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Title: Reporting from 'the field' : foreign correspondents and the international news coverage of East Africa
Author: Bunce, Melanie J.
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2012
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There has been significant academic criticism of the international news coverage of Africa, but little or no first-hand research on the forces that create this news. This thesis draws on 51 semi-structured interviews and ethnographic work with practicing foreign correspondents in Sudan, Kenya and Uganda to explore the question: how can we explain and theorise the production of international news on East Africa? The thesis argues that Pierre Bourdieu’s Field Theory, and its analytical toolbox of ‘field’, ‘capital’ and ‘habitus’, can be meaningfully used to examine international journalistic practice. Field theory has been widely and productively used to understand domestic news production, but it has not yet been employed to empirically investigate journalistic production in the global sphere. The analysis is presented in three sections, each of which focuses on a different ‘layer’ of the international news system: the global field, where newswires compete for clients and capital; the national field ‘back home’ where traditional, nation based news outlets are based; and, finally, the local and immediate site where foreign correspondents work. Each of these layers is explored through an in depth case study of a major news producer/group of producers working in East Africa. The first and most substantial section examines the global journalistic field, and the position and practices of the Reuters newswire within this field. The second examines the foreign correspondents who report on Africa for print outlets in the UK. The final section presents two case studies of correspondents at work, negotiating a local news ecology: the election violence in Kenyan (2007-8), and the international coverage of the Darfur crisis. The discussion explores the fluidity between these three layers. Each analysis section stands alone as an investigations of major news producers in Africa today, and the forces that influence their work. Together, they build the argument that field theory is a useful approach to conceptualising the contemporary global news system, and examining journalistic practices within this. The main strengths of the theory lie in its notion of habitus; the extent to which it can incorporate and explain change; and its ability to link macro level phenomenon with micro level practice. The theory is ideally suited to capture and study the way in which foreign correspondents negotiate a complex and fluid global news system.
Supervisor: Örnebring, Henrik; Stremlau, Nicole Sponsor: Commonwealth Scholarship Comission ; Green Templeton College (University of Oxford) ; International Federation of University Women ; University of New Zealand
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Journalism (political science) ; News media,journalism,publishing ; Sociology ; Africa ; media ; international news ; Bourdieu ; Reuters ; news production ; newsroom ethnography ; communications ; newswires ; newspapers ; Kenya ; Uganda ; Sudan