Beyond Journalism

UPDATE [November 2011]: After spending a couple of years first doing other things (most notably working on - and finishing - my book on Media Life, I am happy to report that this project is back on the agenda, starting in Spring/Summer 2012. I look forward to graduate student applications for this work, and welcome any and all ideas for collaboration.

Well, I'm really excited: just signed a contract for a new book, scheduled to come out in 2009 2015, with the working title "Beyond Journalism" (Polity Press). As usual, I'd appreciate any feedback and comments, and will post salient bits & pieces as I move along the creative process. For now, for your (and my) information, this is the rough outline of the writing project:

Beyond Journalism locates journalism in the context of digital culture, as this metaphor most adequately pinpoints contemporary concerns in the industry and academy about the changes and challenges facing the media. The book addresses these concerns in six key chapters:

Introduction: Journalism as Social Cement

I. Network Society, Network Journalism

• Key concept: Journalism as a networked practice of producing, editing, forwarding, sharing and debating public information

• Outline: Society today can best be understood in terms of what Manuel Castells calls a "networking logic", where forms of sociality are arranged and organized through connectivity and access to networks. Journalism in such a context therefore can be seen as a set of practices that provide access to networks both local and global - yet not necessarily national. This because, as I argue with Jurgen Habermas, in today's "post-national constellation" the national implies centralized control reinforced through the social systems of the market and politics communicating messages top-down using journalism as intermediary. A network journalism would be a journalism that defines connectivity and access as its primary goals of providing contemporary citizens with the means to self-govern.

II. Journalists, Citizens, Consumers

• Key concept: Journalism as a set of norms, values, and ideas practiced by professionals as well as amateurs

• Outline: Professional journalism has traditionally cast its publics more or less exclusively in terms of their role as audiences, which process tends to get validated through discourses of democratic empowerment (audiences as citizens) or market rhetoric (audiences as consumers). Contemporary publics are anything but citizens in the limited sense – that is, as voters or as candidates for public office – and in terms of their digital media rituals combine consumption with production. This trends gets amplified by the increasing use of users-as-producers by news organizations in an effort to co-opt the emergence of what Yochai Benkler (2006) calls "commons-based peer production" currently taking place online. A comprehensive articulation of journalists with citizens and consumers must therefore rethink the boundaries drawn between these roles.

III. The Local, the Global, and the Glocal

• Key concept: Journalism as an amplifier of globalization and hyperlocalism

• It is especially through media that for most people the world has become glocalized, as Roland Robertson (1995) would have it, where global products, peoples and ideas are re-appropriated locally and vice versa. In this context Barry Wellman signals a contemporary shift from group to glocalized relationships at work and in the community, defining this "glocalization" as a combination of intense local and extensive global interaction. Regarding the role of media in general and journalism in particular, it must be noted that the more communication happens in this networked electronic space, the more people assert their own culture and experience in their localities (as noted by Castells and others). Journalism can thus be seen both as an agent of local corrosion and global cohesion, and vice versa.

IV. Convergence Culture: Multimedia and Citizen Journalism

• Key concept: Journalism and convergence culture: between media, between users and producers

• Outline: Henry Jenkins (2006) typifies the emerging media ecology in terms of a convergence culture, defining the trend as: "[...] both a top-down corporate-driven process and a bottomup consumer-driven process. Media companies are learning how to accelerate the flow of media content across delivery channels to expand revenue opportunities, broaden markets and reinforce viewer commitments. Consumers are learning how to use these different media technologies to bring the flow of media more fully under their control and to interact with other users." Jenkins' approach aims to build a bridge between two different but equally important strands of thought regarding the way people respond and give meaning to the role ubiquitous and pervasive media play in their daily lives: participatory media production and individualized media consumption. This observation must be linked with an equally transformative process within media industries that convert their outputs into cross-media properties, stretching content across media as well as co-opting the creative acts of what Jay Rosen famously calls "The People Formerly Known As The Audience" (TPFKATA). Journalism thus becomes at once part of a disruptive top-down (multimedia newsrooms, repurposing content) and a bottom-up (participatory/open source/citizen journalism) process.

V. New Capitalism, Atypical Newswork, and Individual Creativities

• Key concept: Journalism as a Creative Industry

• Outline: Journalism has traditionally been considered as a cultural industry, as a profession primarily responsible for the industrial production and circulation of culture (Hesmondhalgh, 2002). In the ongoing academic debate on the definition of culture (or: cultural) industries media production tends to be emphasized as exclusive or particular to the field of action of the companies and corporations involved. In recent years policymakers, industry observers and scholars alike reconceptualized media work as taking place within a broad context of creative industries. John Hartley (2005) explicitly defines creative industries as an idea that: "seeks to describe the conceptual and practical convergence of the creative arts (individual talent) with cultural industries (mass scale), in the context of new media technologies (ICTs) within a new knowledge economy, for the use of newly interactive citizen-consumers." Journalism as a creative industry is an attempt to reconceptualize newswork in more complex terms that would acknowledge the interconnecting roles of commerce, content, connectivity and creativity in the journalistic process.

VI. What is Journalism?

• Key concepts: Ideology, Culture, Identity

• Outline: When discussing journalism, professional journalists tend to define themselves in ideological terms first - stressing their unique role in society as watchdogs, truth-seekers, and providing a public service. This value-system gets meaning through everyday practices and routines, which in turn impact upon the ways in which newsworkers experience or express their agency in making editorial decisions. This final chapter combines insights and primary data from surveys and interviews with journalists around the world in order to articulate the principal components of journalism's ideology, culture, and identity, and to discuss how the reconceptualizations of journalism as presented in the previous chapters may fit with these components. Ultimately this leads to a coherent and comprehensive definition of 'liquid journalism' – a journalism that truly works in the service of the network society, deeply respects the rights and privileges of each and every interactive citizen-consumer to be a maker and user of his or her own news, and embraces its role as - paraphrasing the late James Carey (1992) - amplifier of the multiple and concurrent conversations post-national society has with itself.

Conclusion: Liquid Journalism