Mapping the Cultural Space of Journalism: How Journalists Distinguish News from Entertainment

Mapping the Cultural Space of Journalism: How Journalists Distinguish News from Entertainment

Mapping the Cultural Space of Journalism: How Journalists Distinguish News from Entertainment

Mapping the Cultural Space of Journalism: How Journalists Distinguish News from Entertainment

Synopsis

Addressing the controversial issues of the blurring boundaries between news and entertainment and the movement toward sensationalism in broadcast journalism, this study examines these distinctions: how boundaries are constructed and by whom; how they are enforced or broken and why. Rather than reflecting essential attributes by which news can be distinguished from other kinds of communication, "boundary setting" is viewed as a social construction, determined and changed by journalists wishing to assert their jurisdiction and authority and the prestige of the profession. Four instances of "boundary-work rhetoric" are examined in depth: (1) the development of roles and "rules" of television journalism during the early years of television; (2) attempts at Congressional and FTC regulation--broadcasting codes defining "bona fide" news; (3) responses to a 1992 journalistic scandal over a "Dateline NBC" story on exploding GM pickup trucks, and (4) reporting sex scandals during recent political campaigns, such as the allegations of Gennifer Flowers of her involvement with Bill Clinton. In these and other cases, journalists developed strategies to minimize harm to the profession.

Excerpt

Once, the borders were clear and inviolate: Newspapers, newscasts and newsmagazines covered serious events; pop culture entertained us. But in the past generation, the culture sparked by rock & roll, then fused with tv and mutated by Hollywood, ran riot over the traditional boundaries between straight journalism and entertainment.

--Jon Katz Rock, Rap and Movies Bring You the News

Many journalists like Jon Katz today feel that the boundaries between news and entertainment are blurring, particularly in the television medium. in this book, I examine these boundary concepts and attempt to answer a few complicated questions, such as: Why and how are journalism's boundaries socially constructed? How are they negotiated by different groups of people with interests in mass communications? And--perhaps most importantly--how do journalists breach these boundaries and then respond to the breaches through boundary-maintenance exercises? I hope to recover some of the messiness of the boundaries through this inquiry. the impetus for this study are the numerous observations and arguments that network television news and tabloid television entertainment programs are converging in style and content into a new genre called "reality-based programming." This study will examine some of these arguments, looking for how this phenomenon is described, the explanations given for it, as well as the ex-

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