LASICS .::. Open Conference Systems, IAMCR 2010: Communication and Citizenship

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Communication in transition society: the power of alternative journalism

Verica Rupar

Last modified: 2010-06-03


Journalism in transition societies of Eastern Europe shows all the signs of journalism in a state of flux. Seriously infected by decades of authoritarian rule and whipped by existential commercial pressures, it struggles to legitimize the diversity of its professional identity. Journalism professional ethos in the newly established democracies incorporates ideas of civic sphere, but the battle to define autonomy of journalism dominates its actions and day to day practices.

This paper uses the case study of a popular weekly radio show the Hourglass (Peščanik) to examine the identity struggle in Serbian journalism. It explores how alternative journalism challenges the hegemony of the mainstream, post-1989 professional model of journalism whose practitioners claim to be committed to political neutrality. The Hourglass promotes civil society, speaks for the rights of the citizens, and is openly and loudly against chauvinism and political conservatism. The study explores how a strong legacy of authoritarianism has impacted the development of journalism in Serbia and how the interaction between different models of journalism affects and is affected by the overall political culture.

Using Bourdieu’s field theory framework, the paper argues that the study of journalism in a transition society has to move beyond traditional analysis of the ways news media represent and reinforce the power structures in society. Serbia went through four wars of Yugoslav succession in the 90s, and the Hourglass attempts to lead the public dialogue about the recent past demonstrates alternative journalism’s ability to open a space for citizens engagement that goes beyond the borders set up by intermediary organizations, such as political parties, government and different interest groups.

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