Preface to special issue on Theory & Research in Journalism Studies
Alexandros Baltzis, Andreas Veglis

Peer reviewed journal Communication Issues (Zitimata Epikinonias), Issue 14-15/2012, pp. 5-7.
Athens: University Research Institute of Applied Communication (Faculty of Communication & Media Studies, National & Kapodistrian University of Athens) / Kastaniotis Publications
ISSN: 1790-0824


As indicated by its title, this special issue is about journalism as a subject of academic inquiry, systematic study and analysis. Our hope is that this collection of papers will contribute to establish in Greece as well the term "journalism studies" in the sense found in the international literature (cf. Franklin et al., 2000; Zelizer, 2009; Calcutt & Hammond, 2011), i.e. not just as education in journalism, but also as a set of disciplines that study the production of this specific form of discourse, the forms of social practice employed in the field, the dominant, emerging, and alternative styles and types of journalism, as well as its functions and evolution. In other words, the concept "journalism studies" – which, however, includes training in journalism as well – does not refer only to training into the "technical" details of the everyday routine practice in the newsrooms, regardless of the form in which they operate today. From this perspective, "…Journalism Studies is characterised as consciousness of journalism (not its conscience)…" (Calcutt & Hammond, 2011: 169). While it may seem of minor importance, the way journalism studies are identified is surprisingly crucial, especially at a time during which several broader trends of substitution are becoming dominant: information instead of knowledge, training instead of education, and – finally – the unquestioned application of "technocratic" recipes instead of critical thinking.

From this point of view, a special issue on journalism studies would ideally cover adequately all fields and disciplines that study, analyze and examine journalism from a variety of perspectives. Obviously, it is not possible to carry out successfully a project like this in a single issue of a scholarly journal. It would take rather a series of collective volumes. However, despite these obvious limitations, we would like to believe that the collaborative effort hosted in this issue of Communication Issues (Zitimata Epikinonias) is achieving at least one of its two primary objectives, namely the publication of a collection of papers, each of which represents a thorough and well-documented review of a specific field in journalism studies, focusing on the most recent research issues, key topics and methodological questions that remain open to controversy, debate and ongoing inquiry.

The fields presented and discussed in this special issue concern the education in journalism (A. Skamnakis), Internet journalism in its traditional and new forms (E. Siapera and D. Dimitrakopoulou), international journalism (Ch. Fragkonikolopoulos), the research on the language of journalism (P. Politis), and – finally – opinion journalism and art reviewing (Z. Ververopoulou). Therefore, a wide range of approaches is presented, some of them being perhaps less known, but quite recent and dynamic. Hopefully, what is achieved this way is to highlight the multifarious nature of journalism studies as a set of disciplines and fields of scholarly inquiry.

At the same time, the fields reviewed in this issue, are parts – one way or another – of a curriculum for systematic journalism education, designed, organized and offered in the form of undergraduate and postgraduate studies at the School of Journalism & Mass Media Studies of the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki. In this School, of course, several other fields concerning journalism, are studied and taught, like new technologies and media, the various print and electronic media and the various types of journalistic content, as well as disciplines studying journalism from several perspectives (economic and political sciences, sociology and social psychology, law and history). Consequently, on the one hand, what is missing from this special issue, is pretty much clear. On the other hand, it is more or less obvious why it would not have been possible to cover the full range of journalism studies, considering also that for a variety of reasons we did not have had the honor and pleasure to host papers by colleagues working in other, relative Greek University Departments and Schools.

Taking into account the number of fields included in the research and teaching work carried out for almost two decades now in the other two Greek University Departments of communication (at the Kapodistrian and the Panteion University in Athens), it would not be an exaggeration to say that journalism studies are currently maturing in Greece as an academic field of its own right. In this respect, the need for more special issues does not sound unreasonable. The expectation, then, and the hope that the journal Communication Issues (Zitimata Epikinonias) will publish in the future more special issues covering more fields – besides the papers it publishes in almost every issue – sound also plausible.

Notwithstanding, the need to have more studies, research and analyses published in Greece, does not result from the multifarious character of journalism studies, from the maturation of the field and the work being done by the academia and researchers. Although complex, this would have been a rather formalistic or even superficial argumentation. The need we are referring to results mainly from the central position journalism itself occupies in our society, as a par excellence "modern form for constructing verbally the current events", i.e. as a form of production of a specific type of content (the news) based on its own particular agenda, using its own codes, and having its own specific narrative structures while associated with all social subsystems: economy and politics, culture and the systems of social relations and behavior (Pleios, 2011). Consequently, during a time of broader economic, political, cultural and social change occurring on all levels (local, European and global as well), both journalism and the study of journalism become of particular importance. Neglecting this would probably have been as if we are somehow trying to bury our heads in the sand.

First, journalism – whatever its form is – apart from being a field of fundamental ideological confrontation, it still represents a field where ideology is processed and systematized (Pleios, 2011). As the growth of uncertainty, instability and social insecurity is inversely proportional to that of democracy – since during the late modernity societies are regressing or sliding into forms of authoritarianism – it becomes necessary to process and systematize both the ideology that would make this slide acceptable (producing it to some extent), and the ideology of resisting it (constructing, to some extent, its prevention or reversal). In other words, under these circumstances the importance of news – and journalism in general – is increasing not only because they are an instrument and a field for exercising hegemony, but also because at the same time they are or may become an instrument of resistance as well (cf. Pleios, 2011: 95-96).

Second, the gradual depreciation and deconstruction of journalism in the "common" social sense, as well as within the academia (cf. Zelizer, 2009; Pleios, 2011: 200-202), might be reversed with the contribution of journalism studies (Calcutt & Hammond, 2011: 1-3). At this point, the academia needs to face its own historical responsibility concerning one of the main pillars in the construction of politics and ideology in our societies as well as in the construction of the political and ideological conflicts and debates (Pleios, 2011: 97). We believe that Calcutt and Hammond are absolutely right, when they say – and they are not the only ones – that it would be self-defeating for the academy to turn itself into a training provider for the news industry, suspending judgement and leaving aside critical analysis and studying journalism in depth. We might add that, in fact, for the academia this would mean to abandon the efforts of reconstructing journalism and renounce its social responsibility. Clearly, then, if journalism studies become increasingly important, this is not only – or primarily – due to the interest for a better understanding of the culture in modern societies in general (Wahl-Jorgensen & Hanitzsch, 2009: 4), but because precisely in the current circumstances journalism studies can have important functions as consciousness of journalism.

However, while the publications in the broader field of communication sciences are increasing in Greece, the number of the publications on journalism and journalism studies does not seem to reflect their growing importance. At least this can be seen by a rough glance at the publishers' catalogues as well as in the short and indicative guide in the literature on journalism studies presented at the end of this special issue – a guide that includes books published in Greece by scholars or by field journalists with academic activity. Hopefully, this special issue covers at least some part of the scarcity in the relevant literature.

If the argumentation above and the following papers create more questions than the answers they suggest, our second main objective as editors will have been achieved, namely to make some contribution to the development of the research agenda of journalism studies in Greece during a very critical period of time. In this sense, we hope that this special issue will become a point of reference for colleagues in the field as well as for journalism students.

In conclusion, we would like to thank the authors who honored us with their trust and support, and, of course, the Directors of the journal Communication Issues (Zitimata Epikinonias) for the opportunity they gave us.

The editors
Alexandros Baltzis
Andreas Veglis