Media Work Book Review (5)

My last book, Media Work (Polity Press), is now out for almost two years. As far as I can tell, about 2,000 copies have been sold, roughly half of which in the US. Beyond all of that, it is really cool to see it get noticed and picked up for review in several scholarly journals: the International Journal of Media Management, The Information Society (forthcoming issue), the European Journal of Communication (as a booknote), New Media & Society, and Ecquid Novi:African Journalism Studies.

Most of these reviews I reproduced on this blog - find them here.

I just came across one more review in a scholarly journal - Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly, Spring 2008 issue (volume 85, issue 1, pages 212-213). Although most reviews of the book have been complimentary, and all reviews - also those that have been more critical - have been respectfully written, the one in JQ by Ohio University's Professor Emeritus Guido H. Stempel III is the odd one out. Unfortunately, the journal is not online, so I'll reproduce the review below.

It is safe to say I do not agree with just about every point Stempel makes - except for his final conclusion about the book, which is excellent: "The issues discussed in this book are important, but Media Work represents only a starting point for the conversation" (admittedly, I would prefer to replace "but" with "and", while deleting "only").

Media Work. Mark Deuze. Cambridge, UK: Polity Press, 2007. 278 pp. $64.95 hbk. $22.95 pbk. Reviewed by Guido Stempel III in Journalism Quarterly.
"This book bills itself as a "primer" on working in the information age, based on interviews with media professionals in the United States, the Netherlands, South Africa, and New Zealand.

The author, an assistant professor of telecommunications at Indiana University and a professor of journalism and new media at Leiden University, deals with the impact of digital age technologies on the people who work for media and for media organizations.

He divides media into four categories—advertising, public relations, and marketing communications; journalism; film and television; and games. Each is the subject of a chapter, which is appropriate because work differs so much from one to another.

For journalism faculty, the chapter on journalism will be a good deal more useful than the others. Those teaching advertising and public relations also will find the chapter dealing with those areas helpful.

The chapter on film and television deals only with entertainment, not with television news. The chapter on games deals primarily with games themselves, not how they fit into the configuration of the mass media environment.

The main thesis of the book is that media work will become individualized — that full-time freelancers will replace media companies. The worker will go from job to job rather than working continuously for the same organization, Deuze predicts. Then the author deals with the impact of this on the individual and on family life. Yet I feel the author underestimates how individualized newswork is already and therefore overestimates how much of a change this will be.

What the author does not deal with very much is the implication of all this for news. Where will the news come from? Might the Associated Press become the model for news coverage? If the Internet is the main medium for news and information, what kind of news will we have? How will a freelancer covering the mayor of Indianapolis differ from the reporter from the Indianapolis Star, representing that established institution, covering the mayor? Will freelancers maintain the ethical standards that media institutions maintain, or might they perhaps maintain higher ethical standards? There is also the question of how news will be paid for. Bloggers and Web sites use information gathered and paid for by media organizations. If those organizations seek to exist who will pay for the news?

The issues discussed in this book are important, but Media Work represents only a starting point for the conversation."