'Truth,' News, Democracy: Journalism Without Subjects

Prof. Jeanette McVicker
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The present historical moment bears witness to a multileveled shift implicating the production of an autonomous subject, the Enlightenment's 'cogito', that assumes a stable ground for producing knowledge and mastering the unknown. US journalism has, throughout its history, participated in the construction, maintenance, and narration of that fiction and, through its heavy influence on other media systems and styles of reportage, imports it to the world. If we are to truly critique the professional western (particularly US) news media, we must include interrogation of journalism education, where students are trained as subjects themselves and taught to reproduce fictions of autonomous subjectivity as they learn to construct media narratives for domestic and global consumption. Following Bill Readings, this paper seeks to imagine journalism education in what he called the 'posthistorical university' and threads it into a critique of professional news reporting that has grounded its role to 'protect the public interest' in an outdated model of democracy.

The point of departure for this multi-situated critique is Foucault's analysis of truth, knowledge and power; moving from Foucault's focus, the paper seeks to link the production of subjectivity within the western university with the practice of contemporary western news media while maintaining a parallel focus on the production of subjectivity within so-called democracies such as the US with the practice of political participation. All of these sites are in contemporary crisis, providing a unique opportunity for transformation. Affiliated topics include engagement with transdisciplinary conceptions of knowledge and the uses of such knowledge(s) for reimagining radically altered forms of democracy.

Keywords: Journalism, University, Democracy
Stream: Media, Film Studies, Theatre, Communication, Knowledge, Political Science, Politics, Teaching and Learning
Presentation Type: Virtual Presentation in English
Paper: A paper has not yet been submitted.

Prof. Jeanette McVicker

Professor, English and Journalism, Department of English;
Interdisciplinary Program in Journalism, State University of New York at Fredonia


Coming from an interdisciplinary Ph.D. program in literature, critical theory and philosophy, I have, for many years, sought ways to reimagine disciplinary, cultural and institutional boundaries in my research and teaching. Though I am currently chairing the English Department at my university, I served for four years as director of the interdisciplinary program in women's studies (following substantial research in feminist theory as part of my dissertation) and am currently directing the interdisciplinary program in journalism (following intensive practice as a college journalist and professionally, prior to entering graduate school). My current research seeks to reimagine journalism education and professional journalistic practice in the US along transdisciplinary and transnational lines, through a dual focus interrogating the history of US journalism's roots in Enlightenment conceptions of subjectivity, truth and democracy, and journalism education's roots in the Enlightenment model of the university. Because of the weight that US journalism carries in narrativizing what constitutes "the global" for American audiences as well as international ones, in addition to the structural shifts taking place in global media ownership, this work seeks dialogue with audiences both within and especially beyond the US. I am extremely interested in the ways in which a renewed understanding of the role of the humanities can radically alter the horizon through which 'news' is constructed, consumed, and made 'useful'--and 'usable'-- in concrete historical terms and for particular audiences.

Ref: H06P0293