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The case for Critical Realism in journalism

Patricia Cruz

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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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Journalism

The Top Journalism Websites for News and Analysis”

Alice Trout

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Journalism plays an essential role in keeping the public informed about current events and issues. The internet has made it easier than ever to access a wide range of news and analysis from reputable sources. Here are some of the best journalism sites for keeping up-to-date on the latest happenings around the world:

  1. The New York Times (www.nytimes.com) – The New York Times is a well-respected newspaper that has been in operation for over 150 years. It offers a wide range of news and analysis on politics, business, technology, and culture.
  2. The Washington Post (www.washingtonpost.com) – The Washington Post is another well-respected newspaper that has been in operation for over 150 years. It offers in-depth coverage of national and international news, as well as commentary on politics, business, and more.
  3. The Guardian (www.theguardian.com) – The Guardian is a British newspaper that offers a wide range of news and analysis on politics, business, technology, and culture. It has a strong reputation for investigative journalism and has won numerous awards.
  4. BBC News (www.bbc.com/news) – BBC News is the online news division of the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC). It offers a wide range of news and analysis on international, national, and regional events.
  5. Al Jazeera (www.aljazeera.com) – Al Jazeera is a Qatari news organization that offers a wide range of news and analysis on international, national, and regional events. It has a strong reputation for its coverage of the Middle East and North Africa.
  6. Reuters (www.reuters.com) – Reuters is a global news organization that offers a wide range of news and analysis on international, national, and regional events. It has a strong reputation for its coverage of business and financial news.
  7. CNN (www.cnn.com) – CNN is a global news organization that offers a wide range of news and analysis on international, national, and regional events. It has a strong reputation for its coverage of breaking news and live events.
  8. The Economist (www.economist.com) – The Economist is a British magazine that offers a wide range of news and analysis on international, national, and regional events, with a focus on economics and politics.
  9. The Atlantic (www.theatlantic.com) – The Atlantic is an American magazine that offers a wide range of news and analysis on international, national, and regional events, with a focus on politics, culture, and technology.
  10. ProPublica (www.propublica.org) – ProPublica is a non-profit organization that focuses on investigative journalism. It has a strong reputation for its coverage of politics, business, and social issues.

Guest blogging is a highly effective marketing strategy that every business should be utilizing. By purchasing PR publications, you can increase traffic and establish authority.

These are just a few examples of the many great journalism websites that are available. Whether you’re looking for breaking news, in-depth analysis, or a particular perspective on current events, these sites are an excellent starting point.

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Journalism

The Ethics of Healthcare Advertising: Balancing the Right to Information with the Risk of Deception

Alice Trout

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Healthcare advertising has the potential to inform and educate the public about important medical treatments and products, but it must be done in an ethical and responsible manner. On one hand, the public has the right to access information about healthcare options that may improve their quality of life or save their lives. On the other hand, there is a risk that healthcare advertising could deceive or mislead consumers, leading to negative consequences for both the companies and the public.

One issue with healthcare advertising is the promotion of prescription drugs for off-label use. Off-label use refers to the use of a drug for a purpose that has not been approved by the regulatory agency, such as the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the United States. While it is not illegal for doctors to prescribe drugs for off-label use, it is illegal for pharmaceutical companies to promote drugs for off-label use. This is because the FDA has not determined that the drug is safe and effective for the unapproved use.

Unfortunately, some pharmaceutical companies have been known to engage in off-label promotion in order to increase sales. This can be harmful to patients, as they may be prescribed a drug that has not been thoroughly tested for the specific condition they are suffering from. In some cases, off-label use of a drug can even be dangerous.

Another issue with healthcare advertising is the use of exaggerated or misleading claims. This can include making false or unproven statements about the effectiveness of a drug or treatment, or downplaying the risks and side effects. Such practices can lead to consumers making informed decisions about their healthcare, and can also harm the reputation of the healthcare industry as a whole.

In order to strike a balance between the right to information and the risk of deception, it is important for both regulatory agencies and the healthcare industry to prioritize ethical practices in healthcare advertising. This can include measures such as strict oversight by regulatory agencies, clear guidelines for the approval and review of advertising materials, and campaigns to educate the public about how to evaluate and interpret healthcare advertising. By taking these steps, we can ensure that the public has access to accurate and reliable information about healthcare options, while also protecting against deceptive practices that can harm both consumers and the healthcare industry.

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Journalism

Supporting Startup Founders’ Mental Health: The Importance of Prioritizing Well-Being in the Fast-Paced Startup World

Alice Trout

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As the startup world continues to thrive and grow, it’s important to recognize that the fast-paced, high-stress environment can take a toll on the mental health of founders and employees. In fact, research has shown that entrepreneurs are at a higher risk for mental health issues such as anxiety and depression compared to the general population.

One key factor that contributes to this risk is the pressure to succeed and the fear of failure that can come with starting and running a business. Additionally, the long hours and lack of work-life balance that are often associated with the startup world can also contribute to mental health challenges.

It’s essential that startups prioritize the mental health of their founders and employees, not only for the well-being of the individual, but also for the overall success of the business. Research has shown that mental health issues can negatively impact productivity and decision-making, which can have serious consequences for a company.

There are a few steps that startups can take to support the mental health of their team members:

  1. Encourage open communication and create a safe space for employees to talk about their mental health concerns.
  2. Offer resources such as counseling and mental health benefits to employees.
  3. Foster a culture of self-care by promoting healthy habits such as regular exercise and proper nutrition.
  4. Set boundaries and encourage work-life balance to prevent burnout.

For those not ready to go to the doctor or looking for support, mental health startups Europe offer help through apps.

It’s important to remember that mental health is just as important as physical health, and it’s crucial that startups prioritize the well-being of their founders and employees. By taking steps to support the mental health of their team, startups can create a positive and healthy work environment that leads to success for both the business and its employees.

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