Disrupting the News


  • Elizabeth Hansen Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy, Harvard Kennedy School http://orcid.org/0000-0001-5329-7600




Journalism, Institutional Logics, Digital Technology, Professional Identity, Institutional Change


Disruption has become a popular shorthand explanation among news media executives and thought leaders for describing the massive business model and innovation challenges facing the incumbent producers of news. Yet the focus on digital disruption to the traditional business model of news obscures deeper changes in the values guiding journalistic practice. This essay unpacks disruptions to the landscape of news production and the practice of journalism with an attention to the institutional logic of digital media innovations. The digital values of openness and rationalization, visible in the adoption and use of metrics and analytics, crowds and engagement, and algorithmic distribution, have disrupted both the practices of journalism and the values guiding journalists’ work. This essay examines those disruptions in practice and values and outlines their consequences: new values and new identities that reconfigure the journalist/audience relationship and expand the complexity of the journalist role. The stakes of the digital disruption are issues of control and transparency in newswork. Overall, this essay claims, digital disruptions in journalism are issues of control and transparency in newswork. Overall, this essay claims, digital disruptions in journalistic values and practice are both discontinuous breaks from the past and evolutions of long-standing tensions in journalism as an institution.


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How to Cite

Hansen, E. (2020). Disrupting the News. Sociologica, 14(2), 175–199. https://doi.org/10.6092/issn.1971-8853/11177