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The case for Critical Realism in journalism

Patricia Cruz



The article “ Journalism and Democratic Backsliding: Critical Realism as a Diagnostic and Prescription for Reform” by Michael McDevitt from University of Colorado Boulder proposed Critical Realism (CR) as a framework for conceptualizing contributions of news media to backsliding. 

In CR, objective reality is knowable as it is in journalism, but it also posits that news practices and products interact with underlying social forces. The ontological framework was originally developed by Bhaskar (1979, 1989), whose idea was that reality consists of layered strata. The most basic level is real, the second domain being that of actual. The top level consists of perceived matters, the empirical layer. Further, observations on the level of the empirical can affect the layer of actual.

Long a staple in sociology, CR in journalism and communication studies has been applied to news production, journalism epistemology, and media effects. Reality in news is shaped by news values such as cultural proximity. Although CR has established a foothold in academic journalism studies, it remains somewhat unknown in journalism practice. 

The manufacture of discontent and democratic decay can be conveyed by news values that are not in themselves negative, such as personalization and thematic coherence, as they can contribute to the impression of democratic decay, provided they influence how journalists imagine public opinion and the motives of political actors. 

In this study, the layer of real from CR consists of democratic deficits, contradictions and vulnerabilities that either become actualized – move to the layer of actual – or not, depending on how they are perceived on the empirical level. The idea then is partly constructivist, as perception and actions influence how reality is perceived and presented.

However, CR differs from constructivism and is more in line with journalism as in it the reality is knowable and exists outside perceptions (on a different layer). From journalists, CR demands that they do not actualize reality in ways that are damaging to democracy or supportive of authoritarians. This is critical, as whether a real matter is actualized depends on observations and then, remarks to support those.

The author goes on to describe the history of Western democracies. Liberalism, by itself, is assimilating in nature in contrast to liberal multiculturalism, which differs from the melting pot ethos by granting rights to minorities as groups. 

Liberal multiculturalism may run afoul to public perceptions and public support, as evidenced by the sometimes critical social and mobile media response to minoritarian movements such as BLM. 

Journalism is ostensibly neutral to how people present their identities, but liberal multiculturalism posits that tolerance can be extended only to viewpoints that are tolerant, therefore possibly ruling out populism and nationalism insofar as they reduce the expression of a people to specific constituency (e.g. such as presumably white Anglo-Americans as ‘real americans’).  

Then, liberal multiculturalism can help journalism in developing a conception of a perceived notion of people as being inclusive of minority groups and their constitutional rights, thus being more broadly representative. 

The author calls on journalists to act as ‘gatekeepers in a misinformation society’. Misinformation and anti-intellectual politics persist independently of journalism, but journalism can act as a preventive measure – like lack of preventive medicine, CR posits that a mere reactive approach perpetuates dysfunction. Thus, journalism should be proactive: for a real-world example, such as by announcing up front that they do not cover candidates who make provocative statements to gain attention.  

This gatekeeper role should be assumed regardless of the shallowly defined bogeyman of journalistic paternalism. Indeed, it should be recognized that journalism as in quality press does in fact possess a democratic agency. However, this journalistic paternalism should acknowledge concerns of democratic inclusion and neutrality.

The role for example in investigative journalism can be summed as “custodians of conscience”. The case for CR in journalism is built on the notion that it is irresponsible to ignore social constructions that perpetuate suffering. 

The study The article “ Journalism and Democratic Backsliding: Critical Realism as a Diagnostic and Prescription for Reform” by Michael McDevitt 

is in Political Communication. (open access).

Picture: Layers of wheatpasted posters on a wall by Jazmin Quaynor.

License Unsplash. 

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The benefits of practicing mindfulness and how to start

Alice Trout



In today’s fast-paced world, it’s easy to get caught up in the chaos of everyday life. Between work, family, and other responsibilities, we often forget to take care of ourselves. This is where mindfulness comes in. Mindfulness is the practice of being present in the moment, without judgment. In this article, we will explore the benefits of practicing mindfulness and how to start.

Benefits of Practicing Mindfulness

  1. Reduces stress and anxiety

Mindfulness can help to reduce stress and anxiety levels. By focusing on the present moment, you can calm your mind and reduce racing thoughts.

  1. Improves mental clarity

Practicing mindfulness can improve mental clarity and focus. It can help to clear your mind of distractions and increase productivity.

  1. Enhances self-awareness

Mindfulness can increase self-awareness and help you to understand your thoughts and emotions better. By being present in the moment, you can learn to recognize your patterns of thinking and behavior.

  1. Improves relationships

Mindfulness can help to improve relationships by increasing empathy and compassion. By being present with others, you can develop a deeper understanding of their needs and feelings.

How to Start Practicing Mindfulness

  1. Set aside time

Set aside a specific time every day to practice mindfulness. It can be as little as 5-10 minutes per day to start.

  1. Find a quiet space

Find a quiet space where you won’t be disturbed. It could be a quiet corner of your home or a quiet park.

  1. Focus on your breath

Focus on your breath and the physical sensations of breathing. Notice the rise and fall of your chest and the sensation of air moving in and out of your body.

  1. Be present

Allow yourself to be present in the moment without judgment. Let your thoughts and emotions come and go without dwelling on them.

  1. Practice regularly

Make mindfulness a regular practice. It takes time to develop the habit, but the benefits are worth it.

In conclusion, practicing mindfulness can have numerous benefits for our mental and physical well-being. It’s a simple yet powerful practice that can be incorporated into our daily lives. By setting aside a few minutes each day to practice mindfulness, we can reduce stress and anxiety, improve mental clarity, and enhance our relationships. So why not give it a try? Your mind and body will thank you for it.

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How to create a perfect morning routine for a productive day

Alice Trout



Do you ever feel like your day has gotten away from you before it even starts? One way to combat this feeling is to create a perfect morning routine. Establishing a routine can help you start your day off on the right foot, and set the tone for a productive and successful day. Here are some tips on how to create a morning routine that works for you.

Determine Your Priorities

Before you start creating a morning routine, it’s important to determine what your priorities are. What are the things that you want to accomplish in the morning? Do you want to exercise, meditate, or have a healthy breakfast? Once you have a list of your priorities, you can start creating a routine that includes them.

Wake Up at the Same Time Every Day

Waking up at the same time every day can help regulate your body’s natural sleep cycle and make it easier to fall asleep at night. Try to wake up at the same time every day, even on weekends. This can help establish a consistent routine and make it easier to stick to.

Take Time for Yourself

Many people feel rushed and stressed in the morning, but taking some time for yourself can help alleviate this feeling. Whether it’s meditating, reading a book, or simply enjoying a cup of coffee, taking time for yourself can help you start your day feeling calm and centered.


Exercise is a great way to start your day, as it can help increase your energy levels and improve your mood. Whether it’s a quick jog, yoga practice, or weightlifting session, try to include some form of exercise in your morning routine.

Eat a Healthy Breakfast

Breakfast is often called the most important meal of the day, and for good reason. Eating a healthy breakfast can help fuel your body and provide the energy you need to start your day. Try to include protein, whole grains, and fruit or vegetables in your breakfast.

Plan Your Day

Taking a few minutes to plan your day can help you stay focused and productive. Make a to-do list or set priorities for the day, and review your calendar to make sure you’re prepared for any meetings or appointments.

Stick to Your Routine

Once you’ve created a morning routine that works for you, try to stick to it as much as possible. Consistency is key, and sticking to your routine can help establish healthy habits and improve your overall productivity.

In conclusion, creating a perfect morning routine can help set the tone for a productive and successful day. By determining your priorities, waking up at the same time every day, taking time for yourself, exercising, eating a healthy breakfast, planning your day, and sticking to your routine, you can create a morning routine that works for you. Remember, it’s all about finding what works best for you and your lifestyle.

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10 simple yet effective ways to reduce stress in your daily life

Alice Trout



Stress is an inevitable part of our lives, but it can have a negative impact on our mental and physical health if left unchecked. Fortunately, there are several simple yet effective ways to reduce stress in our daily lives. In this article, we will explore 10 such methods that you can easily incorporate into your routine.

Exercise regularly

Physical activity is an excellent way to relieve stress. It helps to release endorphins, which are natural mood-boosters. You don’t have to engage in high-intensity workouts to reap the benefits. Even a brisk walk or light yoga can help reduce stress levels.

Get enough sleep

Lack of sleep can cause irritability, mood swings, and increase stress levels. Make sure you get at least 7-8 hours of sleep every night to feel well-rested and refreshed.

Practice deep breathing

Deep breathing techniques such as diaphragmatic breathing can help to calm your mind and body. Inhale deeply through your nose and exhale slowly through your mouth. Repeat this for a few minutes to feel relaxed.

Spend time in nature

Spending time in nature can have a calming effect on your mind and body. Take a walk in the park or go for a hike in the woods to feel rejuvenated.

Practice mindfulness meditation

Mindfulness meditation involves focusing on the present moment without judgment. It can help to reduce stress and anxiety levels. Set aside a few minutes every day to practice mindfulness meditation.

Listen to music

Music has a soothing effect on our minds. Listening to calming music can help to reduce stress levels. Create a playlist of your favorite relaxing tunes and listen to it when you feel stressed.

Practice yoga or tai chi

Yoga and tai chi are ancient practices that combine physical postures and breathing techniques. They can help to reduce stress levels and promote relaxation.

Connect with loved ones

Talking to friends and family members can help to reduce stress levels. It can provide a sense of comfort and support during challenging times.

Practice gratitude

Focusing on the positive aspects of life can help to reduce stress levels. Make a habit of practicing gratitude by writing down things you are thankful for every day.

Take breaks

Taking short breaks throughout the day can help to reduce stress levels. Go for a short walk, practice deep breathing or simply take a few moments to close your eyes and relax.

In conclusion, stress is a part of life, but it doesn’t have to take over. By incorporating these simple yet effective methods into your daily routine, you can reduce stress levels and improve your overall well-being. Remember, taking care of yourself should always be a top priority.

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