The contingency of academic labor

26 09 2009

There are a number of methodological and theoretical similarities (and differences) between journalism and what I call ‘soft’ science (i.e. mostly qualitative, social science like media anthropology or linguistic ethnography). In essence, journalism and soft science are eclectic sense-making practices that produce accounts which are situated (socially, geographically, topically) and interpretive.

There is another link between news work and academic work: the labor conditions in these two fields are becoming increasingly precarious, contingent or otherwise ‘atypical‘. The arts faculty at my alma mater no longer offers post-doc positions because it simply cannot afford them. External funding, downsizing, increased teaching loads and productivity demands (publish and perish) have become symptomatic of an ongoing trend towards the commercialization and marketization of tertiary education.

I am writing this down not just out of self-indulgent frustration over professional insecurity but because I share Mark Deuze’s concern that if the market orientation of the university

does not come with specific caveats, protections, checks and balances, the university as we know it becomes just another factory workplace – not a place for independent and critical reflection; a place that teaches people to make up their own minds.

This post is loosely based on Michael Bérubé’s feather-ruffling Op-Ed and Mark Deuze’s eloquent rant on the precarity of work in academia.

Intro to Part I – News cultures in flux

9 05 2009

***This is an outdated version. Please do not cite or reproduce in any way.***

This is the second post in which I test the PhD waters. This time, I’m making a draft version of my introduction available (slightly adapted to a blog friendly format). A complete table of contents can be found here. Any and all comments are welcome. On a regular basis, I will post sections and outtakes until you are bored stiff. I am already way past that stage.

Introduction to Part I: News cultures in flux (version 9 May 2009)

The globalization of journalism is a two-faced Janus. The first face is abuzz with the creative promise and transformative potential of technological innovation. In essence, the development of ‘new media’ technologies such as content management systems, weblogs, feed readers, podcasts, news aggregators and other internet applications has revolutionized journalism and other forms of public communication such as public relations, advertising and politics. This digital revolution has paved the way for new journalistic practices like online and citizen journalism. It has also produced cultural shifts in news production and consumption. Read the rest of this entry »

Tekstblad special issue on journalism

29 12 2008

Just came in the mail: the latest issue of Tekstblad, a special issue on journalism. Quick table of contents:

  • Against all odds, Ben Knapen is optimistic about the quality of journalism
  • The digital revolution makes Mark Deuze pessimistic about professional journalism
  • Yours truly and Henk Pander Maat on churnalism fact and fiction
  • Tanja Jadnanansing and Michiel Moerdijk on making news for adolescents

Making the online leap: CS Monitor

30 10 2008

Leave it to the Christian Science Monitor (how’s that for an oxymoron?) to be the first major daily print publication to make the online leap. You can read about their new business strategy here. John Yemma, CS Monitor editor pointed out that print journalism is “costly in terms of production and delivery and we recognize that print is not the issue, it is keeping the journalism alive.”

This statement echoes what many have been observing for quite some time now. Nick Davies calls it a “terminal” illness facing newspaper journalism, The State of the News Media 2008 reports that newspapers are “far from dead, but the language of the obituary is creeping in”. Media convergence, globalization and technological innovations have resulted in dwindling employment figures, profit margins and pagination patterns.

In his most recent blog post, Mark Deuze beautifully frames these developments in their broader context. Drawing on Jay Rosen’s concept of The People Formerly Known as The Audience, Mark notes a second power shift in media ecologies, one that

“erodes the very foundation of the way we know (and thus interact with) the world, and our ability to truly function in it autonomously, and on our own terms.”

This potentially devastating power shift materializes in the form of

“a sapping of economic and cultural power away from professional journalists by what I like to call The People Formerly known as the Employers.”

If we follow this line of thought, it is only a matter of time before we coin the phrase The People Formerly Known as the Journalists.

To read is to write

30 08 2008

In the latest issue of Tekstblad:

  • The ins and outs of linguistic vs visual metaphors
  • Tips on writing multimodal instructions
  • Bricks vs clicks: taking e-commerce to the next level
  • A how-to guide to content management
  • Reading = writing in media life says Mark Deuze