Journalism and Popular Culture

Authored by: John Hartley

The Handbook of Journalism Studies

Print publication date:  November  2008
Online publication date:  January  2009

Print ISBN: 9780805863420
eBook ISBN: 9780203877685
Adobe ISBN: 9781135592011


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This chapter identifies popular culture as the true origin of modern journalism, taking “origin” to refer both to empirical historical beginnings, in revolutionary France and industrializing Britain, and also to theoretical first principles, where popular culture is the subject (source) of journalism, not its object (destination). Therefore, I argue, the relations between journalism and popular culture, and between journalism studies and cultural studies, are best studied historically. Within such histories can be discerned the working through of two contrasting underlying models of communication and determination. In one the consumers of news are an effect of media; in the other they are a source of meaning. One model leads to a representative, expert journalism; the other to emancipationist self-representation (see Table 22.1). Both are present throughout the history of modern media, although during the long reigns of the press barons and broadcast monopolies the top-down version has predominated. This predominance is currently in crisis; my argument is that scholarly attention to the historical relations between journalism and popular culture can help to explain what is at stake in that crisis.

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