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The journalistic field vs. the academic field

November 19, 2008

Phelan, S. (2008) Democracy, the Academic Field and the (New Zealand) Journalistic Habitus, language & capitalism 3/4


The relationship between journalism and the academy is historically fraught. Any mention of the word ‘theory’ is only likely to exacerbate these tensions, since it perhaps signifies, most clearly, the division between both identities. Drawing on the social theory of Pierre Bourdieu, this paper considers, with particular empirical reference to the New Zealand context, the often antagonistic relationship between the ‘journalistic field’ and the ‘academic field’. I examine how academic identities are sometimes represented ‘fantasmatically’ (Glynos and Howarth, 2007) in journalistic discourse and explore the contradictions between journalism’s official commitment to democratic values and the desire of at least some journalists to silence or lampoon academic voices, or insist that theoretical reflection is somehow incompatible with good journalism. The articulation of particular journalistic identities is contextualised with reference to the more ‘objective’ logic of the New Zealand journalistic field and, in particular, the structuring of its concrete relationship with the academic field through journalism education programmes. Although the culturally sedimented practices precluding the possibility of a different inter-field dynamic are considerable, I conclude by ‘visualising’ an alternative relationship, one constituted, on all sides, by what Williams Connolly (2005) characterises as a properly democratic ethos of ‘agonistic respect’ across difference.

6 Comments leave one →
  1. November 20, 2008 3:53 pm

    John, thanks for this abstract. I will search out the main paper and read it. Ayo

  2. November 21, 2008 12:37 am

    That’s great Ayo. Do let us know what you make of this article through this thread if you can, John

  3. angela permalink
    November 24, 2008 10:42 am

    hey john, i had problems with the link given above.
    but could download the article hitting the frontpage /
    thanks for the info as such!

  4. November 25, 2008 1:06 pm

    thanks for the alert, angela – I hope it works for others now!

  5. joelpedersen permalink
    December 11, 2008 7:01 pm

    Fascinating! I am getting into Bourdieu in a few months, and I look forward to reading this in conjunction!

  6. December 6, 2010 10:36 pm

    This is very interesting. It could help explain why so many journalism programs have very little theory emphasis. This puts journalism students at a huge disadvantage if they ever decide to go to graduate school.

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