IN JOURNAL: Journalism

Titles and brief summaries of selected articles from Jounalism, Dec. 2008, Vol. 9, No. 6, including:

Journalists and the information-attention markets: Towards an economic theory of journalism, by Susanne Fengler, TU Dortmund University and Stephan Ruß-Mohl, Università della Svizzera italiana

This article suggests economic theory (specifically rational choice theory) is a promising approach to analyze the dramatic changes journalism is currently going through. Referring to the model of the ‘homo economicus maturus’ as well as to previous research by a small but growing number of scholars of mass communication, it describes journalists as rational actors seeking to maximize materialistic and non-materialistic rewards (e.g. attention, reputation, fringe benefits). It explains why, how and under what kind of restrictions journalists trade information for attention with their sources, calculating risks and benefits, and it applies economic concepts (free-riding, external effects, and principal-agent theory) to journalism to provide more in-depth explanations for specific developments in journalism such as ‘pack reporting’. It concludes that assuming self-interested behaviour of media professionals will enable scholars of journalism to identify and predict more systematically the failures of journalism and blind spots of media coverage.

Why they wouldn’t cite from sites: A study of journalists’ perceptions of social movement web sites and the impact on their coverage of social protest, by Sonora Jha, Seattle University

This study uses qualitative in-depth interviews to examine journalists’ attitudes and decisions about social protest coverage in the wake of (a) journalists’ own use of the Internet and (b) the use of the internet by social movement organizations. Interviews were conducted with journalists who covered protests that formed part of the movement for democratic globalization in US cities and in Canada during 1999 and 2000. Although regarded as major success stories for the role of the Internet in political communication, mobilization over the web seems to have had little impact on journalists. The in-depth interviews revealed skepticism, not early adoption, of web resources in the coverage of these protests. This study provides an exploratory model for the sustained study of journalists’ Internet use and their attitudes toward social movements and protest as the Internet age evolves.

Journalism, education and the formation of ‘public subjects’, by David Nolan, University of Melbourne

In debates surrounding the role of universities in teaching journalism, a range of critical voices have stressed the importance of moving beyond the limiting frame of an assumed ‘industry-academic dichotomy’, while some also point to the structural forces that underpin the persistence of this frame. A consideration of such factors suggests that, while this critical move may be laudable, enacting such a shift in practice is likely to require more than simply good intentions or critical moralism. To this end, this article argues for an approach that considers how both educational and media institutions may be defined as key sites in the production of both journalists and audiences as ‘public subjects’. Such a framework, it is argued, supports a more critical analysis of the role played by industry, practitioners and universities as active stakeholders in formations of journalistic professionalism, and the manner each are being impacted by trends toward ‘professionalization’.