Virality, Algorithms, and Illiberal Attacks on the Press: Legitimation Strategies for a New World


  • Ronald N. Jacobs Department of Sociology, University at Albany, State University of New York



Journalism, Populism, Algorithmic Culture, Democracy, Civil Society


Historically, professional journalism has justified its importance through a series of binary oppositions that privileged objectivity over opinion, news over entertainment, impartiality over partisanship, and public interest over profit. Over the last half century these distinctions have become increasingly destabilized, and the press finds itself under attack from a number of different directions. This article examines the social forces that have combined to challenge press authority: (1) the changing ownership structure and revenue model for news organizations, (2) the shifting dynamics of media influence made possible by convergence culture and algorithmic culture, and (3) the attacks on expertise made possible by the spread of neoliberal and populist rhetorics in the public sphere. After describing this challenging new media climate, the article finishes by examining the different legitimation strategies journalists have used to defend themselves, considering the different challenges and constraints they confront when articulating these strategies as well as the different potential alliances that are available to them.


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How to Cite

Jacobs, R. N. (2020). Virality, Algorithms, and Illiberal Attacks on the Press: Legitimation Strategies for a New World. Sociologica, 14(2), 217–233.