Rodney Benson will talk about his new book, Shaping Immigration News: A French-American Comparison (Cambridge, 2013). This book offers a comprehensive portrait of French and American journalists in action as they grapple with how to report and comment on one of the most important issues of our era. Drawing on interviews with leading journalists and analyses of an extensive sample of newspaper and television coverage since the early 1970s, Benson shows how the immigration debate in both countries has become increasingly focused on the dramatic, emotion-laden frames of humanitarianism and public order. Yet even in an era of global hyper-commercialism, Benson also finds enduring French-American differences related to the distinctive societal positions, professional logics, and internal structures of their journalistic fields. In both countries, less commercialized media tend to offer the most in-depth, multi-perspective, and critical news. Benson challenges classic liberalism's assumptions about state intervention's chilling effects on the press, suggests costs as well as benefits to the current vogue in personalized narrative news, and calls attention to journalistic practices that can help empower civil society.
Rodney Benson is associate professor of media studies and sociology at New York University. His articles have appeared in the American Sociological Review, Journal of Communication, Theory and Society, Press/Politics, Le Monde Diplomatique, the Christian Science Monitor, and many other publications. Benson is co-editor of Bourdieu and the Journalistic Field (with Erik Neveu, Polity 2005; Chinese translation forthcoming) and co-author of the Free Press policy report Public Media and Political Independence: Lessons for the Future of Journalism from Around the World (with Matthew Powers, 2011).