Journalism Studies for Realists: Decentering Journalism While Keeping Journalism Studies

Matt Carlson, Chris Peters

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Since the early 2000s, the field of journalism studies has come of age in an era defined by increasingly complex digital media landscapes. In response, much of journalism studies research remains centered in the newsroom, in spirit if not literally, and is focused on how the industry addresses technological change. This research has advanced journalism scholarship, but has often neglected a broader vision that encompasses and reflects the diversity of audience sensemaking practices as well as the sociocultural and political implications of digital media culture. This essay argues that many scholarly endeavors flying under the banner of journalism studies are more about renovations inside the house of news than how much the neighborhood is changing around it. To address this, we introduce a realist view of journalism that forces journalism studies scholars to confront broader questions surrounding media content and culture, citizens and democracy, and audiences and public affairs. More specifically, in advocating for the value of a realist, emic perspective on audiences’ ways of engaging with public affairs as central to the value proposition for the field, we propose why this view should act as a central pillar for building a new era of journalism studies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1029-1042
Number of pages14
JournalJournalism Studies
Issue number8
StatePublished - 2023

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Chris Peters’ work on this article is supported by the research project “Beyond the Here and Now of News,” funded by the Independent Research Fund Denmark, see: We would like to thank Seth Lewis and Karin Wahl-Jorgensen for their perceptive and productive comments on an earlier draft, which greatly sharpened the argumentation of this piece. It hopefully goes without saying that any shortcomings remain our own.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.


  • Citizens
  • democracy
  • digital technology
  • journalism studies
  • media culture
  • news audiences
  • public affairs


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