Environmental Storytelling: Negotiating Travelling Norms in Post-Socialist Journalism

Antonov, Pavel P. (2013). Environmental Storytelling: Negotiating Travelling Norms in Post-Socialist Journalism. PhD thesis The Open University.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.21954/ou.ro.0000f153

Abstract

This thesis explores the ways in which professional journalists in Bulgaria balance their normative commitments to society and democracy, and the increasing dominance of economic and market priorities over their work, when covering issues of collective interest - such as environmental change. It studies the advance of a liberal Anglo-American model that is influenced significantly by economic and market priorities into the post-socialist region of Central and Eastern Europe. After more than two decades of domesticating neoliberalism, post-socialist Central and Eastern Europe offers a suitable setting in which to study the effects of market and business influence over journalism. By means of participant observation in the newsrooms of opinion setting weekly Capital and Bulgaria’s leading commercial television channel BTV, this thesis establishes how journalistic norms shift in favour of business and commercial interests and weaken journalists’ commitment to collective public interests and democracy, as defined by ‘Fourth Estate’ theory.

A theoretical framework is applied which examines journalists’ engagement with democracy, pluralism, public interest, diversity and equal participation of citizens in political decision making, conceptualised as ‘voice’ and ‘dialogue’, and compares those with their engagements with market and business imperatives. Tensions arising out of the implementation of practical journalistic norms such as neutrality, bias, objectivity, novelty, authority order and ‘the wall’ between advertising and editorial are explored in detail. The research finds that professional journalism in Bulgaria is evolving to accommodate media owner interference, market and business oriented occupational and editorial practices, and loss of pluralism and diversity in media production formats. Steady processes of detachment from commitments to storytelling about collective public interests are explained in terms of the neoliberal logics dominating the Bulgarian media. Potential corrections are also identified that arise from the interaction of mainstream media and citizen journalism and social media.

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