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Competition and the Moral Community

Press corps are competitive social settings and the two cases were no exceptions. However, one key difference was the meaning of competition for journalists. While German reporters perceived it as something inherently negative, US reporters saw competition not only as inevitable but throve on it besides acknowledging problems that go with it, not least stress.

Both press corps were organized as associations. The structure of these associations and how they influenced journalistic work was markedly different, however. The association served more as interest group and had more practical utility for German reporters. It served as a formal structure of professional solidarity, which was much weaker in Albany, where even the few existent associational structures were contested.

The LP was defined by associational culture, reflecting deep-seated collectivist beliefs in Germany and the greater influence of civic power and social corporatism in the journalistic field. The LCA, on the other hand, was a representation of the competitive culture, the strong current of individualism in US public culture and the influence of market forces on the journalistic field.

News coverage by press corps has long been criticized as synchronous and homogenous, encapsulated in the term “pack journalism,” whether understood as collective agenda setting or collective interpretation of issues. Given the competitive culture, one would expect a greater syn- chronicity of issues in US news coverage. Collective interpretation of issues is more complicated: When it relies on direct, interpersonal consultation between reporters, it is favored by the less competitive and more associational German news culture. When collective interpretation is a function of thinking inside the bubble or narrative consolidation by powerful agents, it is less clearly promoted by national press culture than by local specificities of newsbeats (spatial/social seclusion, organizational hierarchies, etc.).

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