Embodiment of journalistic values in the Flemish press
The proposed research project will investigate the discursive strategies that journalists use in order to cope with the ever-tensed relationship between journalistic values and their practical effectuation. Such journalistic values pertain to an occupational ideology that confers authority and legitimacy on journalism and journalists by implicitly claiming universal validity. As such, the project’s analysis of journalistic values focuses on the debates surrounding “the end of journalism” by showing that coping strategies have become paramount in the construction of the journalistic identity and in journalism’s efforts at maintaining authority and credibility in times of profound crisis. The theoretical starting point of this research proposal is that there is a gap that separates values from practices. Therefore, this gap (potentially) threatens the truth claims that are central to the journalistic identity, and we presuppose the existence of coping strategies that mediate this gap by reaffirming both the validity of the occupation and the identity of the professionals that work init. As these coping strategies become most conspicuous during moments of crisis in journalism, the research project will use a case study logic that focuses on specific controversies that open up journalism to public debate. This empirical analysis will centre around three main case studies that are each devoted to one specific journalistic value: objectivity, autonomy and social responsibility, and its textual representation within the fields of war, (multi)cultural conflict and crime, respectively. Specifically, the first case study will be devoted to the (failed) search for weapons of mass destruction during the Iraqi war of 2003. The second case study, involving the Mohammed cartoon controversy, will highlight coping strategies as the values of press freedom, freedom of speech and journalistic autonomy became entangled and required clarification and re-affirmation. Lastly, the research will focus on crime coverage, and in particular, on the case of Marc Dutroux, which is relevant in light of the moral engagement of the journalist with society. The research, which is methodologically based on an interdisciplinary combination of Discourse—Theoretical Analysis, Critical Discourse Analysis and Systemic Functional Linguistics, will entail a regular press coverage case study, journalistic book case study and a historical case study. This structure will facilitate uncovering the journalistic coping strategies and deepen our understanding of the complexity of journalistic identity.