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Authority, authenticity and morality
Author: Tim Markham

This book challenges the assumptions that reporters and their audiences alike have about the way the trade operates and how it sees the world. It unpacks the taken-for-granted aspects of the lives of war correspondents, exposing the principles of interaction and valorisation that usually go unacknowledged. Is journalistic authority really only about doing the job well? Do the ethics of war reporting derive simply from the ‘stuff’ of journalism? The book asks why it is that the authoritative reporter increasingly needs to appear authentic, and that success depends not only on getting things right but being the right sort of journalist. It combines the critical sociology of Pierre Bourdieu and interviews with war correspondents and others with an active stake in the field to construct a political phenomenology of war reporting—the power relations and unspoken ‘rules of the game’ underpinning the representation of conflict and suffering by the media.

Being right, knowing better
Tim Markham

This chapter investigates some of the broader themes that emerge from the interviews, in particular the question of morality and moral authority. In particular, it draws how ethics and morality come to have practical durability and what it tells about authority in war reporting and the field of cultural production generally. Journalistic ethics decreases to the strategic effects of individuals and institutions enacting certain ethics, and the implications of particular ethics achieving effective universality as the dominant principles of differentiation in the journalistic field. The most commonly evoked moral principles in the interviews were selflessness, giving voice, bearing witness, public service and holding power to account. The common theme in disavowals of morality is that acting ‘properly’ in a field is simply a matter of common sense or professionalism. It is noted that morality plays a dual function in war reporting.

in The politics of war reporting
Tim Markham

This chapter examines what morality, authority and authenticity mean to audiences of conflict journalism, by surveying how news consumers present themselves in online discussion forums. It specifically asks what audiences are actually doing when they consume war reporting. Moral posturing around spectacles of suffering is no substitute for ideological struggles properly grounded in the history and politics of Western society. It puts forward the concept of an economy of moral authority in which the authenticity of personal experience is valued more highly than institutional, professional expertise. For Pierre Bourdieu, all interactional systems are characterised by pervasive misrecognition. The results of the survey of media consumption and non-professional media production appear to corroborate a significant contention relating to the social role of the war correspondent. Engagement with mediated conflict may not be motivated largely by genuine compassion for the suffering of others, but nor is it reduced to spectacle or entertainment.

in The politics of war reporting
Brave new world or plus ça change?
Tim Markham

This chapter deals with recent developments in war reporting, including military media management, technology and the rise of citizen journalism. For pooled journalists, the imposition of a daily routine was vocally resisted, but it seems to have effected a structuration of the perceived role of the reporter. For embedded journalists, there is a similar loss of control over broad scheduling and everyday routines, along with a distinct means of signifying one's integrity as a journalist. An alternative future sees news organisations deploying more war correspondents. It is suggested that the correspondent's experience of war is being inexorably transformed from a material to a virtual one. It then considers Salam Pax, who rose to celebrity status by blogging about the invasion of Iraq on his website and in the UK's Guardian newspaper. The future field of war reporting will be shaped by developments in media management, technology and cultural shifts.

in The politics of war reporting
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Implications for war reporting, journalism studies and political phenomenology
Tim Markham

This chapter evaluates the relative merits of a Bourdieusian perspective on journalism and war reporting. It concentrates on the politics underlying the lived aspects of journalism that ‘just are’. It then turns to a reflexive appraisal of Bourdieusian political phenomenology. News values, ethics and journalistic dispositions do not emerge naturally out of the stuff of journalism, but they do have reason. Job insecurity can likewise be seen in terms of strategic positioning or distinction. The Bourdieusian approach to studying journalism clearly has its uses. Pierre Bourdieu is frequently categorised as adjacent to post-structuralist theory. A distinction needs to be drawn between a putative ideology, identity and culture of journalism. The interviews did not run to detailed life histories, but they did seek to establish why entering the journalistic field made sense to a respondent, why it seemed a logical or natural step to take.

in The politics of war reporting
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Why use political phenomenology to analyse war reporting?
Tim Markham

This book addresses the importance of war reporting. The phenomenological premise of this book is that conscious experience of the world is not pre-given but determined by the multiple contexts in which humans are situated—material, economic, historical, social, cultural and mediated. War reporting is traditionally conceived in terms of information retrieval and processing structured according to wider cultural values such as bearing witness, giving voice and holding power to account. Pierre Bourdieu's corpus of work is strongly interdisciplinary, combining qualitative and quantitative research methodology with a theoretical framework that draws on sociology, anthropology, philosophy, political science and the history of ideas. The key concepts of Bourdieu's work are considered. His stated views on journalism are also explained. He defends the idea of esotericism in the cultural sphere. Finally, an overview of the chapters included in this book is shown.

in The politics of war reporting
Tim Markham

This chapter pins down what can defensibly be described as a Bourdieusian heuristic model. It presents the working definitions for some of the core concepts in Bourdieusian theory. This is followed by locating Pierre Bourdieu in the context of a tradition in philosophy and political theory which aims to reconcile structuralism and phenomenology. Bourdieu draws on the phenomenological principles of Alfred Schutz. For Bourdieu, Martin Heidegger's rise to prominence does not amount to a philosophical revolution, but the overthrow of specific philosophical tenets, necessary to effect a generational shift of authority, and masking the enduring supremacy of a particular reading of neo-Kantian philosophy. John Simpson is very much an individual, but one whose individuation proceeded from a generative set of principles held in common by those collectively oriented by class habitus. The sociological construction of habitus is the reconstruction of the logic.

in The politics of war reporting
Tim Markham

This chapter discusses the sometimes knotty methodological issues that the Bourdieusian heuristic model throws up. The parameters of Bourdieusian social scientific methodology are also explored. Pierre Bourdieu's interpretation of relationalism and rationalism is not without its critics. Bourdieusian generative structuralism concerns itself with every level of the operation of power. Bourdieu's genetic, microscopic conception of power is significantly insightful in uncovering the operation of coercive power relations in the seemingly quotidian and mundane. Codes and branches of codes could be easily moved around the overall tree, cutting where necessary for clarity, allowing for the development of a framework that is simultaneously systematic and intuitive to use. A similar line of reasoning applied to codings for speech style. Two extracts that show the coding and inference processes are reported.

in The politics of war reporting
Tim Markham

This chapter describes the main findings of Bourdieusian analysis of interviews with war reporters and their peers and rivals. The specific practices underpinning dispositions presented are discussed: the economy of esotericisation and the economy of ambivalence towards power and danger. The number of women working in war reporting has increased significantly over the last 20 years, and in the interviews there were no explicit suggestions that women should not work as war correspondents. The particularly individualised form of authority that characterises war reporting means that correspondents have a stake in resisting the conventional, institutional game in which they perceive others as being invested. It is plausible that war reporting is sustained by illusio: the collective, and collectively forgotten, sense that makes immersing oneself in a field inherently, instinctively meaningful.

in The politics of war reporting