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Introduction to Journalism

On Why and How We Should Do Journalism Studies

(Karin Wahl-Jorgensen and Thomas Hanitzsch)

This handbook seeks to provide a sense of what we know about one of the most important social, cultural, and political institutions: journalism. Journalism has been around “since people recognized a need to share information about themselves with others” (Zelizer, 2004, p. 2).

However, the study of journalism is a more recent phenomenon. There are several reasons why the study of journalism is a worthwhile endeavor for scholars. First, news shapes the way we see the world, ourselves and each other. It is the stories of journalists that construct and maintain our shared realities (cf. Carey, 1989).

Journalism Books PDF for CSS

Because of this, news can become a singularly important form of social glue; our consumption of stories about current events large and small binds us together in an “imagined community” (Anderson, 1983) of co-readers. Through the rituals of consuming and discussing the texts of journalism we come to understand and construct ourselves as subjects within local, national and, increasingly, global contexts. In particular, journalism is seen as intrinsically tied to democracy. (Journalism Books PDF for CSS)

It plays a key role in shaping our identities as citizens, making possible the conversations and deliberations between and among citizens and their representatives so essential to successful self-governance. In short, news is “the stuff which makes political action […] possible” (Park, 1940, p. 678). Not all scholars share such an optimistic view of the persistence and prospects of journalism in its professional and institutionalized mode.

Journalism Books PDF for CSS

With the advent of interactive communication technologies, journalism as we know it has been proclaimed “dead” and called a “zombie institution” (Deuze, 2006, p. 2), and researchers continue to speculate about the “end of journalism” (e.g., Bromley, 1997; Waisbord, 2001).

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It is especially the potential decline of traditional political journalism that raises normative concerns for many theorists, as “[i]ts loss would rob us of the centerpiece of deliberative politics” (Habermas, 2006, p. 423). However, to appropriate Mark Twain’s adage, rumors of the death of journalism may be greatly exaggerated.(Journalism Books PDF for CSS)

We might be witnessing not the end of journalism but rather its re-invention (Weber, 2007). As a textual form journalism is, as Hartley (1996, pp. 32–34) put it, the primary “sense-making practice of modernity.” It advances the key narratives of modernity and provides a store for our collective memory.(Journalism Books PDF for CSS)

Journalism Books PDF for CSS

The texts of journalism constitute “the fi rst draft of history.” It is primarily through journalistic texts that historians and other observers of an age apprehend that age, in accounts of and reactions to events and people. Journalism is the primary means for articulating and playing out both consensus (Hall, Critcher, Jefferson, Clarke, & Roberts, 1978) and confl icts (Cottle, 2006) in society; so news stories capture the ongoing drama of the battles between the dominant ideology and its challengers.(Journalism Books PDF for CSS)

If journalism plays such a central role in society, studying it is all the more important for any one wishing to understand contemporary culture. Doing so has become an increasingly popular endeavor. Today, journalism studies is a fast-growing field within the communication disciplin Over the past decades, the number of scholars identifying themselves as journalism researchersnhas increased tremendously, helped along, among other things,

by the foundation of several new journals in the area, including  Journalism: Theory, Practice and Criticism, Journalism Studies, and Journalism Practice. The past few years have also seen the creation of Journalism Studies  divisions in the International Communication Association (ICA), the International Association for Media and Communication research (IAMCR), and the European Communication Research and Education Association (ECREA).

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Journalism Books PDF for CSS

The number of regional journals covering journalism studies is constantly growing, including, for instance, the Brazilian Journalism Research, Ecquid Novi: African Journalism Studies, Pacifi c Journalism Review, as well as a signifi cant number of semi-trade journals, such as the British Journalism Review, Global Journalism Review and the American Journalism Review. As journalism studies has matured to become a fi eld of its own,

it has produced its ow body of theories and literature. Books addressed to an audience of journalism researchers are increasingly appearing in the market. Recent volumes such as Journalism (Tumber, 2008), Key concepts in journalism studies (Franklin, Hamer, Hanna, Kinsey, & Richardson, 2005), Journalism: Critical issues (Allan, 2005), News:

A reader (Tumber, 1999) and Social meanings of news: A text-reader (Berkowitz, 1997) have all helped to consolidate journalism studies as a fi eld, with a companion to news and journalism studies (Allan, forthcoming) and an introductory textbook on journalism research (Hanitzsch & Quandt, forthcoming) underway.(Journalism Books PDF for CSS)

Journalism Books PDF for CSS

Yet the roots and subsequent growth of this solidifying fi eld are diverse and complex. Here, we identify four distinct, but overlapping and co-existing phases in the history of journalism research: While the fi eld came out of normative research by German scholars on the role of the press in society, it gained prominence with the empirical turn, particularly signifi cant in the United States, was enriched by a subsequent sociological turn, particularly among Anglo-American scholars, and has now, with the global-comparative turn, expanded its scope to refl ect the realities of a global- ized world.(Journalism Books PDF for CSS)


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