Working to Produce Consensus: Journalistic Work and Hegemonic Values in Mainstream Media

Working to Produce Consensus: Journalistic Work and Hegemonic Values in Mainstream Media

Carlos Figueiredo (Universidade Federal de Sergipe, Brazil)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-3270-6.ch002


This chapter presents an interdisciplinary model involving journalism studies and political economy of communication to understand why news published in mass media reproduces hegemonic values. From this interdisciplinarity approach, the author raises what he calls the critical theory of journalism that has, as its core, the Marxist category of labor. The chapter presents a brief exposition of the epistemological ground of the critical theory of journalism and then demonstrates the specificities of journalistic work under monopoly capitalism. The author then criticizes phenomenological sociology and its use in journalism studies, and concludes his argument by criticizing the ideology of professionalism among newsworkers and its influence on the hegemonic character of news values.
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Scholars such as Chomsky and Herman (1988/2002), Hallin (1994), Gittlin (1980/2003) and Rachlin (1988) point out that news media convey hegemonic values in the news. In those researches, the causes for news bias are the socialization of journalists in newsrooms, social origins of journalists, the ownership structure of mass media and their oligopoly character and preferential contact with government sources. I agree with the hypothesis that news content is immersed in hegemonic values and reproduces them. However, the meanings of news content are contradictory, and not ideologically unidirectional, as some authors believe in what I call the hegemony hypothesis. These contradictions are related to the contradictory character of newswork, an intellectual work which limits to capital subsumption are narrower due to its subjective character (Bolaño, 2002). Understanding the reproduction of hegemonic values in the news requires an interdisciplinary approach to journalistic work.

I propose in this chapter a multifaceted analysis of three theoretical approaches: organizational studies in newsrooms, studies of hegemonic meanings in news, and the political economy of communications. I seek to unify these theoretical strands under the Marxist labor category. Researches carried out from newsroom ethnographies (Tuchman, 1978; Gans, 1980) are reports on the process of news production within news organizations, on the daily work of journalists. Research like Tuchman's (1978) takes as a theoretical approach the phenomenological sociology of authors such as Berger and Luckman (1966/1991) and Schutz (1970), and support the hypothesis that journalists' daily work and the typifications they use to deal with facts and sources lead them to build a reality that reinforces the reproduction of the status quo. According to both Tuchman (1978) and Fishman (1980), news content is immersed in hegemonic values due to the naturalization of work routines that are established to allow journalists to deliver a product on time. These studies opened the door to understanding various blind spots about why news is as it is, but naturalize assumptions from theoretical approaches that analyze the everyday lives of groups or individuals. Thus, I seek to evaluate the findings of these researches from a Marxist analysis of daily life supported by writings of theorists such as Lukács (1957/1970, 1963/1965) and Heller (1970/1972).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Subsumption: Incorporation of labor into the capital of the owners of means of production.

Newsworthiness: Quality of a fact defined by the set of newsworthy criteria it contains. High newsworthiness facts are more likely to become news.

Mode of Regulation: Set of individual and collective behaviors and procedures that reproduce social relations and underpin the current regime of accumulation.

Newsworthy Criteria: Criteria used by journalists to define whether a fact will become news.

Critical Theory: Theoretical branch of social sciences that aims to build a path for the emancipation of human beings.

Regime of Accumulation: Set of regularities that allow a growing and relatively consistent accumulation of capital.

Hegemony: Symbolic and cultural dominance of one class over other classes accompanied by possession of a legitimate monopoly of force.

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