Home Communication Contemporary Journalism in the US and Germany: Agents of Accountability
National Cultural Repertoires
Institutional arrangements of news media and occupational cultures in each country also have to be understood as embedded within and informed by national cultures and the “repertoires of evaluation” (Lamont and Thevenot 2000a) they provide.7 Three broader national cultural differences between Germany and the United States have to be considered as conditions of possibility for professionalism. These differences should be understood as a relative dominance of values, which coexist in each country.
As a consequence of pragmatism, Michele Lamont concluded that the United States is a “loosely bounded culture” with less clearly coded classification systems, more tolerance for transgression and flexibility for cultural innovation (Lamont 1992:115). Even though she contrasted this with the more “tightly bounded culture” of France, a comparative study of cultural criticism reached a similar diagnosis for Germany: more rigid boundaries of aesthetic evaluation that favor high art in Germany and less hierarchical and more fluid evaluations of culture based on less rigid boundaries between high and popular culture in the United States (van Venrooij and Schmutz 2010).
3. Another cultural difference has less substantive than expressive implications. I will call this dimension mode of civil religious discourse. Religion has great import in political discourse and legitimation in the United States (Bellah 1991:168-189). Elevating the civil community through religious symbols became untenable in Germany after the Holocaust, however. This is not to say that religion is absent in German political culture but that it is wrong to think of it as a civil religion comparable to the United States (Minkenberg 1997). Yet, it is hard to imagine an absence of religious-like moral discourses and binaries, especially concerning the centrality of the Holocaust in German history. The point is that because of the relative inability to celebrate Germaneness, the mode of German public discourse is typically low mimetic (Frye 1973), which implies that moral oppositions between heroes and villains in public narratives are less clearly differentiated (P. Smith 2005). This is why media research finds more moral and emotive discourse in US news compared to Germany, which appears more matter-of-fact and detached in comparison (e.g. Ferree et al. 2002; Umbricht and Esser 2016). The discursive mode in the German public sphere would seem to also extend to the self-presentation of its participants, including journalists, and to how they conceive of themselves and perform professionalism.
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