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Home arrow Communication arrow Contemporary Journalism in the US and Germany: Agents of Accountability


This chapter focused on one main dynamic of current hybrid media systems, namely how traditional news media “adapt and integrate the logics of newer media practices” (Chadwick 2013: 4). The rise of the internet was tremendously significant for reporters in both countries. The fact that LP reporters did not perceive social media as a threat, however, is not surprising, given their limited use as sources of information rather than platforms of interaction and expression.

The German press corps turned out to be significantly less hybridized than the US case. Monitoring the LP twitterverse from afar, years after leaving the field physically, revealed that most reporters opened Twitter accounts. But even in 2015, four years after the first reporters adopted Twitter (a comparable point in time to 2013 in Albany), the LP twitterverse was still much less instantaneous (regarding live tweeting and related practices) and interactive.

This is not to say that digital media are irrelevant in German journalism. In fact, Boyer’s (2013) newsroom ethnography paints a very different picture, although one that is based on fast-paced news production settings to begin with. I would argue that the impact of digital media on journalism can best be seen in news production spaces in which they do not play such an obviously important role. The fact that digital media were relatively irrelevant for state political reporters in Germany is thus noteworthy because it suggests that journalism there resisted technological transformations of media to a far greater extent than in the USA.

LCA reporters adopted social media, particularly Twitter, as stages to perform professionalism, to converse with each other, with sources and occasionally with the public, as transmitting channels of live coverage and as receiving channels of networked expertise. Reporters gave up some of their authoritative distance by inserting personality, subjective views and assessments, and appreciation of others’ journalistic work. As a consequence, the news-making process and their individual involvement became more transparent. Even though their primary responsibilities were still legacy news production, and the printed article was still more dignified, operating a popular blog, having many followers or just being particularly insightful and cutting on Twitter became badges of professional honor.

Following Rod Benson’s (2014) challenge of what he calls the “new descriptivism,” originally aimed at media scholarship influenced by actor- network theory, and call for the responsibility of the social sciences to explain variation, the following sections attempt to provide specific explanations for the striking differences of digital media adoption. Notwithstanding the subdivision in material and cultural factors, I should emphasize that even though economic influencing factors may constitute “real” material constraints for reporters, they rarely come with clear rules and instructions for action, and nor does culture. However, material factors ultimately have to pass through human interpretive filters to induce action (Reed 2008), including those of supervisors in news organizations, and thereby feed back with, translate into and amplify cultural meanings of professionalism.

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