News media as a "journalistic field": What Bourdieu adds to new institutionalism, and vice versa

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Bourdieu's field theory and the new institutionalism of Cook and Sparrow are similar in that they call for a new unit of analysis for journalism studies: between the individual news organization and the society as a whole, the "mezzo-level" interorganizational and professional environment of the field/institution. Bourdieu's focus on competition and difference, rooted in processes of cultural and economic class distinctions both among audiences and cultural producers, supplements the new institutionalist emphasis on homogeneity; moreover, Bourdieu's emphasis on a professional or intellectual autonomy (however limited) of journalists as a collective body, elided in new institutionalist accounts, remains an essential element of any thorough media analysis. Conversely, new institutionalists' greater attention to the state as a partially autonomous influence on the journalistic field helps fill a crucial gap in Bourdieu's model. Both approaches could be improved by adopting a broader view and analyzing effects on news content and form of variations in national journalistic fields (and field configurations) - in particular the organizational/spatial ecology of journalistic competition, and the cultural inertia of professional traditions rooted in contingent historical processes of field formation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)187-202
Number of pages16
JournalPolitical Communication
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jul 1 2006


  • Cross-national comparative research
  • Field theory
  • Journalism
  • New institutionalism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Communication
  • Sociology and Political Science


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