed with a social class approach, Soviet Marxism’s attitude shifted over the last Soviet decades from social class to ethnicity, that is, from social and economic inequalities to cultural differences. Ethnic groups were viewed by both officials and scholars as well-defined entities with their original cultures and languages as well as “national characters.” They were commonly ascribed with special behavioral stereotypes including negative ones, which were perceived by the general public as inherent attributes of any ethnic person. These beliefs perfectly served the totalitarian regime established in the 1930s, which viewed social–political organization as a hierarchy of peoples–ethnoses. Whereas racial theory associated the fate of both a person and an entire people with race, this fate was mainly a function of ethnicity in the Soviet social practice. Yet, this was veiled by an official internationalism. The Soviet media espoused an anti-racist and anticolonial attitude. Notably, peoples were viewed as ethnic bodies rather than a civil society. The collapse of censorship and promotion of freedom of speech in the very late 1980s opened a door for an explicit manifestation of xenophobic, racist, and anti-Semitic sentiments that were hidden earlier. A view of ethnic groups as closed entities with particular outlooks and behavioral stereotypes carved out an image of their cultural incompatibility, which engendered an idea of a natural ethnic inequality and even a “conflict of civilizations.” All these views are inherent in the contemporary cultural racism, which, in contrast to the traditional one, emphasizes culture rather than blood. Cultural racism views an ethnic culture as an inherent one—as though humans appropriate it by birth—that accompanies them unchangeably up to death. Hence, humans appear hostages of the imposed ethnic culture, who are unable to cross its strictly established borders. Adherents of this view believe that a person’s ethnic identity can reveal their mentality and behavior.

Article

How Libel Law Applies to Automated Journalism  

Jonathan Peters

Automated journalism—the use of algorithms to translate data into narrative news content—is enabling all manner of outlets to increase efficiency while scaling up their reporting in areas as diverse as financial earnings and professional baseball. With these technological advancements, however, come serious risks. Algorithms are not good at interpreting or contextualizing complex information, and they are subject to biases and errors that ultimately could produce content that is misleading or false, even libelous. It is imperative, then, to examine how libel law might apply to automated news content that harms the reputation of a person or an organization. Conducting that examination from the perspective of U.S. law, because of its uniquely expansive constitutional protections in the area of libel, it appears that the First Amendment would cover algorithmic speech—meaning that the First Amendment’s full supply of tools and principles, and presumptions would apply to determine if particular automated news content would be protected. In the area of libel, the most significant issues come under the plaintiff’s burden to prove that the libelous content was published by the defendant (with a focus on whether automated journalism would qualify for immunity available to providers of interactive computer services) and that the content was published through the defendant’s fault (with a focus on whether an algorithm could behave with the actual malice or negligence usually required to satisfy this inquiry). There is also a significant issue under the opinion defense, which provides broad constitutional protection for statements of opinion (with a focus on whether an algorithm itself is capable of having beliefs or ideas, which generally inform an opinion).

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

Folly in the Fourth Estate: Editorial Cartoons and Conflicting Values in Global Media Culture  

Christopher J. Gilbert

The editorial cartoon is a touchstone for matters of free expression in the journalistic tradition. Since their early inception in the politically charged engravings of 18th-century pictorial satirist William Hogarth to the present day, editorial cartoons have shone forth as signifiers of comic irreverence and mockery in the face of governmental authority and in the more generalized cultural politics of the times. In democratic nations they have been cast as a pillar of the fourth estate. Nevertheless, they—and the cartoonists, critics, commentators, and citizens who champion them—have also long stood out as relatively easy targets for concerns about where the lines of issues such libel, slander, defamation, and especially blasphemy should be drawn. This goes for Western-style democracies as well as authoritarian regimes. In other words, the editorial cartoon stands at a critical nexus of meaning and public judgment. At issue from one vantage is what it means to promote the disclosure of folly as the foolish conduct of public officials and the stupidity of institutions that are thereby worthy as objects of ridicule. From another vantage, there is the matter of what it is to deplore the comicality in journalistic opinion-making that goes too far. To approach editorial cartoons from the standpoints of free expression and press freedoms is to verge on conflicting values of civil liberty in and around the so-called right to offend. This was true in the age of Hogarth. It was true in the days of famed French printmaker and caricaturist Honoré Daumier, who was imprisoned for six months from 1832 until 1833 after portraying Emperor Louis-Philippe in the L Caricature. It is also particularly true today in a global media age wherein editorial cartoons, whether or not they are syndicated by official newspapers, can traverse geographic and other boundaries with relative ease and efficiency. Furthermore, the 21st century has seen numerous cartoon controversies vis-à-vis what many commentators have referred to as “cartoon wars,” leading to everything from high-profile firings of cartoonists (including in the United States) through bans and imprisonments of artists in Middle Eastern countries to the 2015 shootings of cartoon artists at the headquarters of French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo. Indeed, if the threshold of the free press is the killed cartoon, the limit point of the freedom of expression is the killed cartoonist. Hence the importance of looking beyond any one editorial cartoon or cartoonist in order to contemplate the comic spirit in certain historical moments so as to discover the social, political, and cultural standards of judgment being applied to the carte blanche of journalism and the comic license of those using graphic caricatures to freely editorialize their takes on the world—or not.

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.