Not like us?: The professional boundaries of American and British journalism in the digital age
Johnson, Courtney Nicole
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Journalists increasingly face challenges to their professional autonomy. The internet allows anyone with a computer or mobile device to post content online, making it easy for individuals with little or no journalistic training and no formal news outlet affiliation to engage in reporting. Whether this content creation constitutes “journalism,” however, is often contested by those traditional journalists affiliated with mainstream media outlets (Carlson, 2012; Ruggiero, 2004; Singer, 2007). Mainstream journalists now feel challenged by online actors who consider themselves journalists, or at least consider the work they do to be journalistic in nature. Given the recent challenges posed to journalism by the internet, and guided by past research on social identity theory and boundary work, this dissertation examines the relationship between evolving journalistic professional identity and mainstream journalists’ treatment of WikiLeaks, Julian Assange, and Glenn Greenwald. Using a content analysis and two textual analyses, this study illustrates how definitions of journalism are changing in the digital age and how journalists working for traditional news organizations draw boundaries around their profession and attempt to differentiate themselves from new forms of journalism enabled by the internet. Results indicate that journalists moved to protect their professional boundaries in ways predicted by social identity theory: Journalists enhanced their profession identity by subsuming the innovative aspects of WikiLeaks’ and Greenwald’s work under the rubric of traditional journalism, and used the other (less professionally desirable) aspects of WikiLeaks and Greenwald’s behavior to place them outside the boundaries of real journalism. Analyses also show that American journalism has a stronger set of professional boundaries than British journalism, which makes them less open to new forms of journalism made possible by the affordances of the internet.
- Communications