Making the news by Paschal Preston

17 02 2009

Making The News, Journalism and News Cultures in Europe (Routledge) is a promising but very ambitious book by Paschal Preston on European (professional) journalism cultures. According to the book website, Making The News

– maps the major contours of change as well as the broader industrial, organizational, institutional and cultural factors shaping journalism practices over the past two decades;
– is framed around a multi-layered approach in order to address the individual, meso-level and macro-level factors deemed essential to a rounded understanding of what or who influences the news;
– draws on (…) cross-national research to examine current journalism practices and related newsmaking cultures in 11 West, Central and East European countries;
– explores the interplay of professional, technical, organizational and other factors in shaping innovation and change in newsmaking practices across ‘new’ and ‘old’ news media sectors;
– addresses the persistence of banal nationalism in journalism and news cultures;
– bridges the frequently-encountered divide between journalism studies on the one hand, and media or political communication studies, on the other.

That’s a lot of ground to cover in 185 pages and I fail to understand exactly how the author approaches these aims. From what I gather, he conducted interviews and workshop discussions (?) with journalists in ‘new’ and ‘old’ EU member states. That would imply that what there is to know/learn, can simply be found by asking.

Transnational journalism is a hot topic, as witnessed by the most recent issue of Journalism Studies. This special issue, guest-edited by Henrik Doctor of Journalism Ornebring (sic), tries to draw boundaries around European Journalism and includes a paper by Paschal Preston, which I will read asap (my post-PhD to-do list is growing faster than LeFtO‘s rep).

Lastly, the book title plays on somewhat of a cliché in journalism studies: journalists frown at the notion of making (as in inventing) the news, echoing a professional ideology of impartiality, objectivity and reliability. In a book review of Martin Conboy’s The Language of the News, BBC legend John Humphrys writes:

“Making” the news? I think not. Other people make it; we report it.

Of course, that used to be the case, before citizen journalism came along.




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