The news about new institutionalism: Journalism's ethic of objectivity and its political origins

  • Kaplan R
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Abstract

The author discusses the utility of sociology's new institutionalism (Nl) in organizational theory for the study of joumalism and contends that Nl remedies the political and cultural deficits in most existing social theories ofthe news. By highlighting how news organizations and joumalists are embedded in broader fields of news producers and atso politics, Nl reveals both the limits and possibilities that joumalism confronts as it works to fulfill its ideal role in democratic society. This article explicates one version ofNI's applicability to media studies by focusing on how journalism is entangled in the confiicts and values ofthe "political field. " beyond the more limited domain of journalism proper. It then considers the relevance of this theory for explaining turn-ofthe-20th-century transformations in joumalism. Between 1865 and 1920, the American press redefmed its highest ideals as well as its most mundane organizational practices. It changed from an avidly partisan press to a sober "objective" media. Nl helps highlight how these transformations in joumalism's mission refiected and refracted more overarching shifts in the American political system.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Journalism
  • Journalism history
  • New institutionalism
  • Objectivity

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Authors

  • Richard L. Kaplan

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