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MST Final

MST Final

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Published by Chanders1

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Published by: Chanders1 on Jun 11, 2010
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01/26/2013

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J
OURNALISM
: E
XPERTISE
, A
UTHORITY
,
AND
P
OWER IN
D
EMOCRATIC
L
IFE
Anderson, C. (2008) “Journalism: Expertise, Authority, and Power in Democratic Life.” 
The Media and Social Theory.
David Hesmondhalgh and Jason Toynbee, eds.
 
(R 
OUTLEDGE
)
 
22
I
NTRODUCTION
American journalism, it is safe to say, enters the 21
st
century beset on all sides.Journalists’ tenuous role as experts in determining ‘all the news that’s fit to print’ is under fire.At the same time, bloggers, online journalists, and other ordinary citizens and writers areattacking the very idea that there is any sort of journalistic expertise at all. As the editors note inthe Winter 2005 issue of 
 Neiman Reports
, ‘with the arrival of the internet, the ability of non- journalists to publish their words and link them with those of other like-mined scribes hasforever altered the balance of power between those who control the means to publish and thosewho believe they have something important to say’ (Neiman Reports 2005).
 
Empowered by newdigital technologies and emboldened by the internet, the very idea that there might be anoccupational monopoly on ‘telling the news’ seems, to many observers, dubious at best.I would argue that many of these debates regarding the occupational identity and publicrelevance of the journalism profession – Are bloggers journalists? Do online journalists practicetraditional forms of journalism? If not, what are the key differences between older and new journalistic practices? (Neiman Reports 2003; Neiman Reports 2005) – can be helpfullyreframed as series of questions regarding
 journalistic expertise
. Within various academicdisciplines there has been a growing interest in questions of expertise, an interest building upon,though not entirely displacing, earlier scholarship in the sociologies of knowledge, the professions, and discourse analysis (Eyal 2002). Additionally, a growing scholarly debate seeksto analyze a normative relationship between expertise and democracy (Dzur 2004; Collins andEvans 2002). Applying this perspective to journalism, then, we might wonder: does journalistic
 
33
expertise exist? If so, what is it? Who has it and where is it found? Why is journalistic expertise,along with other systems of expertise, under such concerted assault today, and what are theconsequences of this assault for the normative values of democracy, public life, and social justice?To date, very little has been written about the problem of journalistic expertise in either the communications or sociological literature. While quantitative literature overviews can oftenobscure as much as they reveal, in this particular case, the discrepancy is large enough to betelling: a search of the Web of Science journal archive for articles on ‘scientific expertise’uncovers one-hundred and twenty articles, while a similar search for ‘journalistic expertise’ findsnone. The difference is even more stark if we utilize Google Scholar: 7,240 entries on scientificexpertise can be compared to 55 on journalism. The situation is similar to the one discussed byEkstrom in his overview of the epistemology of TV news; although ‘journalism, in its variousforms, is clearly among the most influential knowledge-producing institutions of our time … [it]has not received much attention within the sociology of knowledge. Studies focusing onscientific institutions are considerably more common’ (Ekstrom 2002: 259).Despite this comparative neglect there have been a number of studies, many of themwritten under the broad rubric of the sociology of culture, that have analyzed journalism as a profession, a form of ‘sacred knowledge,’ and a discursive practice. If one of the major foundations of the sociology of expertise is its attempt to synthesize these various fields – thesociology of the professions, the sociology of knowledge, and more Foucauldian, discursive perspectives, all of which have contributed to the academic study of journalism – than it wouldseem possible to piece together an analysis of journalistic expertise by constructing a similar scaffold. One of the primary goals of the following paper, then, is to ‘stock my analytical

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