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The Political Phenomenology of War Reporting Tim Markham Birkbeck, University of London Published in Journalism: Theory, Practice and

Criticism 12(5): 567-85.


Abstract: Drawing on interviews with war correspondents, editors, political and military personnel, this article investigates the political dimension of the structuration and structuring effects of the reporters experience of journalism. Self-reflection and judgements about colleagues confirm that there are dominant norms for interpreting and acting in conflict scenarios which, while contingent upon socio-historical context, are interpreted as natural. But the prevalence of such codes masks the systematically misrecognized symbolic systems of mystification and ambivalence systems which reproduce hierarchies and gatekeeping structures in the field, but which are either experienced as unremarkable, dismissed with irony and cynicism, or not present to the consciousness of the war correspondent. The article builds on recent theories of journalistic disposition, ideology, discourse and professionalism, and describes the political dimension of journalistic practice perceived in the field as apolitical. It addresses the gendering of war correspondence, the rise of the journalist as moral authority, and questions the extent to which respondent reflections can be defensibly analytically determined. Key words: war reporting, political phenomenology, Bourdieu, culture of journalism, discourse analysis