The relationship between journalists and their sources is central to journalism practice. It is a relationship based on a power struggle over the presentation of information to the public. The nature of that relationship continues to change in response to cultural, social, political, and technological circumstances. Historically, the relationship between journalists and sources has been predominantly characterized as interdependent, oscillating between cooperation and conflict over the control of information. However, the arrival of digital publishing platforms has significantly disrupted this mutually dependent exchange. It has blurred the boundaries between the two roles and released sources from their traditional reliance on journalists to disseminate their messages to citizens. Using digital platforms, sources have the option to bypass the traditional media and communicate directly with the public if it meets their strategic communication goals. Depending on whether the source is trying to reach a specific audience via social media or a wider audience via mass media, he or she can “opt-in” or “opt-out” of a traditional journalist-source relationship. The shift in power between reporters and sources poses a challenge to the authority and control of journalists who have lost their stranglehold over the means of publication. This change points to issues of accountability and scrutiny and raises questions about the ongoing relevance of journalism’s “fourth estate” role in democracy.
Central to many definitions of the term “cultural imperialism” is the idea of the culture of one powerful civilization, country, or institution having great unreciprocated influence on that of another, less powerful, entity to a degree that one may speak of a measure of cultural “domination.” Cultural imperialism has sometimes been described as a theory, especially where scholars build a case that the cultural influence of the stronger entity has had a pervasive, pernicious impact on the weaker. The term evolved from 1960s neo-Marxist discourses within cultural, media, and postcolonial studies that contextualized the post–World War II “independence” wave of new nations emerging from colonial servitude. It was propelled by the writings of nationalist revolutionaries, revolutionary theorists, and their sympathizers of the 1950s and 1960s, but it has sweeping relevance across human history. The foremost western theorist of cultural imperialism in the West was Herbert Schiller. The concept was adopted and endorsed in the 1970s by both UNESCO and the Non-Aligned Movement. Following Oliver Boyd-Barrett, the concept may denote a field of study embracing all relationships between phenomena defined as “cultural” and as “imperialism.” These encompass cultural changes that are (1) enforced on a weaker entity and (2) occur within both stronger and weaker entities through contact, contest, and resistance, including (3) assimilation of social practices encountered by the stronger in the weaker entity, and (4) original hybrids manifesting cultural traces of both stronger and weaker entities. The concepts of cultural and media imperialism were much critiqued during the 1980s and 1990s, and many scholars preferred alternative concepts such as globalization and cultural globalization to analyze issues of intercultural contact, whether asymmetrical or otherwise. John Tomlinson critiqued the concept, identified four different discourses of cultural imperialism, and argued in favor of its substitution with the term “globalization.” Mirrlees has placed Tomlinson’s work in context by describing the dialectical—parallel but mutually aware—development of both a cultural imperialism and a cultural globalization paradigm. Both are influential in the 21st century. “Imperialism” commonly references relations of conquest, dominance, and hegemony between civilizations, nations, and communities. “Cultural imperialism” relates primarily to the cultural manifestations of such relations. Culture and empire relate in many different ways, fueling different theories that often play on dichotomous discourses, including territorial/non-territorial, totalistic/partial, benign/malign, ephemeral/perpetual, superficial/essential, voluntary/involuntary, intended/unintended, welcome/unwelcome, forceful/peaceful, noticed/unnoticed, linear/interactive, homogeneous/heterogeneous, and acceded/resisted. The concept has affinities with hegemony, the idea that stability in conditions of social inequality is achieved not mainly by force but by securing the consent of the masses (starting with co-option of their indigenous leaders)—through persuasion and propaganda—to the elite’s view of the world. This process is commensurate with forms of democracy that provide the appearance but not the reality of choice and control. Fissures within the ranks of the elites and within the masses create spaces for resistance and change. Culture encompasses the totality of social practices of a given community. Social practices are manifest within social institutions such as family, education, healthcare, worship, labor, recreation, language, communication, and decision-making, as well as their corresponding domains. Any of these can undergo change following a society’s encounter with exogenous influences—most dramatically so when stronger powers impose changes through top-down strategies of command and influence. Analysis of cultural imperialism often incorporates notions of media imperialism with reference to (1) print, electronic, and digital media—their industrialization, production, distribution, content, and capital accumulation; (2) cultural meanings that media evoke among receivers and audience cultures; (3) audience and media interactions in representations of topics, people, and ideas; and (4) relationships between media corporations and other centers of power in the reproduction and shaping of social systems. Media are logically subsumed as important components of cultural imperialism. Yet the significance of media can be understated. The concept of mediatization denotes that “knowledge” of social practices draws heavily on media representations. Social practices that are experienced as direct may themselves be formed through exposure to media representations or performed for media. Discourses of cultural imperialism speak to major current controversies, including: cultural suppression and genocide; ideas of “globalization”; influential economic models of “capitalism” and “neoliberalism”; ideologies that are embedded in the global spread of concepts such as “modern,” “progressive,” “growth,” “development,” “consumerism,” “free market,” “freedom,” “democracy,” “social Darwinism” and “soft power”; cultural specificity of criteria and procedures for establishing “truth”; instrumentalization for the purposes of cultural conquest of academic disciplines such as psychoanalysis, economics, social anthropology, or marketing, or environmental crises, especially as linked to western ideologies that underwrite humanity’s “right” to dominate nature.
Néstor García Canclini is an anthropologist and philosopher of culture whose work in Latin America has pioneered ideas of interculturalism, hybridity, consumption, and citizenship, both regionally and globally. His collaborative and individual research has provided extensive empirical and theoretical insights into the daily lives of ordinary people, as well as the significance of indigenous and avant-garde art and the role of the popular in building nations and sustaining them under circumstances of globalization.
The decolonization of nations in Asia, Africa, and Latin America in the late 20th century made possible the arrival of postcolonial academics who engaged in a critical and thoroughgoing analysis of the ways in which colonial histories have affected and continue to influence not only our understanding of phenomena, such as culture, but have influenced the very frames and processes of the creation and dissemination of knowledge about phenomena such as culture. While this work was initiated by postcolonial scholars of literature, postcolonial theory and frameworks have been adopted by several allied fields, including the communication field. Since the 1990s, communication scholars have been using postcolonial frameworks to deconstruct the colonial and neocolonial representations and tropes present in news and popular culture discourses. They have also brought communication theory to bear upon key concepts within postcolonial study, such as hybridity and diaspora. In the mid-1990s communication scholars joined the larger debate on the continued relevance of the postcolonial framework, and as with postcolonial scholars in other fields, they have continued to insist that the interruptive and political impetus of postcolonial theory provides an important entry point for the study of a world still shot through with colonial and neocolonial power relations. Although there is still a lot of scope to make the postcolonial approach more central to the communication field and its subfields, communication scholars have continued to use postcolonial theory to shed important insight on several vital communication issues. Feminist scholars of communication have been at the forefront of the effort to increase awareness and use of postcolonial frameworks for the study of communication.
Zazil Reyes García
The growing field of visual rhetoric explores the communicative and persuasive power of the visual artifacts that surround us. This relatively new branch of rhetoric emerged in the late 20th century, disrupting a discipline that was traditionally concerned with the spoken and written word. The artifacts studied through the lens of visual rhetoric comprise visual images and objects that are human created and culturally meaningful. They include two-dimensional images, such as political cartoons and video advertising, and three-dimensional objects such as museums and murals. Visual rhetoric can also include the analysis of embodied performance and thus examine the body as argument. Although much of the scholarship focuses on the power of images in shaping people’s understanding of the world, there is also a recognition of the power of looking. Meaning does not reside in the images around us; we participate in its construction. To better understand visual rhetoric, it is important to review its emergence as an area of study, its definitions, and some of the recurring themes in the scholarship.
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.
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.
J. Daniel Elam
Homi Bhabha (b. 1949) is among the founding generation of scholars of “postcolonial theory” as it emerged in the U.S. and U.K. academies in the 1980s and 1990s, and is currently the Anne F. Rothenberg Professor of English and American Literature and Language. Bhabha’s intellectual emergence coincided with the emergence of “postcolonial theory” in the 1980s and 1990s. Bhabha’s particular contribution to postcolonial critique is unique in successfully combining the fields of post-structuralism, history, and psychoanalysis, and in relationship to the texts and histories of British rule in South Asia. Bhabha is best situated within an often-overshadowed strain of postcolonial theory committed to the recovery of universality rather than the demand for particularity, a lineage that includes Frantz Fanon and Edward Said. Bhabha’s key concepts and terms, especially “ambivalence” and “hybridity,” have been taken up across many fields under the rubrics of postcolonial and/or diasporic intervention. Bhabha’s writing and theoretical arguments are based primarily in perpetual negotiation, in opposition to negation. Understanding this key intervention makes it possible to grasp the full scale of Bhabha’s driving concerns, theoretical conceptions, and political commitments.