Memory Studies, an interdisciplinary, international journal dedicated to collective memory, just published an article I wrote with my friend and frequent collaborator Dan Berkowitz. We were interested in what the journalistic community were doing with the memory of Walter Cronkite following his death in July 2009. Although both working and retired journalists hailed his work and recalled, however mythically, his cultural weight during the heyday of television news, we were surprised at how distant Cronkite was made out to be. Rather than a model of news, Cronkite became a symbolic relic of another era–one long gone. This created a complicated situation in which Cronkite was both revered and cast aside. It demonstrates the limits communities face when drawing on past memories to bolster authoritative standing in the present. Now, after writing two papers about Cronkite, I have to find time to read all 832 pages of this. Can I wait for the movie?
The University of Illinois Press has released a paperback edition of my book On the Condition of Anonymity: Unnamed Sources and the Battle for Journalism. Best of all, this means there is an affordable edition out there for humans and not just the expensive hardcovers for libraries (although, for any librarians reading this, the hardcover is still available).
Journalism Studies has just published a piece I wrote about Walter Cronkite titled: “Rethinking Journalistic Authority: Walter Cronkite and Ritual in Television News.” This paper emerged after I was struck by all the elements of ritual that kept popping up in commemorations of Cronkite in the days after his death. As journalists sought to explain just what it was that made Cronkite Cronkite, they kept having to move from the stable of go-to journalism norms to deeper questions explaining his appeal. He was a cultural guide; he was everyone’s uncle; he was everyone’s dinner companion. He was the dividing line between work and leisure. Etc. Yet these ideas didn’t fit neatly into journalism’s self-definition of quality. Instead, they signaled a deeper attachment–ritualistic more than merely informative. Of course, I draw on James Carey for this argument to make a larger point about what news does.
I’m very happy to be part of Journalism Practice‘s special issue on “Online Reporting of Elections.” Einar Thorsen did a great job putting together an international collection of research articles. My contribution is a piece I wrote with my good friend Eran Ben-Porath. We were both really interested in CNN’s partnership with YouTube back in 2007 to conduct a debate using YouTube-submitted videos. It seemed to us something promising and unduly ridiculed:
However, it also was amusing how much CNN tried to tamp down its role in actually selecting and ordering the videos. After a long and twisty academic road, the piece in Journalism Practice is what we came up with, and we hope the idea of the “demotic voice” that we adapted from the work of Graeme Turner is useful. It’s also a testament to the speed of academic research that here it is in 2012 and we are just getting out our research from the last election.
Starting immediately, I will be taking over as reviews editor of Journalism. I’m looking forward to this new editorial position, including bugging lots of people to write reviews. The hard part will be clearing of some shelf space in my office. If you are interested in writing a review or if you have a book you think would be of interest to the journal’s reading, email me or check out the submission guidelines on the journal site. For reviewers, it’s a great way to get a book you would want to read anyway.
The University of Illinois Press has a Q & A where I talk about my book and issues of anonymity generally. It’s part of an effort to promote the new redesign by UIP, which I encourage you to check out. And with the holidays around the corner, what better gift than a book about unnamed sources?
I want to offer a sincere thanks to everyone who voted for me to be the next vice-chair, chair elect of the Journalism Studies division of the International Communication Association. I am looking forward to serving the growing community of journalism studies scholars in the years to come, starting in Phoenix in May. I’m also happy to be working alongside my talented friend Seth Lewis as secretary.