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The moral dilemmas of journalism in Kenya’s politics of belonging

Benequista, Nicholas (2016) The moral dilemmas of journalism in Kenya’s politics of belonging. PhD thesis, The London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE).

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Abstract

This thesis explores the strategies pursued by Kenyan journalists as they contend with “the politics of belonging” in their work, arguing that the choices journalists make in the micro-processes of news production can be understood and guided from a moral perspective. The study addresses lingering questions about how journalists experience and respond to social divisions that can be created in the dynamic interaction between ethnic identity, personal networks and competitive party politics that characterizes a politics of belonging. Theoretically, it builds on an interpretation of Roger Silverstone’s normative theory of morality in the mediapolis and on the concepts of autonomy and agency developed within the sociology of journalism. A participatory and action-oriented methodology is employed to examine journalism practice: 10 journalists were engaged through a series of participatory workshops and interviews, and participant observation was undertaken through collaborations with these journalists on a variety of news experiments. Additional formal and informal interviews were conducted with other stakeholders who have an interest in news production. The thematic analysis of the resulting corpus of field notes and interview transcripts suggests that the Kenyan journalists who participated in the research experience the politics of belonging as a complex set of social pressures in their professional relationships, which create a series of challenges, trade-offs and dilemmas that they strategically negotiate in their daily practices and in the discourse of their news reports. The empirical analysis argues that the theoretical framing of journalism practice ― as envisaged by Francis Nyamnjoh and other scholars seeking to formulate African alternatives to Western traditions of journalism ― can be strengthened by integrating the concepts of journalistic autonomy and moral agency as developed in this thesis. The dissertation also offers insights into how such theoretical framings can be developed and implemented in the context of journalistic practice.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2016 Nicholas P. Benequista
Library of Congress subject classification: P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General) > PN1990 Broadcasting
Sets: Departments > Media and Communications
Supervisor: Mansell, Robin and Willems, Wendy
URI: http://etheses.lse.ac.uk/id/eprint/3458

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