My dissertation project titled “In with the New – Out with the Old? A structural and cultural analysis of the 21st century American political news media field,” illuminates how different media content producers (journalists, television anchors and pundits, and bloggers) report elections and candidates. In this work I analyze articles, posts and transcripts, during the 2004, 2008, 2012, and 2016 election cycles, from eighteen prevalent media outlets. I find that digital communication technologies, in conjunction with political events, specifically the Iraq War, Obama’s election, and Trump’s election, created cultural and structural volatility within the political media field. There was resultant conflict and boundary negotiation in the form of adjustment, entrenchment, institutionalization, innovation, and polarization. I find specific organizational structures and discursive codes that are reinforced and ossified. Simultaneously, however, I find transformations that represent an altered hierarchy of cultural symbols. In the end, I find that there are four ideal-typical media outlets, traditional/objective, partisan, polarized, and citizen, each guided by distinct media logics.

Chapter Breakdown:

  1. Introduction
  2. Historical Mapping of the 21st Century U.S. Media Landscape 2004-2016
  3. Narrative Structure and Institutional Context: How media institutions make meaning out of election cycles
  4. Primary Definers, Carrier Agents, and Legitimacy: Who is Cited, Where, When, and How?
  5. Meta-Media Narratives and the Discussion of the Mediated ‘Other’
  6. Narratives of the Iraq War
  7. Narrating victories and defeats: Polarized Media Responds to Election Polls and Victories
  8. Conclusion