The politics of war reporting

The politics of war reporting: Authority, authenticity and morality

Tim Markham
Copyright Date: 2011
Pages: 256
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  • Book Info
    The politics of war reporting
    Book Description:

    The Politics of War Reporting: Authority, Authenticity and Morality challenges the assumptions that reporters and their audiences have about the way the journalistic trade operates and how it sees the world. It unpacks the taken-for-granted aspects of the lives of war correspondents, exposing the principles of interaction and valorisation that usually go unacknowledged. Is journalistic authority really only about doing the job well? Do the ethics of war reporting emerge simply from the ‘stuff’ of journalism? This book asks why it is that the authoritative reporter increasingly needs to appear authentic, and that success depends not only on getting things right but being the right sort of journalist. This, in turn, depends on the uncalculating mastery of practices both before and during a journalist’s career. This book includes interviews with war correspondents and others with an active stake in the field and combines them with the critical sociology of Pierre Bourdieu to construct a political phenomenology of war reporting – the power relations and unspoken ‘rules of the game’ underpinning the representation of conflict and suffering by the media. It considers the recent phenomena of pooling and embedding journalists as well as the impact of new technologies, and asks what changes in the journalistic area can tell us about authority, authenticity and morality in the cultural industries more broadly. Interdisciplinary in its approach, The Politics of War Reporting will be of interest to scholars and students in the fields of media and cultural studies, sociology and political theory.

    eISBN: 978-1-84779-424-6
    Subjects: Business

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. [i]-[iv])
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. [v]-[vi])
  3. 1 Introduction: why use political phenomenology to analyse war reporting?
    (pp. 1-23)

    Why is war reporting important and how should it be analysed? The obvious answer to the first question is that it is naturally significant in that it addresses itself to human suffering and conflict. This book, however, while in no way seeking to relativise or understate suffering, starts from the premise that instead of seeing its representation in deontological terms – that is, as something which makes sense in and of itself – we should unpack it in terms of its contexts, its contingencies and its effects. There are three broad approaches to this unpacking. First, it could be argued...

  4. 2 Theoretical preliminaries
    (pp. 24-53)

    Bourdieu’s work spans a vast array of subjects, disciplines and agendas, and there is a formidable industry devoted to interpreting, critiquing and re-assessing it. Since the mid 1970s Bourdieusian theory has been appropriated and modified so as to support poststructuralist feminist theory (Weedon, 1987; Butler, 1990; Moi, 1991), to undermine other feminisms (Lovell, 2000: 27–48), to demonstrate both the strengths and weaknesses of Habermas’s theory of communicative action (Garnham, 1993; Bohman, 1997; Kögler, 1997; Taylor, 1999: 29–44; Vandenberghe, 1999; Poupeau, 2000: 69–87), to articulate a political philosophy of anticapitalism (Pinto, 1999: 88–104) and to argue against...

  5. 3 Methodological issues
    (pp. 54-73)

    It is clear by now that Bourdieu’s framework goes well beyond simply measuring different types of symbolic and economic capital extant in a given professional or cultural context. Field analysis has sometimes been interpreted as something akin to political economy (Martin and Szelenyi, [1987] 2000), but this is misleading for two reasons. First, while the more economistic readings of Bourdieu (e.g. Guillory, 2000: 29) may capture what he terms the structuredness of a field, they tend to fail to grasp the structuring aspect of a field – that is, the ongoing, temporal production and reproduction of relational structures through practice....

  6. 4 Practical mastery of authority, authenticity and disposition
    (pp. 74-93)

    As the preceding chapters have made clear, the purpose of this book is not to tell the personal stories of individual war reporters, but to describe the structured, structuring logics which determine how the field of war reporting is experienced. In fact the two are related, since individuation, along with professional identities and values, is among the common matrices by which individuals make sense of their professional lives. However, the political phenomenological focus on generative logics necessitates a distinctive way of engaging with field actors, with three factors worth foregrounding. First, the symbolic meaning attached to a journalistic subject or...

  7. 5 Journalistic ethics and moral authority: being right, knowing better
    (pp. 94-114)

    Is it futile to discuss journalistic ethics? Relativism versus strategism

    Previous chapters have set out the case for interpreting journalistic principles primarily as strategic. While this could reasonably be understood to indicate that the particular content of journalistic ethics is inconsequential, in the following it will be seen that debating ethics remains viable despite their broader role as symbolic capital in the journalistic field. In theoretical terms the basis for this assertion is that the lifeworld which professional journalists inhabit is not a selfcontained, discrete phenomenal realm (Reckwitz, 2002). It is similarly not a direct expression of the material differential...

  8. 6 How do audiences live journalism?
    (pp. 115-133)

    Much has been written in the past 20 years about the representation of ‘distant others’ in the news media. It was seen in the previous chapter that for Silverstone the issue of a ‘proper distance’ between audiences and mediated others is crucial because it involves the representation of humans to other humans. I have argued that we can reject the idea of a natural moral aspect to this representation in order to assess the strategic functions of morality for war reporters. But Silverstone (2007) is also compelling in arguing that the Western news media’s focus on spectacle and otherness fosters...

  9. 7 New developments in the field: brave new world or plus ça change?
    (pp. 134-151)

    Bourdieusian phenomenology is sometimes accused of being flatly deterministic (e.g. Eckstein, 1988; Minogue, 1992; Garnham, 1993; Bohman, 1997; Sayer, 1999; Noble and Watkins, 2003). Bourdieu in particular tends to work from the assumption that the structures of any field are naturally geared towards maintaining the status quo. The durable, transposable dispositions of habitus structure practice through instinctive anticipation of likely outcome, and are thus more or less naturally oriented towards reinstituting the material conditions which gave rise to their contingent existence. The fact that processes of structuration in fields are not monolithic but proceed at the microscopic level of instinct,...

  10. 8 Conclusion: implications for war reporting, journalism studies and political phenomenology
    (pp. 152-181)

    This chapter considers the implications of an analytical perspective on journalism which focuses on the politics underlying the lived aspects of journalism that ‘just are’. The approach taken in this book has asked what structures consciousness of the professional world as given, and what structuring effects normalisation of this consciousness might have – and in each case we are directed to look at forces both endogenous and exogenous to the journalistic field. While war reporting is more autonomous than most subfields of journalism, it remains part of a field which is weakly autonomous at best in the context of the...

  11. Appendix: interviewee profiles
    (pp. 182-183)
  12. Bibliography
    (pp. 184-210)
  13. Index
    (pp. 211-218)