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Second-Order Objectivity and the Outsourcing of Professional News Judgement

Mon, June 13, 11:00 to 12:15, Fukuoka Hilton, Navis A


Media sociologists in the 1970s and 1980s (Tuchman 1978; Gans 1979) have provided classic case studies of the manner in which journalistic routines establish and reinforce particular conceptions of “objectivity.” These conceptions have larger political and social consequences, including choices about which stories are written and published. Much about newswork has changed since the 1970s, particularly its relationship with digital technologies, but this paper argues that the overall purpose of organizational objectivity remains the same - to routinize work and provide in-group solidarity (Schudson 2001). An ethnographic study of Structured Stories (a structured journalism experiment and project of Duke University) in the summer of 2015, however, demonstrates that at the edges of the journalistic field conceptions of objectivity are shifting. In short, they are increasingly reliant upon crowd-sourced digital ontologies that provide news reporting with a “second-order” objective ballast that compensates for moments in which journalistic professional practice is undermined and uncertain.

Gans, H. (1979). Deciding Whats News: A Study of CBS News, NBC Nightly News, Newsweek, and Time. New York, NY: Vintage Books

Schudson, M. (2001). “The Objectivity Norm in American Journalism.” Journalism: Theory, Practice, Criticism. 2(2): 149-170

Tuchman, G. (1978). Making News: A Study in the Social Construction of Reality. New York, NY: The Free Press


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