Social Theory & Journalism Studies

This post could also be titled Newswork and Holiday II - as we just got back from an amazing trip (the picture is ours this time), and I got some great news about a paper on social theory and journalism studies - the companion piece to the newswork essay published in the WPCC special issue on "News Journalism in Transition" earlier this month - that got published as a feature essay in the International Journal of Communication today.

As some of you have noticed, this journal and WPCC are both academic, peer reviewed, open access (OA) journals. Their content is freely accessible and downloadable online, and is intended for the widest possible distribution, access, and use.

After co-editing (with Henry Jenkins) a special issue for the wonderful journal Convergence earlier this year after which one of the authors, danah boyd, raised the issue of boycotting locked-down academic journals, I made the decision to support the open access publishing system more deliberately. One of the ways I can do this, is to submit my work for peer review much more frequently to these kinds of journals, and to offer such journals - for what it is worth - my assistance as manuscript reviewer or even editorial board member. I realize this "decision" is a cowardly one, perhaps (as I just got tenured here in the US and am a full professor back in The Netherlands), but I genuinely did not reflect much on this issue earlier until danah raised it so pointedly.

Although I do not agree with danah that a boycott is in order, I do think it is healthy and important that open access-publication becomes a completely equal and relevant alternative to this model for academic publishing, especially regarding criteria for hiring junior faculty, and making decisions on tenure and promotion.

Please note that I am not doing this because I feel that corporations or the people working for them (or who are engaged in service to closed journals as editors, staffers, or board members) are evil, or wrong. I am doing this because it is an important and exciting new way of getting taxpayer-funded research and knowledge out in the open, make our work as academics more inclusive and transparent, and because overall it just seems like a really good idea at this time.

Next to these pieces in the International Journal of Communication (IJoC) and the Westminster Papers in Communication and Culture (WPCC), you can expect a third paper I just finished to be published soon in the first issue of what promises to be yet another excellent new open access space: the Journal of Media Sociology. Of course, I have earlier pieces in First Monday, and will be submitting more work there very soon.

Other journals can be found easily, for example through the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ). I hope you'll download my work and the works of other authors in these journals, and be able to use it widely in your research and teaching - and as always, I look forward to any comments and discussion.

For now, I'm reprinting title and the abstract of the IJoC piece below. Go check this journal out if you have not already - it is edited by Larry Gross and Manuel Castells over at my old stomping grounds (for a brief while at least) at USC.

The Changing Context of News Work: Liquid Journalism for a Monitorial Citizenry


In this paper, the relationships between theories of (new) citizenship and (new) journalism are explored. The meaning of citizenship has changed in the last few decades. People still tend to be seen by most politicians, scholars, and journalists alike as citizens that need to inform themselves widely about issues of general interest so that they can make an informed decision at election time. However, this model of the informed citizenry is a thing of the past - a prescriptive and rather elitist notion of both how people should make up their minds and what (political) representation means to them. Today's citizen is not only critical, self-expressive, and distinctly anti-hierarchical (Beck, 2000), he is also what Schudson (1999) calls "monitorial": scanning all kinds of news and information sources for the topics that matter to him personally. People are not necessarily disengaged from the political process, they just commit their time and energy to it on their own terms. This individualized act of citizenship can be compared to the act of the consumer, browsing stores of a shopping mall for that perfect pair of jeans — it is the act of the citizen-consumer. In journalism, a similar trend is emerging, where traditional role perceptions of journalism influenced by its occupational ideology - providing a general audience with information of general interest in a balanced, objective, and ethical way - do not seem to fit all that well with the lived realities of reporters and editors, nor with the communities they are supposed to serve. In the context of a precarious and, according to the International Federation of Journalists, increasingly "atypical" professional work life, ongoing efforts by corporations to merge and possibly converge news operations, and an emerging digital media culture where the consumer is also a producer of public information, the identity of the journalist must be seen as "liquid" (Bauman, 2000). Such a liquid journalism truly works in the service of the network society, deeply respects the rights and privileges of each and every consumer-citizen to be a maker and user of his own news, and enthusiastically embraces its role as, to paraphrase James Carey, an amplifier of the conversation society has with itself.

Full Text: PDF