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Professionalism: A Symbolic Turf War

Organizational Identities and Missions of News Making

The main lines of distinction in the Albany press corps ran between tabloid and broadsheet journalism, old and relatively new forms of journalism (at that time mainly blogging and tweeting), and, to a lesser extent, broadcast and print journalism. In Munich, these oppositions were either relatively extraneous (old and new) or much weaker. In addition, the distinction between private and public service broadcasting was significant for LP reporters.

In Bourdieu’s terms, such antithetical couples within fields are “classificatory schemes, which exist and signify only in their mutual relations, and serve as landmarks or beacons” (Bourdieu 1993: 95). Based on this premise, one would expect the strongest boundary drawing in respect to and between representatives of “most different cases.” On the other hand, one might also expect actors positioned most closely to each other, who may be fierce competitors in economic terms, to be in broad agreement regarding occupational norms. The US case study confirms these expectations. The New York Post and the New York Times were frequent objects of critique or derision. Strong competitors did not serve as reference points for distinction regarding occupational norms, but they did regarding specific news stories, particularly when they had shone a bad light on the competition.

Despite basic divides, reporters drew boundaries by employing a shared cultural code. In other words, though they referred to each other, the essence of boundaries tabloid reporters drew were not substantively different from those of broadsheet reporters, even though their expression might have differed stylistically. This cultural core of journalistic professionalism becomes visible through cross-national comparison.

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