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Boundary Maintenance and Interloper Media Reaction


DOI: 10.1080/1461670X.2013.791077

Eldridge, Scott A, II. “Boundary Maintenance and Interloper Media Reaction.” Journalism Studies (2013): 1–16. Print.

p.2: In his fictional story "The Interlopers", Saki tells of two men fighting over the rights to a wooded hunting land. While both have long claimed the right to the land, one holds the legal right and the other--the interloper--claims to belong (Saki 1930). This story forms the allegorical locus of this paper, examining the way a self-defined in-group of traditional journalism protects its perceived professional identity against entities--Interloper Media--who claim belonging. This is achieved through distinct processes that echo but diverge from traditional boundary maintenance. This paper argues subtle and nuanced language in news texts referring to WikiLeaks serves to invalidate WikiLeaks’ extant and persistent claims of "being" journalism. These processes differ from boundary maintenance processes related to phone hacking, which serve as inwardly focused self-policing of the profession. -- Highlighted may 7, 2014

p.2: The rapid foregrounding of WikiLeaks in 2010 and 2011 and its claims and self-expressions of belonging to the in-group of journalism drew both practitioners and observers into a debate over whether or where WikiLeaks fits into a concept of journalism (Baack 2011; Beckett and Ball 2012; Peters 2011). In addition to its own challenge to journalism’s primacy, WikiLeaks’ new-found prominence came about after the July 2009 expose´ into patterns of phone hacking by journalists and news organisations in the United Kingdom, compounding attention to journalism in the United Kingdom already under scrutiny, and challenging the definition and identity of journalism at a time when these topics were being publicly examined (Keeble and Mair 2012). While vastly different in their specific characteristics, both episodes prompted discourses of differentiation through reactions to the internal and external threats to journalism’s authority, and both provide opportunities for analysing expressions of journalism’s professional identity. -- Highlighted may 7, 2014

p.3: Blurring the news/source boundaries with its overt claims of being journalism, WikiLeaks openly confronts definitions of journalism, and challenges traditional roles as it purports to provide a "better" form of journalism (Beckett and Ball 2012, 42). Furthermore, as WikiLeaks became more widely known, the question of journalism’s primacy became more evident in its extant claims of belonging to a journalistic identity, particularly in terms of information primacy and legitimacy (McBride 2011; Pilger 2013; Thomaß 2011). -- Highlighted may 7, 2014

p.3: The conceptual definition of Interloper Media builds around this challenge of journalism’s primacy and legitimacy by external actors claiming belongin--WikiLeaks-- and is further defined through reactions to those entities and the ways they differ from reparative discourses of internal faults and failings*as with phone hacking. Interlopers, in this dichotomy, claim both the mantle of antagonist to the primacy and in-group/out-group dynamic of journalism’s profession, and claim belonging to the in-group. Distinct from boundary maintenance, which occurs in very overt ways, Interloper Media processes occur through more nuanced and subtle reactions, woven into texts that are neither explicitly media-focused, nor occurring with the same intensity and immediacy that Bishop (1999) and Berkowitz (2000) scope in boundary maintenance and paradigm repair. -- Highlighted may 7, 2014

p.3: Boundaries are maintained through overt discourses within news texts addressing perceived and public failings of journalistic standards, values, and professional norms. This is an inwardly focused self-policing of the profession of journalism by associated in-group members. In recent history the clearest example of boundary maintenance came with the public distancing of paparazzi from "good" journalism after the 1997 death of Princess Diana (Bishop 1999; Berkowitz 2000), with reporting around the falsified "Downing Street Memo", and with the plagiarism of Jayson Blair at The New York Times (Bicket and Wall 2007). In each of these cases, boundaries are: "created in order to be seen" (Bishop 1999, 92). -- Highlighted may 7, 2014

p.4: Whereas authors such as Coddington (2012) approach WikiLeaks through the lens of boundary maintenance and paradigm repair, that approach struggles as it glosses over an acceptance of WikiLeaks as possessing either inherent or imposed belonging to the ingroup of journalism, and draws distinctions based on norms and institutionality. While these are meaningful distinctions, in focusing on boundary maintenance, sign-posted discourses of these distinctions are given priority over more nuanced discourses of identity and ideology. -- Highlighted may 7, 2014

p.4: Focusing on The Guardian’s coverage explores facets of professional identity within a public service tradition, distinguished from both the commercial tradition of tabloids, and the passe´ subjective tradition (Donsbach 2010). This categorisation invokes and evokes ideals and standards that revolve around tenets of social responsibility, speaking truth to power, and providing expert analysis. Beset with aspirational roles and responsibilities, expressions of this identity rely on a familiar lexicon of idealised societal roles and functions, as intermediaries between governments and publics. Professional identity is expressed as a "Fourth Estate", with watchdog, analytical, and advocacy roles, all contributing to an overarching concept of journalism’s professional identity (Hanitszch 2011). -- Highlighted may 7, 2014

p.6: This paper utilises the qualitative methodology of discourse analysis, and addresses the power dynamics encoded within news texts. Philosophically, this develops from Bourdieu (1990, 1991) who sees discourse and language as emerging from a socialised space, habitus. As such, texts can be interpreted as discourses amid an array of contested and competing claims and power dynamics. While this approach allows texts to be viewed as originating from socialised spheres, it does not purport to subsume individual voices into a monolith. Rather, analysis as engaged with in this study approaches texts as emerging from socialised spaces and their respective identities, through which group and identity contestations can be better understood. -- Highlighted may 7, 2014

p.7: Subsets of discourse addressed in this paper include: personalisation; active/passive language, including nominalisation and agency; proximity/distance language; presence of identity belonging; presence of self-referencing; and immediacy. Within these categorisations, identification of the way "ideologies typically organise people and society in polarized terms" (van Dijk 1998a, 43) are explored. Key elements of "Us v. Them" dynamics appear through: Specification, Generalisation, Example, or Contrast that "cognitively and discursively ... may be realised by various forms of polarisation" (48¡49). These incorporate elements of modality, hedging and vagueness, and elements of strength and weakness (52¡53). -- Highlighted may 7, 2014

p.8: Across articles referring to phone hacking, there are clear and archetypal elements of journalistic boundary maintenance. Under classical boundary maintenance frameworks, news texts first isolate and identify the offending journalism as failing to uphold the standards of belonging in clear and unequivocal language. Second, texts refresh and repair perceptions of journalism by promoting positive aspects of the speaking media’s professionalism. -- Highlighted may 7, 2014

p.10: In a particularly resonant example, the use of quotes from hacking victims who refer to the journalists at News of the World as "paparazzi", closely mirrors Bishop’s (1999) work in both its functional and its thematic substance. Quoting:

"It’s one thing to see paparazzi at the Ivy. But I was finding them at Pizza Hut. There they were, even if it [the visit] had been arranged at the last minute." (The Guardian, July 10, 2009)

These activities are elaborated on to refer to information "obtained illicitly" and in explaining how "some of the same newspapers have systematically pried into the lives of people in rather repellent ways" (The Guardian, July 9, 2009). By using: "obtained illicitly" and "systematically pried into", the activities of those implicated in phone hacking are framed as active, transactive, and committed by individuals who can be isolated. -- Highlighted may 7, 2014

p.10: The Guardian’s coverage of the phone-hacking scandal typifies the elements of boundary maintenance laid out in Bishop (1999), Cecil (2002), and Bicket and Wall (2007). Through pronounced "to be seen" discourses, texts clarify good journalism, up-fronting The Guardian’s revelations, and admonish failed journalism, foregrounding News International’s "systematic corporate illegality". -- Highlighted may 7, 2014

p.10: Across references to WikiLeaks, language distinguishes WikiLeaks as an enigmatic and undefined facet of the overall story, and The Guardian as a responsible patron of information. However, these distinctions occur more subtly than the distinctions drawn regarding phone hacking. The Guardian’s distinctions of belonging tie to standards of journalism’s in-group, and through subtle language enforce and reinforce in-group primacy and belonging to the profession of journalism. These unfold across a longer trajectory, but nevertheless distinguish WikiLeaks’ out-group status as such. While individual texts provide indications of these distinctions, cumulatively they make distinctions between the in-group and out-group stark. -- Highlighted may 7, 2014

p.11: In the initial set, only one headline refers to Assange: "The War Logs: The Leak: An Individual, Uncompromising Rebel--With a Website to Match: Profile Julian Assange" (The Guardian, July 23, 2010), and none refer to WikiLeaks explicitly. Compare this to the exploration of phone hacking, where 12 headlines specifically name individuals tied to hacking, and the lack of personalisation is evident. This seems to indicate distancing between The Guardian and WikiLeaks. Emphasising the information within the leak, rather than Assange’s or WikiLeaks’ role in the publishing efforts, further distinguishes between the in-group and the out-group. -- Highlighted may 7, 2014

p.11: In the initial analysis, there are no instances where Assange or WikiLeaks are described as within journalism’s ingroup, though they have long expressed that identity. Coverage of Assange in The Guardian prior to this foray describes him as a co-founder of WikiLeaks in an article that describes WikiLeaks as a "site" (The Guardian, July 9, 2009), but never as a journalist or editor-in-chief or WikiLeaks as journalism. -- Highlighted may 7, 2014

p.12: In one article, a later (updated) version includes a statement by Assange where he takes credit for implementing "harm minimisation" policies, re-emphasising the contestation over journalistic identity, social responsibility, and the questions over these dynamics within these endeavours. Further, texts consistently highlight The Guardian’s expertise and analysis of the raw documents. In these instances, the in-group’s value-adding and analysis roles are emphasised as a differentiating feature between journalism and WikiLeaks. -- Highlighted may 7, 2014

p.12: The impact and role of WikiLeaks and Assange is lessened, and even condemned, in several opinion pieces which use descriptors including: "hubristic", and "treasonable", and delegitimising WikiLeaks’ and Assange’s statements as "suggestions" and "claims". While these instanceswritten in columns and letterscannot be strongly associated with The Guardian, they cannot be entirely disconnected either as they represent editorial selections and reflect a recognition that The Guardian’s audience could be receptive to them (Tuchman 1978). These dynamics further foreground the positive attributes of The Guardian’s role, and backgrounds WikiLeaks and Assange. -- Highlighted may 7, 2014

p.13: Describing the leaks as information that "came into the hands of a Guardian reporter", removing any journalistic role or agency on WikiLeaks or Assange’s part, the same article refers to Assange’s "circle" as "freedom of information activists" and labels Assange a "former hacker", a label he bristles at (Assange 2011). These examples cast The Guardian in a responsible frame of professional journalism, while placing the burden of obtaining classified documents, with all its legal implications, on the "hacktivist" WikiLeaks (Lindgren and Lundström 2011). -- Highlighted may 7, 2014