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What Journalism Could Be

Barbie Zelizer

ISBN: 978-1-509-50787-0 January 2017 Polity 256 Pages


What Journalism Could Be asks readers to reimagine the news by embracing a conceptual prism long championed by one of journalism’s leading contemporary scholars. A former reporter, media critic and academic, Barbie Zelizer charts a singular journey through journalism’s complicated contours, prompting readers to rethink both how the news works and why it matters.

Zelizer tackles longstanding givens in journalism’s practice and study, offering alternative cues for assessing its contemporary environment. Highlighting journalism’s intersection with interpretation, culture, emotion, contingency, collective memory, crisis and visuality, Zelizer brings new meaning to its engagement with events like the global refugee crisis, rise of Islamic State, ascent of digital media and twenty-first-century combat.

Imagining what journalism could be involves stretching beyond the already-known. Zelizer enumerates journalism’s considerable current challenges while suggesting bold and creative ways of engaging with them. This book powerfully demonstrates how and why journalism remains of paramount importance.

1: Imagining Journalism

2: Definitions of Journalism
Intro Section 1: Cues for Considering Key Tensions in Journalism
Barbie Zelizer, Jennifer Henrichsen and Natacha Yazbeck

3: On “Having Been There”: “Eyewitnessing” as a Journalistic Key Word

4: On the Shelf Life of Democracy in Journalism Scholarship

5: When Practice is Undercut By Ethics
Intro Section 2: Cues for Considering Disciplinary Matters
Barbie Zelizer, Jennifer Henrichsen and Natacha Yazbeck

6: Journalism and the Academy

7: Journalism in the Service of Communication

8: When Facts, Truth, and Reality Are God-Terms: On Journalism’s Uneasy Place in Cultural Studies
Intro Section 3: Cues for Considering New Ways of Thinking About Journalistic Practice
Barbie Zelizer, Jennifer Henrichsen and Natacha Yazbeck

9: Journalists as Interpretive Communities

10: The Culture of Journalism

11: When War and Conflict Are Reduced to a Photograph

12: Thinking Temporally About Journalism’s Future
“No one knows the journalism studies literature better than Zelizer. This book demonstrates as much. Its chapters show Zelizer masterfully putting the literature to use, rendering its main points, interrogating its blind spots, pushing the field forward.” - David Ryfe, University of Iowa

“With her customary rigour and independent zeal, Zelizer has reimagined not just journalism in its moment of crisis and change, but also journalism studies. Her focus on journalism as it is, rather than what we might wish it to be, allows her to imagine realistic ways that the 'traditional' ideas and practice of journalism can now offer the possibilities of creative alternatives to the usual narrative of 'Old' and 'New' news media. Through a close attention to key case studies and a thorough critical analysis of current academic approaches, she makes a compelling case for her key insight: both journalists and journalism scholars must think much more creatively about the vital role of journalism in the context of our challenging local and global public spheres.” - Charlie Beckett, London School of Economics and Political Science