Journalism’s sharp end: fatal materiality and the algorithms of profit and political extremism

John O'Sullivan, Leopoldina Fortunati


This conceptual paper focusses on two fronts forming a broad assault on journalism, extending from more autocratic settings to include liberal democracies, and leading to what is now widely perceived as a crisis in news. We analyze these two attacks by presenting a framework integrating their sources and causes. We argue that the first attack emanates from commercialized media, occurring at economic and normative level, and has created, at least in part, the conditions that have enabled the more recent attack, which is more directly political, associated with the re-emergence of forces that are loosely categorized as populist. What is new in the second front is the geography and the constitutional nature of the societies in which this antagonism has grown. It extends now to long-established representative democracies that have come to be governed, or where new influence is wielded, by emergent right movements and parties who seek to cast the press as the enemy within. Abuse and even mortal danger increasingly have become part of the occupational reality of news-making. We conclude that this development is inscribed in the current material conditions under which journalists work, as well as in the materiality of the media through which they do so.


Journalists; Journalism; News Work; Newspapers; Repression; Publishers; Commercialism

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