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Network Frame & Faces

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Ultimately, it may be more useful to recognize that globalizing media and journalism simply mean that the creators, objects, and consumers of news are less likely to share the same nation-state frame of reference. To the extent that certain transnational media emphasize this approach to news, we may call it ‘global journalism.’ And to the extent that certain journalists operate from this perspective, we may describe them the same way.

Thus, the media role must not be regarded narrowly as equivalent to a specific satellite network, journalistic message, or worldwide audience, however vast.  One can more broadly imagine a ‘global news arena’ supported by an interlocking cross-national awareness of events, in a world further connected by networks of transnational elites, media professionals among them, who engage each other through mutually shared understandings.

People, of course, still watch primarily their own national news, and journalists still conform to national interests. But the globalizing process, more specifically, takes place through media and the people connected to them, organized into overlapping, crosscutting networks of communication. Underlying these circuits of global flows are structures of people in professional and institutional roles. In more concrete terms, these are the agents who form the infrastructure of the global in specific local settings.

The globalized practices of media and communication, the expectations citizens have of them, the way officials and elites interact with them within and across national boundaries, provide a synchronized set of pathways through which global influence works and new geometries are defined. Identifying those paths is the first step in understanding the kinds of logic that animates them and the kinds of power relationships they support.

To understand the emergence of new spaces more generally, it will be helpful to examine how actors in specific local settings engage with these broader networks. Transnational elites, globally-connected and oriented, interact with others in specific local cultural and political contexts. Here, the global is seen in the convergent changes in norms at the level of these elites and professionals, embedded in their own networks and geographical places. The question then becomes: How do they communicate global issues in local settings? How do they interact with other professionals, through what coordinating global and local associations? What are the routinized structures for their interaction within and across specific locations, and how do they adapt to local circumstances?

Journalism professionals and media officials are clearly among the globalizing elites who represent an important source of influence and social change. These transnational elites participate in global networks connecting local settings, bypassing official state channels, and introducing their own logic into national spaces, including local journalistic cultures and media systems.

In earlier periods, we could speak of a media logic, or a more specific journalistic culture, that was rooted in a national structure and local community. This logic was both a result of and an integrative force for, the national system. A shared set of expectations and norms allowed the system to function and could be distinguished from other logics and cultures in other national settings. In the weakening of that common national framework, however, what logic is emerging to take its place, or at least take its place among existing ones? That kind of cultural hybridity view, however, still fails to capture the systemic redistribution of power.

The ability of researchers to conduct comparative, cross-national studies, and the analytical tools of network analysis are beginning to converge with and support these more spatially rooted theoretical ideas. Studies on hyperlinked online news and the blogosphere must necessarily tackle this kind of pattern with network analysis, which requires that every element in a social structure be understood in relation to other elements in the structure and to the external environment. Similarly, it all argues that a social field, including journalism, cannot be understood in isolation but rather in relation to other fields in society and in relation to its own unique historical development. We should not just measure attributes of people–including journalists–within social containers; they must be examined in their field relations to each other, and with respect to specific spaces.

A global network perspective, therefore, takes into account both the importance of local spaces and actors and how they are positioned relative to a multitude of forces beyond the immediate locale.

The rise of comparative research, with an emphasis on institutional fields within national cultures, leads us to be cautious about regarding journalism within countries as homogeneous. The cross-national perspective helps sharpen our understandings of how media institutional fields differ, but the institutional level has a tendency to collapse differences among a nation’s media systems. But certain components of a journalistic field may be more likely to converge toward a global standard, such as television and increasingly online news. The printed press, more firmly rooted in historical styles, may be less likely to change compared to its modern national media neighbors. On one hand, certain globally oriented media are becoming more similar, and satellite news channels, in particular, have helped create a convergent media style, strongly influenced by the ‘objective’ model.

Accelerating this tendency, the speed, rhythm, and interconnectedness of online media seem to encourage an idea of news as an ‘always on’ utility. The headlines of the mainstream press can be distributed quickly to cell phones or laptops, much like the weather, time, and stock quotes. Another class of media, meanwhile, has been freed to be hyper-local and hyper-opinionated, fragmenting into opinion and analysis for more local and more dispersed audiences. Thus, globalized journalism, while interconnected, has many faces.

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