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

Porousness and Robustness of Occupational Cultures

The more active engagement with social media in Albany and the more passive use by reporters in Munich, following the lead of politics, correspond in some ways to comparative media scholars’ observation that the role of news media is more passive in the political public sphere in Germany compared to the USA (Ferree et al. 2002; Pfetsch 2001). It also resonates with the analysis of professional discourses in Chap. 3. To quickly recapitulate: A model German journalist is a more passive figure, deliberate, reserved, often ideologically labeled and sometimes socially entangled with political elites. The model US journalist is aggressive, proactive, carries conflict with political leaders with pride and actively shapes history rather than just witnessing or explaining it. Excellency in German journalism reveals and enhances the public understanding of issues, while US journalism is measured by its social impact and the change it brings about.

Unquestionable symbolic centers of US journalism like Watergate stood opposite diverging interpretations of these symbols as well as associated occupational norms, for instance, objectivity. The more contentious nature of journalistic professionalism in the USA makes it more susceptible to new practices and normative commitments. Contrariwise, though there was more agreement about professional norms among German reporters, there was less of a consensus about the collective representation of journalistic professionalism (if definitive occupational symbols mattered at all). Connected to that, the competitive culture for professional status in the Albany press corps encouraged individual reporters to innovate, whereas the associational culture in Munich, which conceived competition as inherently negative, discouraged it. Thus, the patterns of digital media adoption and engagement in both press corps suggested a more porous and malleable occupational culture of journalism in the USA and a more robust and rigid one in Germany.

There was perhaps a larger German cultural impediment in place for professional journalists to be transparent on social media. Given the collective memory of mass surveillance during National Socialism and, more recently, the communist regime in East Germany, it is not surprising that the public discourse on digital media was so dominated by data security and privacy concerns in Germany. One LP reporter reflected on this issue in the context of his own and his colleagues’ reservations about social media:

Journalists are certainly critical people for the most part. Not too long ago we were fighting against the glass human being [mass surveillance]. Take this generation of journalists; this relentless collection of data - that’s scary for many of them and that’s probably the reason for the reluctance to just put [data] on Facebook, to reveal one’s innermost being to that extent. (Interview, LP reporter, May 15, 2012)

He included himself in this category. Accordingly, compared to some social media profiles of LCA reporters, who openly shared personal pictures, even the most transparent LP reporters’ exposure on these platforms were much more reserved at the time of my study.

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