New publication (and the story behind it): “Journalism Studies and its Core Commitments: The Making of a Communication Field”

I’m excited to announce this publication as the lead article to the latest issue of Journal of Communication, the flagship journal of the International Communication Association:

Carlson, M., Robinson, S., Lewis, S. C., & Berkowitz, D. A. (2018). Journalism studies and its core commitments: The making of a communication field. Journal of Communication, 68(1), 6-25. doi:10.1093/joc/jqx006 (PDF)

Here is the abstract:

This article conceptualizes the distinctiveness of fields of scholarship within the discipline of communication through particular normative assumptions and identity practices defined here as commitments. A case study of journalism studies results in the postulation of six conceptual commitments that define its core ontological and epistemological premises: contextual sensitivity, holistic relationality, comparative inclination, normative awareness, embedded communicative power, and methodological pluralism. These interrelated features articulate the central dimensions of journalism studies, establishing the boundaries of the field and its relational, cultural, holistic, ecological, and contextual acts of scholarship. This article provides a blueprint for other communication scholars to address assumptions and commitments that situate and define their subdisciplines as distinct fields.

And here is the story behind the publication…

At the AEJMC conference in San Francisco in 2015, we began discussing: What is journalism studies, anyway? What demarcates it as a “thing” in communication research? And so, the “Iowa Group” was formed: in February 2016, Matt Carlson (Saint Louis University), Sue Robinson (University of Wisconsin), and I (representing University of Minnesota at the time) drove exactly four hours each to centrally located Iowa City, where we met up with Dan Berkowitz, a longtime traveler in this line of thinking and our host at the University of Iowa.

The four of us spent a Friday hashing out various dimensions, orientations, and predilections in journalism studies—what made it interesting, even unique, as a domain of research within the larger study of communication. How can we take this field of research, which has grown so fast and traveled so far in less than two decades, and apply to it a sense of contour and identity? How might we build upon the distinctiveness of journalism studies—a domain with an emerging set of core dimensions—to outline a pattern for how other scholars might address the underlying assumptions and epistemologies that define other subfields?

At the end of our daylong discussion, we shared our (very preliminary) ideas with faculty and graduate students in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Iowa. They offered a number of key comments and suggestions. Later, we settled on six interrelated commitments that speak to core dimensions of journalism studies:

• contextual sensitivity
• holistic relationality
• comparative inclination
• normative awareness
• embedded communicative power
• methodological pluralism

As we say in the paper: “None of these dimensions is unique to journalism studies. Many other fields espouse similar commitments as part of their own efforts to identify the normative assumptions embedded in their research. But, as a whole, these commitments coalesce into a particular perspective optimized for the challenges of studying the complexities of contemporary journalism. They commitments comprise the heart of journalism studies scholarship.”

After explaining each of the six commitments, we write:

“Taken together, these commitments indicate, first, a shift away from the analysis of journalism according to assumed normative perspectives or as an unexamined actor whose texts have effects on audiences and social institutions. Journalism—or news, more specifically—is not reduced to the independent variable, but instead invites scrutiny as part of a holistic system of interlinking institutions. Second, these commitments reject simplified perspectives that reify journalism as a single ‘thing’ to instead situate journalism within the larger ecological conditions of media, culture, and society. Finally, they indicate a critique of universal principles, celebrate nuance with contextualization, and emphasize an intense awareness of relationality while still foregrounding a concern with power. If journalism studies is to be a useful field, it must recognize what its commitments are and how they contribute to an understanding of journalism that helps make sense of its symbolic power.”

We won’t pretend that this is the final word about journalism studies—and undoubtedly there will be differences of opinion about the commitments we have outlined. Debates are most welcome! They are good for the continued development of journalism studies as a field.

News: I’ve been elected Vice Chair of the Journalism Studies Division of ICA

I learned this week that I’ve been elected as the next vice chair of the Journalism Studies Division of ICA (International Communication Association). I’m very excited to serve this division—a wonderful, inspiring, and truly global mix of friends, colleagues, collaborators, and scholars with a shared passion for studying news and journalism. The Journalism Studies Division, which has grown tremendously in its roughly 15 years, becoming one of the largest ICA divisions, has been such a central part of my progression from PhD student to professor during the past decade, so I’m excited to give back and help the division move forward.

I will assume the new role at the end of the Prague conference in May 2018, and will be the program planner (lucky me, ha!) for the Washington, D.C. (2019) and Australian Gold Coast (2020) conferences. Then I’ll serve as chair of the division for two years, including the Denver (2021) and Paris (2022) conferences.

I’m excited to work with such a great Journalism Studies leadership team: the outgoing chair Henrik Örnebring, the incoming chair Keren Tenenboim-Weinblatt, secretary Nina Springer, and the newly elected graduate student representative Alla Rybina.

Below is the candidate statement that I put together for the election.

I feel a real kinship with the Journalism Studies Division, my home base in the academy. Through this division, I have met such wonderful people, built collaborative networks, and learned to sharpen my research. I owe a great deal to this vibrant and growing area of the communication field. I am pursuing a leadership role in the division to do my part in continuing that growth. My goals in helping the division move forward include: (1) balancing concerns about quality with the need to include a broader range of voices, particularly from regions less represented at ICA annual conventions; (2) expanding mentoring initiatives for graduate students and early-career scholars; (3) developing forms of outreach to help members stay better connected to the division outside of the conference; (4) exploring ways to improve the standing of journalism studies, by more effectively communicating to journalists, funders, and other scholars who we are, what we do, and why our work matters; and (5) continuing to provide space for important conversations about journalism and its future.

Regarding my experience, I am the Shirley Papé Chair in Emerging Media in the School of Journalism and Communication at the University of Oregon. Previously, I was an associate professor at the University of Minnesota, held visiting appointments at Stanford and Yale, received my Ph.D. from the University of Texas at Austin, and was a journalist at The Miami Herald. My empirical and conceptual research, focusing on the sociotechnical dynamics shaping journalism in the digital age, has been published in nearly 50 journal articles and book chapters. I have twice received the division’s award for Outstanding Journal Article of the Year in Journalism Studies (in 2013 and 2016). I actively serve the Journalism Studies Division as a paper reviewer, session chair, and respondent.

News! I’m taking a new role as Papé Chair at the U. of Oregon

UO-SOJCBeginning Fall 2016, I will join the University of Oregon’s School of Journalism and Communication as the inaugural Shirley Papé Chair in Electronic Media. I’m thrilled and honored to have this endowed-chair opportunity, to further my research and teaching on journalism and technology, and to work with a terrific set of colleagues both in Eugene and at the School’s Turnbull Center in Portland. Notably, the School has grown tremendously in recent years and is celebrating its centennial in 2016.

While my family and I are sad about leaving behind the many people and places we love here in Minnesota, we’re also excited about the unique nature of the chair position and this new adventure ahead, particularly given that it puts us closer to family roots in the Pacific Northwest.

I have loved my six years as a faculty member at the University of Minnesota, and am deeply grateful to my colleagues here. They have been friends, mentors, and collaborators in the best sense of those words, and I am so much the better, personally and professionally, for having worked with and learned from them along the way.

From Minnesota Gophers to Oregon Ducks, here we go!

Boundaries of Journalism: Professionalism, Practices and Participation

9781138020672I’m excited to announce the publication of Boundaries of Journalism: Professionalism, Practices and Participation (Routledge, 2015), which I co-edited with the immensely talented Matt Carlson of Saint Louis University. The book includes some terrific contributions from an international group of scholars studying boundary work and journalism. It is published as part of the Shaping Inquiry in Culture, Communication and Media Studies series edited by Barbie Zelizer.

Below is the back-cover material, as well as the table of contents and links to more online:

 

BOUNDARIES OF JOURNALISM: PROFESSIONALISM, PRACTICES AND PARTICIPATION
Edited by Matt Carlson and Seth C. Lewis

Routledge, 2015

The concept of boundaries has become a central theme in the study of journalism. In recent years, the decline of legacy news organizations and the rise of new interactive media tools have thrust such questions as “what is journalism” and “who is a journalist” into the limelight.

Struggles over journalism are often struggles over boundaries. These symbolic contests for control over definition also mark a material struggle over resources. In short: boundaries have consequences. Yet there is a lack of conceptual cohesiveness in what scholars mean by the term “boundaries” or in how we should think about specific boundaries of journalism.

This book addresses boundaries head-on by bringing together a global array of authors asking similar questions about boundaries and journalism from a diverse range of perspectives, methodologies, and theoretical backgrounds.

Boundaries of Journalism assembles the most current research on this topic in one place, thus providing a touchstone for future research within communication, media and journalism studies on journalism and its boundaries.

Reviews

“As emerging forms blur the line between media writ large and the realm culturally acknowledged as journalism, the concepts of boundaries and boundary work become vital tools for scholarly sense-making. Carlson and Lewis make an immense contribution to journalism studies, bringing together an international group of scholars to explicate these concepts that both highlight journalism’s universal traits and identify it as contextually unique.” — Dan Berkowitz, Professor, School of Journalism and Mass Communication, University of Iowa, USA

“Carlson and Lewis expertly weave together a variety of thoughtful conceptual and methodological perspectives on boundary work in journalism. The compelling contributions to this outstanding volume offer key insights into cultural, political, technological and economic factors influencing the construction of boundaries between journalists and audiences related to news practices, participants and professional norms.” — Bonnie Brennen, Nieman Professor of Journalism, Diederich College of Communication, Marquette University, USA

“Boundaries of Journalism provides an apposite intervention into the uncertainties surrounding definitions of journalism and journalists. The collection provides an eclectic mixture of perspectives looking at the social and material changes affecting journalism in the 21st century. The book provides a further building block in advancing the maturity of journalism studies.” — Howard Tumber, Director of Research, Graduate School of Journalism, City University London, UK

Contents

Introduction: The Many Boundaries of Journalism Matt Carlson

Part I: Professionalism, Norms and Boundaries
1. Out of Bounds: Professional Norms as Boundary Markers — Jane B. Singer
2. Nothing But The Truth: Redrafting the Journalistic Boundary of Verification — Alfred Hermida
3. Divided we stand: Blurred Boundaries in Argentine Journalism — Adriana Amado and Silvio Waisbord
4. The Wall Becomes a Curtain: Revisiting Journalism’s News-Advertising Boundary — Mark Coddington
5. Creating Proper Distance through Networked Infrastructure: Examining Google Glass for Evidence of Moral, Journalistic Witnessing — Mike Ananny
6. Hard News/Soft News: The Hierarchy of Genres and the Boundaries of the Profession — Helle Sjøvaag
7. Internal Boundaries: The Stratification of the Journalistic Collective — Jenny Wiik

Part II: Encountering Non-Journalistic Actors in Newsmaking
8. Journalism Beyond the Boundaries: the Collective Construction of News Narratives — David Domingo and Florence Le Cam
9. Redrawing Borders from Within: Commenting on News Stories as Boundary Work — Sue Robinson
10. Resisting Epistemologies of User-Generated Content? Cooptation, Segregation and the Boundaries of Journalism — Karin Wahl-Jorgensen
11. NGOs as Journalistic Entities: The Possibilities, Problems and Limits of Boundary Crossing — Matthew Powers
12. Drawing Boundary Lines Between Journalism and Sociology, 1895-1999 — C.W. Anderson
Epilogue: Studying Boundaries of Journalism: Where Do We Go From Here? — Seth C. Lewis

Routledge Site
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