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Occupational Mythologizing in the Field

Occupational mythologizing not only occurs in ceremonial moments of honoring journalistic excellence but also in everyday practice of reporters, especially in boundary performances when interacting with political actors (Chap. 6). In the interviews I conducted, reporters referred to collective representations to distinguish between unprofessional and professional journalism, drawing on current affairs as well as the history of the occupation. I also probed them to talk specifically about their influences, role models and formative journalistic events.

The categories, which state house reporters used to define professionalism and unprofessionalism, were close to their experiential world, that is, mainly press-politics relations. It is plausible that they became aware and realized the importance of these categories especially when interacting with sources. They assigned particular significance to collective representations of watchdog journalism and pushing back against state power, whether epitomized by singular heroic acts or more modest continuous commitments to these ideals. Journalistic scandals and instances of collective occupational shame, furthermore, were perhaps even more important to them for the perpetuation of professional ethics. As Barbie Zelizer put it, “professional consciousness emerges at least in part around ruptures where the borders of appropriate practice need renegotiation” (Zelizer 1993:224). While reporters often treated representations of professional purity with detached admiration, instances of impurity typically evoked emotional indignation.

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