The Journalism Tradition

John Nerone. 21st Century Communication: A Reference Handbook. Editor: William F Eadie. 2009. Sage Publication.

This entry will discuss the history of journalism as a journalism studies on the larger field of communication studies. The journalism tradition has been formative. Communication as a discipline first took root in journalism programs (Donsbach, 2006; Rogers, 1994). Its engagement with journalism has nurtured a concern within communication studies for public life, the public sphere, and democratic self-government, the domain that provides journalism and journalists their ideological legitimacy. Concerns about the impact of news, news bias, and propaganda on public opinion drove thinking about media effects and the interaction of media and interpersonal communication. Normative ethical and policy discussions have also been defined by discourses about journalism ethics and freedom of the press.

Origins of Modern Journalism

Journalism and news are often used interchangeably, even by conscientious scholars, but it would be more appropriate to distinguish between them. Journalism is the ism that disciplines the media presentation of news. Every society in known history has had something we can recognize as news: information about current events having novelty and timeliness as values. Journalism, however, is relatively recent. The word itself appeared in Western languages only in the first half of the 19th century, referring then to the advocacy writing of partisans in national politics. Journalism was first the journalism of opinion. The word came to refer to news reporting only later in the 19th century. It took its modern meaning as the expert or professional construction and explanation of current events in the first half of the 20th century.

Journalism as a discipline of news was an Anglo-American invention. Journalism grew at the intersection of the news market and the public sphere. Jean Chalaby (1998) argues that the invention of journalism followed the creation of a mass market for news and the media organizations that would supply it. The mass market appeared when large populations of ordinary readers were able to purchase newly available cheap newspapers, a development that occurred first in the United States (mainly because of the absence of a newspaper tax) in the 1830s and then in Britain in the 1850s. The cost of producing printed products dropped through the 19th century in most countries. Paper became cheaper due to improvements in supplies and the mechanization of production, presses became much quicker and produced far more copies as steam power was hooked up to cylindrical platens, and advertising revenue became far more plentiful as markets for consumer goods expanded. All these economic factors introduced economies of scale. The new, cheap media became mass media.

But the industrialization of the press disturbed the ecology of the public sphere. The founding forms of the newspaper had been rooted in a fantasy about a virtual national public engaging in the sorts of deliberation that would produce effective self-government (Barnhurst & Nerone, 2001). This early history of the public sphere has been most influentially outlined by Jürgen Habermas (1989).

Habermas (1989) argues that a public sphere appeared in specific European nations in the 18th century as “civil society” separated itself from the “state.” This kind of public sphere was supposed to provide a space for political deliberation, a space in which private citizens might gather to discuss issues of common concern. The “bourgeois” model of the public sphere, as Habermas calls the 18th-century formation, was characterized by relatively free access to citizens and a broad and diverse representation of empowered voices, operating mainly through a newly political newspaper press. The people, observing the public arena, were supposed to be able to see their own concerns echoed there and to have confidence that the outcomes of public discussion would be reasonable. The public sphere became a key institution in the age of revolution. Activists took care to present reasoned arguments to the public at the same time as they mobilized actions on the ground. Much of this apparent debate was designed to conceal social conflict. And, of course, many were excluded, especially women, nonwhites, non-Christians, and the propertyless (Fraser, 1992; Warner, 1990). But in the age of small newspapers produced on hand-powered presses with circulations in the hundreds, it was possible to believe that expression was unrestricted (Tocqueville, 1835).

Industrialization of the media created an imbalance in the public sphere. New printing machinery, such as steam-powered presses; more abundant display advertising; and cheaper paper led to economies of scale for newspapers, turning them into big businesses and eventually turning daily newspaper markets into natural monopolies (Kaplan, 1995). Ordinary people as well as political leaders and activists believed that the owners of the wire services and the most successful newspapers had gained the power to shape public discourse and that they routinely abused this power (Blondheim, 1994; John, 2000; Lawson, 1993; Sinclair, 1919/2003). Public demands for restraints on media power gained traction (McChesney & Scott, 2004). In most Western countries, the development of a well-financed public service media sector mollified the public. In the United States, questions of media regulation repeatedly roiled politics. Movements for public ownership of the telegraph system arose throughout the period between the Civil War and World War I (Czitrom, 1982, chap. 2), and especially at the turn of the century, politicians raised the alarm at the growth of “yellow journalism,” as the sensational news of crime and sex in the cheap, mass-circulation press came to be called.

Media owners, editors, and reporters responded to public hostility by proposing ethical standards and claiming professional responsibility. They promised, in effect, to steward the public sphere. In some countries, journalists formed unions that afforded them the autonomy to elevate news standards. In the United States, media owners retained control. By the first decades of the 20th century, the public was well familiar with owners using chains of media properties to promote particular concerns—self-lessly, as when E. W. Scripps used his chain as a mouthpiece for Woodrow Wilson’s administration during World War I (Zacher, 2008), or egomaniacally, as when William Randolph Hearst used his media empire to try to make himself president (Nasaw, 2000). Such heavy-handed tactics produced a counterreaction. Owners were pressured to ensure the independence of their news operations by building a wall of separation between news/editorial departments and their business offices and to publicly commit their operations to fairness and balance, which came to be called objectivity. At the same time, traditional political and social elites, concerned with the state of public morality, pressured owners to resist market pressure for sensationalism and to respect the privacy of individuals.

The promise to steward the public sphere authorized a professionalization project for journalism. Media owners and working journalists together lobbied for college curricula in journalism and wrote codes of ethics, seeking to elevate the industry in respectability and public regard. In most developed countries, universities began offering journalism courses and degrees in the first decades of the 20th century.

Throughout the Western world, newswork underwent a reconfiguration as the professionalization project unfolded (Nerone & Barnhurst, 2003). The profession of journalism synthesized the tasks of the reporter with those of the correspondent. Reporting initially meant the faithful transcription of events and information. A reporter was someone who attended public meetings and transcribed what was said or who dropped by the markets and docks and gathered information about prices and arrivals. For a reporter, the world was filled with facts that could be collected and transmitted such as they were. Reporters were pieceworkers who were paid by the line. Correspondents, on the other hand, were letter writers. Stationed in distant locales, they constituted the eyes and ears of the public abroad. Unlike reporters, correspondents were supposed to be recognizable personae with opinions and voices.

The modern journalist combines these two subjectivities. The journalist is supposed to tell the truth about the world by giving expert explanation and context. The journalist has a name but not a voice; in fact, the journalist’s byline is not meant to promise a unique perspective but to assure the reader that any other journalist would have written the same story: It is a refutation of authorship. Citizens relied on journalists to explain the complexities of the modern world. Facts alone would lead to idiocy, while opinion could amount to propaganda. The stance of expert explanation, whether in the “objective” mode of U.S. journalism or the more engaged mode of European journalism, fit well within news media systems that were increasingly dominated by powerful national media that produced increasingly streamlined, modern accounts of the world.

Modern journalism had a predecessor in pictorial journalism. In the middle of the 19th century, shortly after the introduction of photography, “illustrated” newspapers appeared in each of the Western countries, beginning with Great Britain. Although similar in some ways to photojournalism, illustrated journalism relied on the artist’s traditional tools for incorporating narrative, commentary, and character analysis into pictures (Brown, 2003). Using empirical traces in the form of photographs or sketches from roving sketch artists, illustrated newspapers provided middle-class readers with pictorial accounts of the nation’s events, providing the visual repertoire that supported a national “imagined community,” to borrow Benedict Anderson’s (1991) term.

Origins of Journalism Studies

The academic study of journalism began against the background of World War I–Era propaganda. It was then incorporated into the new schools of journalism, where it has sat uneasily beside the practical training of journalists.

In the United States, the founding text for journalism studies has been Walter Lippmann’s Public Opinion (1922). Lippmann was a Harvard-educated journalist and an editorial writer of progressive temperament. During World War I, he experienced firsthand the propaganda campaigns of the Allied governments; after the war, he attended the peace negotiations at Versailles. These experiences left him troubled and disillusioned. He undertook a series of studies of news reporting during the war, which eventually led him to write Public Opinion, the work for which he is best known.

Taking his cue from the myth of the cave in Plato’s Republic, Lippmann described the problem of public opinion as being rooted in the cognitive deficiencies of ordinary people, who think through personification, simplification, and stereotyping. Moreover, as their world becomes larger and more complex, ordinary people are forced to rely more and more on media than on personal experience. Media representations interact with personal interests and biases to produce the “pseudoenvironment,” Lippmann’s term for the “pictures in our heads” that intervene between ordinary people and the real environment. And media content is in turn distorted by market forces, which intensify the reliance on stereotyping.

For Lippmann, reliance on public opinion as a steering mechanism deeply compromised the effectiveness of democratic government. Instead, he proposed new institutions of expert opinion, “intelligence bureaus” that would provide sound information for decision making. He emphasized that the press was not an intelligence bureau because its work was always subservient to commercial motivations. Instead, he envisioned an array of think tanks (like the Brookings Institute) and bureaucratic agencies (like the Federal Reserve Board).

Lippmann’s analysis of the vulnerabilities of public opinion did not go unanswered. Thinkers recognized much of his argument as common sense but considered his assessment of the situation too gloomy and his remedy too elitist. John Dewey’s response was the most influential. In The Public and Its Problems (1927), Dewey acknowledged the vulnerabilities of public opinion but insisted that these problems were best addressed through a commitment to political education. Providing the spaces and institutions for public engagement would encourage the development of more sophisticated and intelligent public information and public opinion.

The debate between Lippmann and Dewey produced an agenda for the study of news and public opinion. Lippmann himself produced a series of content analyses, beginning with A Test of the News(Lippmann & Merz, 1920), which analyzed 3 years of coverage of the Bolshevik Revolution by The New York Times. This study concluded that the coverage consistently distorted the prospects of the Bolsheviks to meet the expectations of a readership hostile to communism.

World War I also prompted the social-psychological study of propaganda. The most influential practitioner in this vein was Harold Lasswell (1927), whose book Propaganda Technique in the World Warpresented a systematic account of government-produced content and has been credited with offering a “hypodermic-needle” model of media effects, though Lasswell himself did not use that term. In Lasswell’s account, the government “injects” propaganda into public consciousness, and the effects are predictable: Propaganda works to shape public opinion. This model fit the common sense of what had occurred during World War I. Throughout the 1920s and 1930s, propaganda was the most influential mode of studying media effects. Its influence peaked and began to wane with the 1937 founding of the Institute for Propaganda Analysis, a think tank that housed scholars such as Kirtley F. Mather and Alfred McClung Lee. The looming World War II made propaganda seem like an unpromising and even unpatriotic style of analysis, as it failed to distinguish between the propaganda efforts of actors such as Nazi Germany and the more palatable efforts of the Allied governments and the advertising industry (Sproule, 1997).

World War II and Its Aftermath

World War II and the Cold War that followed fundamentally changed the agenda for media and journalism studies. In the West, World War II produced an antitotalitarian consensus, leading to an urgency to explain why fascism should not arise in the liberal democracies and helping produce a settlement of the question of the relationship between media industries and the public sphere, which meant in turn a renegotiation of the responsibilities of the press.

During the war, the Allied nations pondered the growth and apparent success of fascist politics. Authoritarian systems seemed to be an effective way of organizing industrialized societies, perhaps even the natural way—this was one lesson of the rise of Hitler’s Germany and Mussolini’s Italy and, as the war gave way to the Cold War, Stalin’s Soviet Union and Mao’s China. One ideological goal of the Allies during the war and the Cold War was to explain why “totalitarian” systems were not natural, not efficient, and not inevitable.

In the United States, much scholarly energy went into showing that aspects of the American system or the American character provided a firewall against authoritarianism. At the same time, deflating apprehensions about homegrown fascism became the chief goal of communications research. This can be seen across a range of research traditions, from the normative innovations of the Commission on Freedom of the Press, or Hutchins Commission (1947), to the “limited-effects” and “two-step-flow” models of media effects found in the work of Katz and Lazarsfeld (1955).

The Hutchins Commission was a blue-ribbon panel of intellectuals funded primarily by Time-Life publisher Henry Luce to investigate the role of the mass media in a democratic society. The panel began with the recognition that the size and profit orientation of the agencies of mass communication posed a problem to traditional notions of a free press, which held that free and open competition among the media would allow for the voicing of a wide range of ideas: The media marketplace would represent the full spectrum of groups and opinions in society. But the industrialization of the media had closed off the media marketplace, while giving the surviving mass media tremendous power to define the range of debate. They had become, in effect, the “gatekeepers” of public discourse, to use D. M. White’s (1950) term. The gatekeeper metaphor accentuated the ability of the media, and especially journalism, to selectively grant public recognition to ideas and groups. The rise of media power and media monopoly imposed new responsibilities. The Commission tasked the media with providing a virtual “marketplace of ideas” as a substitute for the disappearing media marketplace. This meant the media must report the truth in context about society, provide a forum for comment and criticism, represent the groups and goals and values of society, and provide full access to the news of the day. Professional journalists were to play a key role in this function.

Such ideas about the responsibilities of media institutions were common in the West. In Great Britain, the first Royal Commission on the Press (1947–1949) came to similar conclusions. The notion that the media must serve the freedom of the people to express themselves, to acquire and impart information, and to communicate also permeated the early documents of the United Nations, such as the UNESCO Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1947), though these did not necessarily envision professional journalism as the major instrument of popular communication. Four Theories of the Press, the most influential map of the terrain of normative press theory in the post–World War II era, called this constellation of ideas “social responsibility theory” (Siebert, Peterson, & Schramm, 1956, chap. 3).

While social responsibility theory expressed the new normative sense of the professional press, the limited-effects model seemed to describe the actual social functioning of mass communication. Katz and Lazarsfeld’s influential book Personal Influence (1955) argued that primary groups and face-to-face communication offered a built-in resistance to top-down or mass-mediated messages, which reached the general public only through the mediation of local “opinion leaders.” This two-step flow countered the ominous influence of the increasingly concentrated media system and the mass society critique argued most memorably by C. Wright Mills in The Power Elite (1956). Mills had been an investigator on the primary research that had produced Personal Influence, by the way, and believed that the data showed strong media effects (Gitlin, 2006).

Both the limited-effects and the social-responsibility models can be seen as rooted in the Cold War. Both provided ideological assurance that totalitarianism was avoidable and unnatural. Both also addressed the problem of an apparently consolidated media system and its effects on the flow of public information, a situation that seemed to support the professionalization of journalism.

The High-Modern Moment

Dan Hallin (1994) refers to the Cold War era as the “highmodern moment” of U.S. journalism. At this moment, a relatively small number of national outlets—a handful of national newspapers, a couple of wire services, and a few national broadcast networks—offered an ideologically unified account of the news of the day in an apparently expert and nonpartisan fashion. Journalism in the United States has never fully professionalized and never can. The classic professions, such as medicine and law, exercise a monopoly on an occupational field through a licensing procedure that’s justified on the basis of some kind of arcane science: Doctors need to attend medical school and pass exams because medical science is recognized as crucial to sound practice. Journalism lacks anything like medical science, and the First Amendment prevents it from exercising a monopoly. But the bottlenecks in the media system that existed in the middle of the 20th century let it act like a profession. The owners and managers of these media had both an ideological and a business interest in maintaining professionalized standards.

In most Western countries, the media system was dominated by a handful of national partisan newspapers and by state-run broadcasting agencies. In Europe, Hallin and Mancini (2004) identified two other models beyond the North Atlantic’s market-based one: a northern European public service model, best exemplified by Scandinavian subsidies and state broadcast agencies; and a southern European model characterized by “political parallelism,” or media alignments with political parties. In these other systems, the inflection of professionalism differed, but in every developed system of mass communication, some form of professionalization took place, with “expert” journalists assuming a responsibility to explain the world to a more or less passive public.

Scholars tried to find ways to reconcile the evident power of journalism with the limited-effects model. One resolution, now common sense, was the “agenda-setting” approach (McCombs & Shaw, 1972). Agenda setting meant that even if the media don’t tell the people what to think, they do tell them what to think about. Media content provided the matter out of which public discussion could form, and media professionals, as gatekeepers, had the power to fix and stratify content and therefore establish the agenda for the public. The agenda-setting model has been tested dozens of times, and the parallelism between news content and surveys of public attitudes on issue relevance has been firmly established (McCombs & Shaw, 1993). But scholars disagree on where the agenda comes from in the first place. Some, including most news professionals, argue that it’s set by the world itself: The news agenda reflects current happenings. Others see the agenda set either by the ideology and sociology of news or by the maneuverings of empowered groups.

Studies of the sociology of the newsroom suggested that a number of contextualizing factors shaped the agenda. Tuchman (1978) and Gans (1979) argued that the routines of the newsroom and the ideological apparatus of the journalists themselves inflected news coverage. Herman and Chomsky (1988) took this notion to an extreme by arguing that the structure of the news media is built in a series of filters, such as reliance on official sources and on advertising income. After the five filters they identified had done their work, what was left, they argued, was propaganda. Although this “propaganda model” seems too mechanistic to many scholars of journalism, some studies have supported it (Kennis, 2003; Mermin, 1999).

One influential answer to the question of how the media agenda gets set is W. Lance Bennett’s “indexing” model. Bennett argues that news coverage is indexed to power. Where the powerful are in consensus about an issue—as, for instance, in the U.S. response to 9/11—news coverage will be either minimal or inattentive with regard to alternative positions. When the powerful are in disagreement, news coverage will offer a larger range of “legitimate” opinion. Bennett, Lawrence, and Livingston (2007) have found confirmation of the indexing model in news trends in the first decade of the 21st century, as consensus over 9/11 yielded to dissensus over the U.S. government’s Iraq policy in the wake of Abu Ghraib.

Another conception of the working of power through the press is “framing” (Entman, 1993). As in agenda setting, frame analysis holds that the media help set the terms of public discourse by defining the larger narratives and significations that give meaning to the news. During the Cold War, for instance, U.S. news media paid far more attention to international affairs than they did at the beginning of the 21st century. But all international news was “framed” by the competition between the West and the Soviet Bloc. This “Cold War frame” brought some events into visibility but left others marginalized or absent. Elections that pitted pro-Soviet against pro-Western parties, for instance, received attention, whereas labor struggles in nonaligned or pro-Western nations did not. As in agenda setting, the framing hypothesis does not necessarily provide an explanation for how frames get made. It does seem to accurately represent what journalists do. They look for frames that will make a series of events meaningful and intelligible. It also explains the tactics of parajournalists, the term Michael Schudson (2003) applies to public relations professionals, public information officers, and others who try to influence the flow of news. Activists, politicians, and advocates of all varieties work hard to frame issues in a favorable way.

The cumulative weight of agenda setting, framing, indexing, newsroom sociology, and the propaganda model has made the limited-effects model of the 1950s and 1960s obsolete. Added together, these approaches to news culture in fact approximate an ideological analysis based on Gramscian notions of hegemony, in which apparently independent news professionals are led by the system of news production to reproduce dominant ideologies and representations of social groups stratified by race, class, and gender (Hall, Critcher, Jefferson, Clarke, & Robert, 1978; Reeves & Campbell, 1994). But one shouldn’t make too much of the eclipse of the limited-effects model. It was always opportunistically applied, inasmuch as non-Western media systems always appeared to scholars in the West as having powerful effects. And in the emerging interactive media environment, common sense is returning to the notion that readers or audiences are active in forming their own attitudes. The Internet, as it liberates users from the older mass media, appears to be a realm of limited effects.

Journalism Outside the West

The basic Western framework for understanding the world’s other journalisms received its classic expression in the book Four Theories of the Press (Siebert et al., 1956). This book told a story about a normative evolution from authoritarianism, with its distrust of the individual, reason, and free expression, to libertarianism, with its emphasis on limited government involvement and free competition. In addition to the authoritarian and libertarian theories, the book identified the social responsibility theory, described as a modification of libertarianism designed to accommodate the mass media, and the “Soviet Communist Theory,” which it treated as an extravagant version of authoritarianism. For much of the Cold War, deviations from the libertarian theory looked like authoritarianism to Western journalists and scholars.

But the 20th century saw a spectrum of noncapitalist and anticapitalist models of journalism. Even within the Soviet bloc and in Mao’s China, which are suitably called authoritarian systems, the notion of professionalism allowed for a range of autonomy under the rubric of “self-criticism.” Beyond these systems, a variety of “alternative,” “radical,” and “development” media practices appeared, linked by a rejection of top-down flows of information and a resistance to North-to-South models of influence. Some called for journalism from the bottom up; some called for alternatives to the dominance of the North-based global wire services; and others criticized the news values that led coverage to obsess with “coups and earthquakes” (Rosenblum, 1979). Globally, these other journalisms gathered under the umbrella of resistance to “cultural imperialism” and advocacy of a New World Information and Communication Order (NWICO) (Nordenstreng & Schiller, 1979). The NWICO movement found a home in the UNESCO and was given its most influential expression in the report of the MacBride Commission (UNESCO, 1980), which invoked the UNESCO charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rightsin calling for a “right to communicate” and the “free and balanced” flow of information.

The NWICO movement crested in the early 1980s and then came under withering counterattack. Reagan’s United States and Thatcher’s United Kingdom withdrew from the UNESCO in protest in 1984, calling NWICO a movement to sanction censorship. The UNESCO distanced itself from the movement in response. With the fall of the Soviet bloc, the influence of the nonaligned nations, which had been the primary sponsors of the NWICO movement, seemed less salient. Issues of media and news influence and global flow migrated from the political arena to the economic sphere, where they were dealt with under the guise of tariffs and intellectual property agreements. Finally, regional media dynamism—Bollywood movies, Mexican telenovelas, Arabic-language news—made the international communication order seem less stratified.

The bulk of the world’s information economy remains highly concentrated, however. Beneath the apparent diversity and openness of the global media system is an increasingly concentrated core of vertically integrated transnational corporations. The same is true of national systems, where a proliferation of channels coexists with an even narrower set of controlling actors.

The End of the High-Modern Moment

At the beginning of the 21st century, the coherence of journalism came under strain. Among the factors contributing to this challenge to the hegemony of professional journalism were the rise of social heterogeneity, the eclipse of the ideological map of the Cold War era, and the decay of the media bottlenecks that gave the dominant channels of the 20th century their ability to set the boundaries of the news of the day. Professional journalists sensed the barbarians at the gate.

In the United States, journalism identified a “credibility crisis” in the early 1980s. After an ascendancy in the 1970s, in which the heroic journalism that had come of age during the Kennedy assassination (Zelizer, 1992) had congratulated itself (perhaps falsely) for toppling an administration in the Watergate crisis (Epstein, 1975; Schudson, 1993) and helping to end the war in Vietnam (Hallin, 1986; Hammond, 1999), news professionals were surprised to find public resistance to their objections of exclusion from access to the invasion force in the attack on Grenada in 1983 (Nimkoff, 2008). The major news organizations, including the Gannett chain, came to the conclusion that public ignorance of the role of journalism in a democratic society had to be countered by programs of public education. They undertook both outreach programs to expand public knowledge and survey projects to measure it; over the next quarter-century they would find that their efforts produced little improvement in popular attitudes toward the news media (Mindich, 2004).

As an institution, 21st-century journalism will not be able to set the agenda or frame the terms of debate. It will be more vulnerable to influence from parajournalists and competition from new journalisms—tabloid journalism, for instance, or what Bill Kovach and Tom Rosenstiel (2006) call the “journalism of assertion” on cable television and the Internet. Professional journalists may also be freed from their demure captivity to objectivity and responsibility.

The end of the high-modern moment means a fundamental shift in journalism as the disciplined presentation of news. To alarmists, it means nothing less than the end of journalism. In all likelihood, journalism will adjust to its new circumstances and propose new elements of discipline. These will have to include a new humility about defining the world and a new frankness about the person-hood of the journalists.

Three movements posed challenges to high-modern journalism at the beginning of the 21st century. First, “public journalism” expanded on the legacy of the Hutchins Commission and an awareness of the agenda-setting power of the press to argue that journalists should consciously align themselves with the public, deferring to public deliberation as the key agenda-setting function and dedicating themselves to making public life more engaging, more democratic, and more potent (Glasser, 1999; Rosen, 1999). The public journalism movement has waned in step with the monopoly power of media channels, particularly daily newspapers. Second, “citizen journalism” attracted attention with the rise of the Independent Media Center movement and made a spectacular contribution to the reporting of the protests against the World Trade Organization meetings in Seattle in 1999. It continued to grow with the rise of the blogosphere, but the blogosphere itself developed an ambiguous relationship with the mainstream media, relying on reporting from dominant institutions of journalism such as the BBC or The Washington Post for much of its raw material. Third, various movements for “media reform” proposed structural change in the form of ownership limits, public financing, and copyright restriction. Media reformers cover a wide spectrum of political positions and congeal around specific policy initiatives with significant success but have not yet managed to advance broader restructurings.

In much of the world, the old journalism of the West constituted the new journalism. This is particularly true in the former Soviet bloc, where new translations of Four Theories of the Press anchored the canon of new journalism education programs. Western models of professional journalism also made inroads in the commercializing media system of China, although Party ownership and state censorship of newspapers and broadcasting limited innovation.

The tribulations of journalism in the beginning of the 21st century are reflected in changes in journalism education and journalism studies. Journalism education has always searched with difficulty for intellectual grounding. Because journalism lacks the legitimating science that medicine and law enjoy, it has always been somewhat uncomfortable in the academy and somewhat insecure in the practical world. A successful career as a journalist does not, in most countries, require college-level education, and the most prestigious news organizations have often made a practice of recruiting journalists from other fields. Especially in specializations such as business news or science reporting, higher education in a field other than journalism is often considered more appropriate. In spite of this liminal situation, journalism schools and programs have continued to grow in numbers, journalism graduates have continued to increase their share of new hires, and Western journalism education has continued to colonize new areas of the globe.

Journalism Studies has been housed, for the most part, in journalism schools. The critical study of journalism and the social scientific study of news have never been entirely consistent with the practical training of professional journalists, and journalism schools have always seen scenes of competition between scholars and practitioners. Ironically, the strain on professional journalism and the rapidly changing media environment eased these strains. Scholars and practitioners found common ground in a concern for the declining news hole, a fear of corporate ownership and media monopoly, and a regard for the impact of the vulnerabilities of journalism on a challenged public culture. The new media environment encouraged journalists to think beyond objectivity and professionalism at the same time as intellectual challenges to scholarly detachment encouraged academics to be more open to civic engagement and entrepreneurial activity.


The journalism tradition has done much to set the agenda for communication studies and to place concerns for the health of public life at its center. Questions about the ability of ordinary people to govern themselves, fears about the impact of propaganda, and a concern for the vitality of the public sphere in an age of mass communication instigated communication scholarship in the first half of the 20th century, and models of media effects followed the shifting landscape of journalism in its second half. As the field of communication research moved to address the new media environment in the beginning of the 21st century, the journalism tradition, with its emphasis on a discipline of verification as an indispensable element of public life, continued to generate questions and models. Inasmuch as communication studies embraces questions of citizenship and public life as foundational, the journalism tradition will continue to reside at its core.