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The Journalistic and Political Fields. JN 513/815 Political Reporting. Lecture Outline. 1. Introduction 2. Habitus 3. Fields 4. Journalistic & Political Fields. Introduction. machines

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the journalistic and political fields

The Journalistic and Political Fields

JN 513/815

Political Reporting

lecture outline
Lecture Outline
  • 1. Introduction
  • 2. Habitus
  • 3. Fields
  • 4. Journalistic & Political Fields
  • Prime Minister David Cameron’s propensity to:
  • talk about any breaking news story;
  • appear across a diverse range of media outlets;
  • and disclose details about his family and personal life.
  • The more diffuse public presentation of politics across the media makes it necessary for Cameron to appear on a broad range of media outlets and to produce and communicate a personality that connects with people on the level of the everyday.
  • The media presentation of the everyday lives of politicians can yield political capital but these appearances must be balanced with, and not undermine, the political capital that derives from competency within the more conventional boundaries of politics.
  • There is now a political struggle between political journalists and other media professionals over the sites and frequency of appearances by politicians.
  • “Prime Ministers can’t jive with funky FM radio comedians or relax with comfy breakfast TV hosts. They are indulgences for a national leader and look to be attempts to dodge important questions” (Farr 2010).
  • Theory of Habitus and Field coined by Pierre Bourdieu
  • Habitus refers to the ways our social background and position are manifest in embodiment.
  • Habitus refers to our ‘structural make-up’: our mode of appearance, our bodily deportment (including our accent, manners and posture), our ways of realising everyday practices, and our ways of perceiving and positioning our self in the world and relating to others (Bourdieu 2002).
  • Habitus is similar to character but with an important difference: the habitus is “a set of acquired characteristics which are the product of social conditions” (Bourdieu 2002, p. 29, author’s emphasis).
  • As such we can refer to the habitus of an individual but it will always be primarily framed as individual variants of a more generalised collective or group identity (Bourdieu 1977, p. 86).
  • Fields, such as the family, media, legal or political fields, are institutional sites that are governed by their own internal dynamics but they also relate to one another in complex ways in the constitution of societies.
  • Fields circumscribe what is ‘thinkable’, ‘doable’ and ‘sayable’ within particular domains.
  • Discourses of politicians influenced by two kinds of constraints that work in an antagonistic relation:
    • Political discourse is always necessarily defined through the positions and values of political opponents.
    • Political discourse is also determined by the ability of politicians to appeal to groups and individuals outside the political field.
  • Fields are always sites of struggle for the power, prestige and authority that derives from the specific domains, which are rendered by Bourdieu as forms of capital or profit.
  • Capital is anything that has an exchange value and it can be manifested variously: financial capital, symbolic capital (i.e., status), social capital (i.e., social contacts) and cultural capital (i.e., educational qualifications, aesthetic style and taste).
  • Davis and Seymour’s (2010) outline of media capital. “Media capital” refers to the kinds of resources and authority accrued by politicians through contacts with journalists, knowledge about media practice and values, and performance skills in various journalistic and media genres.
  • Media capital can be generated:
    • Within the political field (internal media capital) – relations with political colleagues, opponents and other political actors, including journalists;
    • Or outside the political field (media meta-capital), through interaction with the public.
  • The media capital of an individual politician can be classified by:
    • their institutionalised position (institutionalised media capital);
    • and their individual personality (individualised media capital).
  • Mediated performance capital generated from performances and can relate to each of the four forms of media capital listed above.
journalistic political fields
Journalistic & Political Fields
  • The journalistic and political fields have relative autonomy but equally they are defined – more so than other fields, such as business, science and higher education - by a greater public ‘porousness’ and engagement with other related fields.
  • The journalistic field’s autonomy stems from professional codes of ethics, freedom of speech, public’s right to know, accurate and unbiased reporting, etc. (Bourdieu 2005, p. 41).
journalistic political fields1
Journalistic & Political Fields
  • The journalistic field’s autonomy is limited by the way that commercial forces limit practice.
  • Bourdieu describes the split in the political economy of journalistic labour between high-profile journalistic entrepreneurs and a journalistic proletariat (1998, pp. 5-6).
journalistic political fields2
Journalistic & Political Fields
  • Bourdieu outlines a number of conventional criticisms of journalistic performance:
  • Journalism is said to produce a “depoliticisation” of, or “disenchantment with”, politics (1998, p. 6).
  • This occurs because television dictates the news agenda (1998, p. 50) and its journalistic framework highlights news that is dramatic visually and controversial at the expense of analysis (1998, p. 19, p. 51).
  • Journalism’s need for novelty and requirement for ‘scoops’ generates a kind of “structural amnesia” (1998, p. 7) that prevents debate and the production demands of journalism, particularly the speed of news production, means ideas are evaluated within existing conceptual frameworks (1998, p. 29).
  • Bourdieu, P. 2002. Habitus. In: Jean Hillier and Emma Rooksby (eds.) Habitus: A Sense of Place.Ashgate: Aldershot, 27-36.
  • Bourdieu, P. 1977. Outline of a Theory of Practice. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Bourdieu, P. 2005. The Political Field, the Social Science Field, and the Journalistic Field. In: Rodney Benson and Erik Neveu (eds.) Bourdieu and the Journalistic Field. Malden, MA: Polity, 29-47.
  • Bourdieu, P. 1998. On Television. New York: New Press.
  • Davis, A & Seymour, E 2010. ‘Generating forms of media capital inside and outside a field: the strange case of David Cameron in the UK political field’, Media, Culture & Society,vol. 32, no. 5, pp. 739-759.
  • Farr, M. 2010. “The sun is setting on Rudd’s Sunrise strategy.“ The Punch 15 February, Retrieved from: (Accessed 18 May 2012).