News agency and news mediation in the digital era

in Social Anthropology/Anthropologie sociale
Dominic Boyer Department of Anthropology
MS‐20, Rice University
P.O. Box 1892, Houston
TX 77251‐1892, USA

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This paper explores the work of news agency journalism, an increasingly important node in circuits of news communication across the world. My ethnographic site is a medium‐sized news agency office in Germany and I focus especially on ‘slotwork’, a rotating role in the editorial collective where one editor is responsible for coordinating incoming news streams, for determining which stories are of substantial news value, for distributing stories to newswriters on shift and editing their work, and for monitoring and synchronising the agency's news output with the streams of key competitors and clients. In the spirit of the special issue, I discuss how digital information technologies, professional editorial practices and powerful praxiological and mediological discourses on the character of slotwork define the daily life of newsmaking. I am particularly interested in news journalists’ epistemic and practical strategies for dampening the dense informational mediation of digital news in order to retain a sense of professional and practical agency in the face of many contingencies.

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