In this dissertation, I explore the negotiation between the journalistic community and members of the public of what constitutes “good journalism” in today’s Korean society, with the news nonprofit Newstapa as an example of the transformation of the norms and practices of journalism through interactions with citizens. Utilizing ethnographic fieldwork and interviews, I examine how Newstapa journalists do boundary work, attempting to rebuild and maintain their professional identities as “truth-tellers” in and through the use of journalistic practices. These days, a significant number of Koreans have started to question what journalism should be, seeking to assess the performance of journalists. A gap between the range of journalists’ actual behaviors and the range of behaviors that members of the public define as appropriate for journalists has become wider. By pejoratively calling journalists “giraegis,” literally meaning journalists who produce garbage rather than report news, Koreans have actively created and circulated journalism’s meanings. In this unsettled period of Korean journalism, Newstapa journalists strive to rebuild public trust and thereby to be distinguished from “giraegi-like” journalists. By reclaiming the elements of professional journalism and especially emphasizing the public service mission, these journalists try to form arguments determining what journalists’ real self should be in Korean society. My participant observations and interviews with Newstapa journalists help understand how Newstapa journalists reconstruct their professional identities as truth-tellers in ways that justify themselves to other journalists, to the public, and to themselves. In the newsroom, Newstapa journalists develop a set of journalistic dispositions, such as autonomy and endurance, associated with becoming a “good journalist.” These journalistic dispositions are used as symbolic resources through which Newstapa journalists can guide their own boundary work. In the daily and ongoing interaction with citizens, Newstapa journalists have chances to reexamine the roles that citizens can play in the newswork. Newstapa journalists start to embrace the core practices of participatory culture, such as participation, engagement, and collaboration, and then develop a modified version of truth-telling. Newstapa’s truth is different in a sense that it is collaboratively produced in the interaction with citizens. This conversational version of truth-telling leads to the development of mutually beneficial relationships between Newstapa journalists and citizens. In this indissoluble relationship with citizens, Newstapa journalists can confidently self-identify as truth-tellers in the unsettled period of Korean journalism.
University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. June 2016. Major: Mass Communication. Advisor: Giovanna Dell'Orto. 1 computer file (PDF); viii, 215 pages.
Being a “Truth-Teller” in the Unsettled Period of Korean Journalism: A Case Study of Newstapa and its Boundary Work.
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