The “crisis of journalism” has been so consistent a rallying cry from journalism scholars it approaches cliche. Journalism is as Rodney Benson describes, a simultaneously ubiquitous and weak professional field. News media and the content industry confront us in every turn in our mediatized lives. Journalism is central to the click economy and Silicon Valley billionaires like Jeff Bezos and Pierre Omidyar have sought to integrate media companies into their online empires.
The Donald Trump presidency is a testament to the centrality of the media field to political power, yet his very election proves just how diminished the cultural capital of journalism is. Trump proved immune to the traditional disciplines of journalism and has lured news networks as conspirators into his spectacle giving him countless hours of free advertising. CNN helped create Trump and is now a synonym on the far-right for “Fake News”, a designation originally created to counter online conspiratorial media.
My work in journalism studies in has been concerned with how to retain the cultural capital of journalism, namely truth-telling and the power to create a universal public, in the face of these challenges. Writing in the Political Economy of Communication I have described the attempts by Fox News to claim these values for its rightwing brand. In an article for Journalism entitled “The Liberal Field of Journalism and the Political” I assess the New York Times’ coverage of the Tea Party Movement. I find that the coverage an ahistorical approach to far-right movements while also marking them as “beyond-the-pale”. There was an inability to understand the Tea Party is political-historical terms and the threat the movement represented to the values of the field.
Currently I am interested who journalists, politicians and social media companies are trying to re-establish what Foucault calls “regimes of truth” in the Trump era.