Journalism: Professionalization and Precarity
Since the rise of citizen reporters, blogging, wikis, and pro-am newsroom collaborations, both the professional and academic spheres have come to contest the very definition of a journalist. These analyses, however, often fail to consider the historical complexity of the processes of professionalization in journalism, its systematic institutionalization as an intellectual endeavor, and the fact that there is not – and never has been – a single unifying activity defined as journalism. The lack of a consensual body of knowledge within journalism studies as a field of inquiry, and journalism’s problematic status as a discipline within the critical humanities and the social sciences in general, only exacerbate this state of affairs.
While Mark Deuze notes that “journalism is and has been theorized, researched, studied and criticized world-wide by people coming from a wide variety of disciplines,” journalism itself is an arguably indefinable, uncertain, transmuting, multifarious, and extremely intricate object of inquiry. It is the definition of journalism itself which is rendered problematic, because ‘journalism’ – an ideology, a profession, a craft, a trade, the act of collecting/writing/editing/presenting of news or news articles, a style of writing, to name but a few – signifies multiple realities and representations, especially where differences from one national-cultural context to another are considered.
In their book Data Trash (1994), Arthur Kroker and Michael A. Weinstein write that in the field of digital acceleration, more information means less meaning. Drawing on their work, Franco “Bifo” Berardi points out that in “the sphere of the digital economy, the faster information circulates, the faster value is accumulated. But meaning slows down this process, as meaning needs time to be produced and to be elaborated and understood. So the acceleration of the info-flow implies an elimination of meaning.” Kroker and Weinstein’s virtual class anticipated the growing precarity of the cognitariat. Considering the historical role of the fourth estate, this virtualization of journalists should be cause for serious reflection.
Is journalism a profession? According to Chris Anderson, to date, very little has been written about the problem of journalistic expertise in either the communications or sociological literature. To further complicate matters, the little that has been written is marked by incongruity regarding concepts like profession, professionalism and professionalization, and what they mean in journalism.
What is journalism? How is it theorized? Is there an object of study that can be called journalism? Is there an academic field of inquiry that can be called Journalism Studies? If so, what is its relationship to Communication Studies? And to the Social Sciences in general? What can a critique of the political economy of contemporary journalistic practices tell us? This issue seeks to situate the question of professionalization in the tension between media conglomeration on the one hand and the increased precarity of journalists and “citizen journalism” on the other.
Papers may include but are not limited to the following:
- the journalistic occupation within the system of professions, drawing on approaches from Sociology, Political Economy, Communications, and Journalism Studies
- the question of journalistic expertise and knowledge jurisdiction drawing on the sociology of the professions, the sociology of knowledge, and more discursive perspectives
- discussion of the problem of journalistic expertise, under concerted assault today, and the consequences of this assault for the normative values of democracy, public life, and social justice
- the role of J-school and the emergence of “journalism” as a discipline in the decline of high quality journalism
- the relationship between Journalism and Communication Studies
IN CIRCULATION is an interdisciplinary journal, and, as such, we invite proposals from scholars, artists, researchers working in but not limited to: Communication Studies, Art History, Cultural Studies, English, Museum Studies, Library Sciences, History, and Philosophy.
Papers can be in English or French, and should include a 250-word abstract. Submissions should be in Chicago Style, and be formatted for blind review. We will accept .docx, .doc, or .rtf only. We accept both short pieces and longer articles, not to exceed 6,000 words. We also encourage art, multi-media or opinion-based submissions. Authors are responsible for clearing all copyright.
The deadline for submissions is July 15, 2013.
Please send your submissions as an e-mail attachment to firstname.lastname@example.org
Any questions or inquiries should be sent to:
Ingrid Bejerman: email@example.com
Cheryl Thompson: firstname.lastname@example.org
Joseph Sannicandro: email@example.com
Alan Hui-Bon-Hoa: firstname.lastname@example.org
 Randal Beam, “Journalism Professionalism as an Organizational-Level Concept,” Journalism Monographs 121 (June 1990), p. 1.