Maybe Things Aren’t So Bad, or Are They? Michael Schudson’s ambivalent critique of commercialism

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In this essay, I attempt to shed light on Michael Schudson’s theoretical and political position vis-à-vis commercialism as a shaping force of journalism. I document and analyze Schudson’s criticisms of market pressures on journalism, his criticisms of other critics of commercialism whom he sees as going too far, and then, the limits of the position he stakes out for himself—which is effectively, given his position as the authoritative synthesizer of the sociology of news, a position for journalism studies as a whole. In homage to Schudson’s classic alliterative model of “How Culture Works,” through five magic “R” words (rhetorical force, resolution, retrievability, retention, and resonance), I argue that the letter “C” unites the five reasons why Schudson is reluctant to overemphasize commercialism’s negative effects on journalism. It’s Complicated. There are Countervailing forces outside of the market and even when there are not, the market itself is self-Contradictory. Don’t underestimate the power of Contingency. And if all else fails, blame it on Culture.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1210-1223
Number of pages14
JournalJournalism Studies
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 3 2017


  • Schudson
  • commercialism
  • public media
  • sociology of news

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Communication


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