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Necessity of investigating garbage - The future of Journalism Cardiff 2013

This essay argues that today’s journalism studies stick too much to a traditional concept of man and society and therefore to a too confined idea of what journalism is, could be and should be. The starting point is a discussion about the new course of the most important quality newspaper of the Netherlands, NRC Handelsblad. Its critics equalize this new course with popular (also called soft, lifestyle or human interest) journalism and even with tabloidization, which in its turn is traditionally seen as the opposite of quality journalism. But popular journalism is not only a very vague term but also a segment of the journalistic field that is poorly analysed. Although this recently seems to be changing, as is shown by the Cardiff 2013 conference on the future of the profession, most journalism scholars still stay away from it. After having given some reasons for this neglect, this essay argues that we have no choice but changing our focus, even if we go on thinking about popular journalism as just ‘garbage’ – a view the author doesn’t support, the term is used as a honorary nickname or what is called in Dutch a Geuzennaam.1 The most important reason for this necessity is simple: the growth of popular journalism is unstoppable if only because of the invasion of non- professionals in the field. However, there is another and perhaps more interesting case to be made for popular journalism: the changing characteristics of our society in which the care for politics in the narrow sense of the term (developments concerning the state) is every day less important than the care for politics in the broad and original sense of the term (developments concerning society & the self). Although the analysis of the last phase of modernity so far leads to little more than debate and confusion, there seems to be no doubt about its consequences for media and journalism. Popular journalism, to put it shortly, is more than ever a part of our world. Neglecting it is like closing one’s eyes. By doing so journalism studies manoeuvre itself in an undesirable position.

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Necessity of investigating garbage - The future of Journalism Cardiff 2013

  1. 1. a Dutch perspective
  2. 2. Starting point: the NRC Handelsblad debate Changes in the Dutch quality newspaper Reproach of tabloidization The classical daily with its enlightenment program of Lux and Libertas, dedicates too much space to personal stories, emotion, lunch-interviews, gossip and other forms of tabloid journalism Also: loss for society
  3. 3. Tabloidization as an important aspect of nowadays journalism. But……
  4. 4. My paper: an odd man out Paradigm study Literature study Research questions
  5. 5. Literature study Just one theme has been exhaustively investigated: The question of tabloidization itself. But the results are completely contradictory
  6. 6. ‘We lack concepts, we need clear terms’ ‘It is hard to think of other concepts that are so important and popular and at the same time so poorly defined and theorized as soft news.’
  7. 7. Lack of interest is the more strange because… things are changing (the buzzword of the moment), very quickly, a change nobody can stop (and as far as can been seen with tabloidization as a dominant tendency)
  8. 8. Source: Colin Sparks & John Tulloch: Tabloid Tales (2000)
  9. 9. Long, international tradition of journalism studies Walter Lippmann Journalists are public intellectuals who ‘provide not only the facts but also the formats, norms and rhetorics that citizens employ to develop their opinions’ (about public life, politics, economics & sports).
  10. 10. Some important changes  Blurring of differences (as shown)  Invasion of non-professionals in the field (end of monopoly)  Growing consciousness of narrow-mindedness of journalism studies (influence of cultural & historical studies)  Market pressure (competition, user oriented)  Weltbild of public & students
  11. 11. Research 1 Research 2
  12. 12. Subjects of future study  What are we talking about? The nature of the blurring & the truth of the lack of study of popular journalism  The history of a contempt  The effects of popular journalism in past & present  Definitions, terms, language, lay out, image use, literature  The nature of today’s change (update Sparks)  Popular journalism & modern citizenship (I- epistomology, Ratgeberjournalismus, first person media)  Ethics of journalism in a consumer society
  13. 13. University of Applied Sciences, Utrecht School of Journalism
  14. 14. Subjects of future study  What are we talking about? The nature of the blurring & the truth of the lack of study of popular journalism  The history of a contempt  The effects of popular journalism in past & present  Definitions, terms, language, lay out, image use, literature  The nature of today’s change (update Sparks)  Popular journalism & modern citizenship (I- epistomology, Ratgeberjournalismus, first person media)  Ethics of journalism in a consumer society

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