Zelizer Discusses Journalism’s Role in an Interview with Italian Academic Journal

The latest issue of Problemi dell’Informazione, the Italian leading academic journal focusing on journalism studies, hosts an interview with Professor Barbie Zelizer. In the interview, which inaugurates a new section of the journal featuring leading figures in the field of journalism (both scholars and practitioners), Zelizer answers the questions of Dr. Augusto Valeriani from University of Bologna – who was also a visiting scholar at Annenberg’s Center for Global Communication Studies in 2009. The piece’s title, “Should we still take journalism seriously?” echoes Taking Journalism Seriously, Zelizer’s 2004 book which has become a fundamental reference for scholars and students interested in approaching journalism studies.

In the interview Zelizer argues that the study of journalism practices and values is becoming even more important within the current news environment, characterized by a tremendous diversity of newsmakers and news contexts. According to Zelizer, such increased diversity calls indeed for a deeper integration of research approaches and makes undelayable the conclusion of the process started with the emergence of journalism studies: the scientific community should complete the destruction of the closed “silos” where scholars form different backgrounds study journalism in isolation with a very limited exchange of knowledge, methods and findings.

Zelizer also discusses her well-known conceptualization of journalists as “interpretative community”. She argues that nowadays we should move from the idea of the existence of a single community of reference for journalists to a more nuanced idea considering different levels or different interconnected communities. However, says Zelizer, even within such multi-levels environment, the idea of “interpretative community” keeps its relevance since it pushes scholars to investigate the processes behind the development of a sense of collectivity within the journalistic field.

Finally, Zelizer, asked about her view on the effects of the increased differentiation of pathways available to citizens in building up their media diets, stresses on the renewed importance that media literacy is assuming. According to Zelizer the multiplication of voices and the consequent fragmentation of trust given to news sources characterizing contemporary news ecosystem are not positive or negative elements per se. The real point, she says, is that the more citizens are able to critically process information and understand its intrinsic partiality and the more they can manage properly such information.