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Assessing Media Exemplars and Shifting Journalistic Paradigms: A Survey Study of China’s Journalists
Unformatted Document Text:  4 Informed by Kuhn’s (1970) notion of “paradigm,” this study focuses on journalists’ assessments of various “exemplars.” These are media outlets that are widely regarded as embodying competing journalistic paradigms. 1 Each exemplar illustrates a particular set of normative principles, shared values, and prescribed practices. The basic premise for this study is that praising certain exemplars while denouncing others is an indication of accepting a certain paradigm while rejecting its competitor. There has been evidence of competing journalistic paradigms in China’s media reforms. Journalists in China use different discourses to shape, discuss, and legitimize their work under the kaleidoscopic conditions of the reforms (Pan & Lu, 2002). In many quarters, the principles of party journalism continue to reign, as journalists talk about “helping the party” and extolling Party propagandists as the “exemplary journalists.” In many others, journalists draw professional inspirations from exemplars such as the New York Times, BBC, and 60 Minutes. Other discourses are also used. China’s journalists often talk about their work in terms of intellectuals carrying out their historical missions of enlightening the masses and achieving national greatness. Increasingly, they also talk about media reforms in terms of the market, expressing their admiration for the western media tycoons who have built global media empires. Due to interpenetration of these 1 While how audiences evaluate media has been studied under concepts such as “media credibility” or its more elaborated variants (e.g., Gunther, 1988; Rimmer & Weaver, 1987; Westley & Severin, 1964), “media images” (e.g., Kosicki & McLeod, 1990), or “common-sense theories of media” (e.g., Pan, Ostman, Moy, & Reynolds, 1993), evaluations of news media by journalists carry different significance. To audience members, perceptions and judgments of media performance have been viewed as a critical component of their active orientation toward the media, correlating with how audiences use media and what effects may be mediated (Kosicki & McLeod, 1990). Journalists’ evaluations of media are derivatives of their guiding principles and beliefs on their work. They are part of the constellation of shared ideas or professional commitments that is called “journalistic paradigm.” It remains to be demonstrated empirically, however, that such evaluations function as a key psychological impetus for journalists to carry out their work in particular ways.

Authors: Pan, Zhongdang. and Chan, Joseph Man.
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background image
4
Informed by Kuhn’s (1970) notion of “paradigm,” this study focuses on
journalists’ assessments of various “exemplars.” These are media outlets that are widely
regarded as embodying competing journalistic paradigms.
1
Each exemplar illustrates a
particular set of normative principles, shared values, and prescribed practices. The basic
premise for this study is that praising certain exemplars while denouncing others is an
indication of accepting a certain paradigm while rejecting its competitor.
There has been evidence of competing journalistic paradigms in China’s media
reforms. Journalists in China use different discourses to shape, discuss, and legitimize
their work under the kaleidoscopic conditions of the reforms (Pan & Lu, 2002). In many
quarters, the principles of party journalism continue to reign, as journalists talk about
“helping the party” and extolling Party propagandists as the “exemplary journalists.” In
many others, journalists draw professional inspirations from exemplars such as the New
York Times, BBC, and 60 Minutes. Other discourses are also used. China’s journalists
often talk about their work in terms of intellectuals carrying out their historical missions
of enlightening the masses and achieving national greatness. Increasingly, they also talk
about media reforms in terms of the market, expressing their admiration for the western
media tycoons who have built global media empires. Due to interpenetration of these
1
While how audiences evaluate media has been studied under concepts such as “media credibility” or its
more elaborated variants (e.g., Gunther, 1988; Rimmer & Weaver, 1987; Westley & Severin, 1964), “media
images” (e.g., Kosicki & McLeod, 1990), or “common-sense theories of media” (e.g., Pan, Ostman, Moy,
& Reynolds, 1993), evaluations of news media by journalists carry different significance. To audience
members, perceptions and judgments of media performance have been viewed as a critical component of
their active orientation toward the media, correlating with how audiences use media and what effects may
be mediated (Kosicki & McLeod, 1990). Journalists’ evaluations of media are derivatives of their guiding
principles and beliefs on their work. They are part of the constellation of shared ideas or professional
commitments that is called “journalistic paradigm.” It remains to be demonstrated empirically, however,
that such evaluations function as a key psychological impetus for journalists to carry out their work in
particular ways.


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