The Rhetorical Illusions of News

Chris Peters, Marcel Broersma

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Imagine for a moment – a thought experiment if you will – that journalism as we have come to know it would disappear overnight. What would happen in terms of the informational flows in society? What would we miss and what would be the risk, if any? Instinctively, the answers likely proffered to such a hypothetical scenario are predictable: people would lose crucial information for engaging civically; unfettered from investigative oversight, governments, businesses and other powerful institutions would become less accountable; the fodder for public discussion on prominent issues of the day would be lost; and so on and so forth. In sum: the conditioned reaction on questions about ‘what journalism is good for’ tends to lead back toward familiar rhetorics and rationales.

Journalism’s normative claims rely heavily upon these established modernist discourses which serve to affirm its essential role within a democracy and assert its relevance to the public (see McNair, 2012; Schudson, 2008). However, the reality is that most journalism is not a public good, at least not in the traditional economic sense. Publishers in print and online as well as commercial broadcasters are typically companies with all the drawbacks and market susceptibilities this implies no matter how much journalists, journalism studies scholars, and audiences alike frequently place expectations of public service upon journalism tout court. Even public broadcasting, for that matter, is obliged by law to cater for and reach certain audiences. Given this context, it is intriguing to consider the possible disconnect between journalism’s normative assertions, its day-to-day activities, and its actual resonance.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationRethinking Journalism Again : Societal role and public relevance in a digital age
EditorsChris Peters, Marcel Broersma
Place of PublicationLondon
Publication date2017
ISBN (Print)9781138860865
ISBN (Electronic)9781317506416
Publication statusPublished - 2017
Externally publishedYes

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