The Ghosts of Newspapers Past: Public Interest Journalism as Movement

Yuan Zeng, Cherian George


Journalism’s financial crisis has killed news organizations at an alarming rate. Most digital-born news ventures, once touted as the profession’s saviors, have also been short-lived. These trends threaten the viability of public interest journalism. The crisis is especially acute in settings where a free press was not deeply entrenched to start with. One hopeful countertrend is the effort of journalists to pass on their professional values to new organizational hosts, even as the media companies that employ them die or drift away from professional principles. Our case studies in Taiwan, China, and Indonesia reveal that the normative assets of terminated or fading organizations are partially preserved or revived in new hosts. We suggest that a social movements perspective—which helpfully distinguishes between a movement and its constituent organizations—can help illuminate how professionals try to survive threats to public interest journalism during periods of abeyance. This perspective is not intended to gloss over the crisis within the news media industry, but to spotlight the drivers of the journalistic movement that require support.


social movement, abeyance, public interest journalism, Asia

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