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Intercom: Revista Brasileira de Ciências da Comunicação

versão impressa ISSN 1809-5844versão On-line ISSN 1980-3508

Intercom, Rev. Bras. Ciênc. Comun. vol.42 no.3 São Paulo set./dez. 2019  Epub 02-Dez-2019 

DOSSIER "articles"

Theoretical contributions to research in the field of ournalism. Senses and meanings from the Intellectual Creator Field

Gustavo Adolfo León-Duarte1

1(Universidad de Sonora, División de Ciencias Sociales, Departamento de Psicología y Ciencias de la Comunicación. Sonora, México).


The academic habitus present in the structure of the field of journalistic research in Spain develops a tendency towards the loss of conceptual theoretical works. Developing the bases of qualitative research using techniques and procedures of the constant comparison method, the text aims to integrate, in descriptive and predictive terms, the construct, factors and indicators of a theoretical core that brings real value to the field of journalism research. The study defines, from the theoretical integration of the Intellectual Creator Field (ICF) category, the effective contribution of Pierre Bourdieu’s field theory to the field of journalism research as long as the constructed theoretical model could be used to observe, describe and explain the behavior of journalistic production, circulation and consumption practices. The theoretical proposal could mean not only a form of reflective commitment but also an alternative practical proposal to the dominant research strategies as it defines an effective contribution to explain and predict the historical and present behavior of the structure and distribution of the scientific capital of the field as well as achieving a coherent representation of the uses and meanings in its meta-investigation.

Keywords Research; Journalism; Intellectual Creator Field; Interdisciplinarity


El habitus académico presente en la estructura del campo de la investigación periodística en España desarrolla una tendencia hacia la pérdida de trabajos teóricos conceptuales. Desarrollando las bases de una investigación cualitativa mediante técnicas y procedimientos del método de comparación constante, el texto aspira a integrar, en términos descriptivos y predictivos, el constructo, factores e indicadores de un núcleo teórico que aporta valor real al campo de la investigación del periodismo. Así, el estudio define, a partir de la integración teórica de la categoría de Campo Intelectual Creador (CIC), la efectiva aportación de la teoría de los campos de Pierre Bourdieu al campo de la investigación del periodismo en tanto el modelo teórico construido podría emplearse para observar, describir y explicar el comportamiento de las prácticas de producción, circulación y consumo del periodismo. La propuesta teórica de trabajo podría significar no sólo una nueva forma de compromiso reflexivo sino adicionalmente una propuesta práctica alternativa a las estrategias de investigación hoy dominantes en tanto define una efectiva aportación para explicar y predecir el comportamiento histórico y presente de la estructura y la distribución del capital científico del campo, así como lograr una representación coherentemente de los usos, significados y sentidos en su meta-investigación.

Palabras clave Investigación; Periodismo; Campo Intelectual; Creador; Interdisciplina


O habitus acadêmico presente na estrutura do campo da pesquisa jornalística na Espanha desenvolve uma tendência à perda de trabalhos teóricos conceituais. Desenvolvendo as bases da pesquisa qualitativa utilizando técnicas e procedimentos do método de comparação constante, o texto visa integrar, em termos descritivos e preditivos, o constructo, fatores e indicadores de um núcleo teórico que agrega valor real ao campo da pesquisa em jornalismo. O estudo define, a partir da integração teórica da categoria Campo Intelectual Criador (CIC), a contribuição efetiva da teoria de campo de Pierre Bourdieu para o campo da pesquisa jornalística, de modo que o modelo teórico construído possa ser utilizado para observar, descrever e explicar o comportamento de produção jornalística, práticas de circulação e consumo. A proposta teórica pode significar não apenas uma forma de compromisso reflexivo, mas, também, uma proposta prática alternativa às estratégias de pesquisa dominantes, pois descreve uma contribuição efetiva para explicar e prever o comportamento histórico e atual da estrutura e distribuição do capital científico do campo, bem como conseguir uma representação coerente dos usos e significados em sua meta-investigação.

Palavras-chave Pesquisa; Jornalismo; Campo Intelectual; Criador; Interdisciplina


Within the institutional field of university education at a global scale, journalism research is considered of interest since it symbolizes a set of professional, academic and scientific practices and strategies that aspire to observe, describe, explain and predict the multivariate areas of the information system and the construction of news in different social realities (ALSINA, 1989; AZNAR, 1999; KAPUSCINSKI, 2003). Meanwhile, in the last decades, the academic practice of research in journalism in Spain has been developed and consolidated in the study of specific facets, generally linked to the professional media practice of daily press (MASSARANI; AMORIM; BAUER; DE OCA, 2012; SALAVERRÍA, 2016). To some specialists in the field that have developed the topic for decades, the practices and strategies that define academic positions at the research field in journalism, have generally been established by the predominance of descriptive research of “short technical flight” and low empirical research grounded in social theory and humanities (MARTÍNEZ-NICOLÁS, 2006, 2009; MARTÍNEZ-NICOLÁS; CARRASCO-CAMPOS, 2018; NÚÑEZ, 2002). Recently, some studies and specialists point out that in the last twenty-five years in the field of journalistic research in Spain, clear trends have been marked in the orientation of academic production. Emphatically, it stands out that as soon as something is recognized as a historical incoherence, the notorious and worrying abandonment of conceptual theoretical research in the journalistic field, in contrast with the consolidation of empirical research of quantitative cut and the strengthening of methodological strategies of empirical type. Thus, Martínez-Nicolás, Saperas and Carrasco-Campos (2017, p. 164), confirm:

The decline of theoretical works and predominance of the analysis of quantitative content lead to a type of monoculture researcher with few contributions to the conceptual foundation of the field […] These tendencies would draw, definitely, a general picture characterized by a certain maladjustment between the interests of the academy and the media reality itself, and by a discreet contribution to some of the better settled and internationally recognizable lines of work regarding journalism.

Effectively, everything seems to point out that a considerable amount of the academic works that prevail in the journalistic research field in Spain will be limited to studies of descriptive cut, which in the opinion of Salaverría (2015), has as a consequence two main issues that are present today in the journalism research field, which serve as meta-investigating reflections of journalistic studies and even cyber journalism: 1) On one hand, “knowledge of a discipline that is reduced to particular phenomena, instead of being oriented to give account of the concepts, processes, and general systems” (SALAVERRÍA, 2015, p. 225). On the other hand, 2) The null integration with other theoretical disciplinary cores that could potentially enrich the research field like those that come, according to Salaverría (2015, p. 226):

Of the right to information, ethic of communication and journalistic design, although it illuminated relevant research, they still offer a wide margin of evolution in the study of cyber media and its phenomena. Definitively, the challenge of research regarding cyber journalism is that it stops being a waterproof specialty and self-referential, and that it’s enriched with the transversal contributions from other disciplines of long travel at university.

Thus, we have two specific issues. On one hand, a) the evanescence practice of theoretical works that aspire to contribute with concepts, propositions and definitions to explain or predict a certain phenomenon in the journalistic field and, on the other hand b), the null integration of theoretical disciplinary cores that could lead to a theoretical approach of the journalistic field and that, additionally, gives real value to the interdisciplinary business.

Our position is that if the journalistic field in Spain is consolidating a specialized research of quantitative cut like other countries of the Latin-American level, who have historically been heavily influenced by epistemological developments –and, thus, by theoretical and methodological models – cosmopolitans; see for example Frankenberg (2015), Mellado (2009) & Reyna (2016); I consider that it should be taken as an important development and even continue to contribute in order to consolidate this line. However, we must acknowledge that it’s necessary to work on the productive identification of contributions of transversal disciplinary theoretical nuclei in the journalistic field that could lead to the comprehensive explanation of multivariate topics and problems that are present today in the journalistic field and its theoretical and conceptual foundation.

This work aspires to contribute to this line. It is built in part on the idea of “practical theory” (BARGE; CRAIG, 2008), since it aspires to describe and characterize a theoretical contribution to the field of journalistic research around the integration of the construct of a journalistic field, such as the Intellectual Creator Field (ICF). Starting with the premise that it is possible that academics and professionals of journalism and communications can address both practical problems, arising from the daily press, and theoretical possibilities of action that allow the theoretical core of the discipline implemented. The theoretical nucleus that we want to develop here from Sociology is the theory of the state of French sociologist Bourdieu (1989, 1997, 1998, 2000, 2002, 2007). Specifically, it starts with understanding that the fundamental theoretical core of the theoretical construct of the ICF is especially important for the journalistic research field for its meaning, relevance, accuracy and predictive theoretical power and explicative of senses and meanings of analysis of the journalistic field. The term, which results from the theory of the state and the complex model of analysis of the intellectual and cultural field of society, was made from an extensive program of research designed to study the French school system and was extended later to other areas of knowledge, such as the foundation of intellectual elites, professional fields, artistic perception and forms of aesthetic consumption, the academic and scientific field, as well as the political field, among other.


The text aims to define and argue why the contributions of Pierre Bourdieu to the Sociology and Culture fields, and in general to Social Sciences and Humanities, could be an undeniable beneficence to the journalistic research field in said disciplinary theoretical nucleus, allowing to moving forward in the comprehension of the field and the specific understanding of practice in journalism with daily life problems: to observe, describe and explain the behavior of practices, strategies, and thus, the subaltern and dominant academic-scientific positions present today in the journalistic field. To know: 1) From the historical context and structuration of the professional and research field; 2) From the field of action of the professional information, explicitly complex, is thus understood as a process that requires a thorough and exhaustive understanding of the senses and meanings that cast their different contextual and theoretical facets to assess the changing conditions of how and why what is generated today is produced in daily press release; 3) Consequently, after recognizing that the journalistic research field is and will remain an interdisciplinary field, exploring if Sociology can in fact offer a theoretical nucleus that allows academic researchers of journalism to potentiate a theoretical and conceptual approach of the journalistic academic research field.

Perspective, techniques and procedures used

Although there are several reasons to use a methodological design of qualitative cut to relate, code and integrate the influential theory of the state from sociologist Pierre Bourdieu to the journalistic research field, the main motivation to proceed with a qualitative methodological strategy is the nature of the topic and the object of study that this work approaches. In this study, the Constant Comparative Method (CCM) was applied from the grounded theory by Strauss & Corbin (2015) to develop two specific operations: on one hand, formulating questions to raise the theoretical understanding of the disciplinary nucleus previously discussed and, on the other hand, make comparisons between the own work of Bourdieu and the contexts, structures, processes and direct consequences to the journalistic research field. Both procedures established the essential analytical process of the CCM. The value of interpretative methodology as expressed by grounded theory lies in its capacity to not only generate theory, but also base it on data and reality.

Fundamentally, the techniques and procedures used through the CCM helped the establishment of new relationships and conceptual connections to organize it in an explanatory diagram of conceptual theoretical character. The theory as well as the analysis and integration of data required a thorough and complex interpretation. On one hand, interpretation was based on a varied documental inquiry (epistemologically speaking) of an important part of Bourdieu’s work and required a slow, paused and systematic work. In that sense, when we talk about the process of comparison in the CCM, we are talking about the detailed review of the properties or theoretical dimensions of every work analyzed in the proposed theoretical nucleus, meaning the Theory of the State from French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu.

Thus, similarities and differences of the application in the conceptual category of the ICF were examined, and the field of journalistic investigation to develop two specific instrumental actions: on one hand, following Argyris (1995), to distinguishing between constructs, factors and properties of applicable theoretical-conceptual character and of a relevant nature, while they allow to explain specific consequences inside the journalistic and communication research field. On the other hand, classifying constructs, factors and properties of the ICF can be comprehended as a central category of analysis susceptible to be applied under any strategy of methodological integration (quantitative, qualitative, mixed). Specifically, the methodological procedure consisted in the punctual identification of a concept that shared characteristics of practical performance in the reviewed theoretical nucleus (in this case, the theory of state and, on another, the theory of the journalistic field) to assign the same code of identification and classification. By comparing them, the list of properties and dimensions that theoretically foresee the factor is integrated (STRAUSS; CORBIN, 2015, p. 53).

Thus, from the analyzed work, a base was obtained to measure and compare an initial list of basic properties to explore the journalistic research field as a category of study (Table 1). Evidently, this allowed more clarity and a denser and richer confection of the theoretical category, defining particularities and differences, as well as a specificity in a variety of ranges. Consequently, the procedure of classification and comparison in the CCM helped examine and integrate new organizational relations and classification of the theory according to a selective and specific set of properties and dimensions.

Table 1 Description of the theoretical contributions of the Journalistic Field in the ICF 

First order category Second order factors Third order properties
1. Journalistic Field as an Intellectual Creator Field 1. Production and diffusion of the intellectual work. 1. Criteria of the system of linked relationships in the production and communication of work.
2. Structure of the intellectual capital in the journalistic field. 2. Criteria that define the intensity and the position that the journalist occupies regarding past and present of the field.
3. Journalist’s position. 3. Specific production and circulation conditions of work.
4. Habitus inherent to the field. 4. Dominant practices of the researcher in the structure of the field.
5. Production and circulation conditions (agent and media). 5. Strategies associated to decision making.
6. Distribution of the journalistic capital. 6. Empirical effects of awareness.
7. Practical effects of decision making. 7. Aspirations and pretensions of the researcher in the structure.
8. Effects of external factors. 8. Membership and dominant criteria of the specific history of the field.
9. Analysis of the autonomy of the journalistic practice. 9. Distribution of the recognition of the journalist by peercompetitors in the ICF.
10. Historical knowledge and recognition of the researcher.
11. Continued strategies of maintenance followed by the journalist and peercompetitors.
12. Profile of the journalist.
13. Criteria of the ethical system and values of the journalist.
14. Structure and distribution of journalistic capital between agents.
15. Criteria of the journalistic capital for legitimization of the field.

Source: Own elaboration based on data from Bourdieu (1989, 1997, 1998, 2000, 2002. 2007).

As a result, we proceeded to build the integration in the category “Journalistic Field as an ICF”, a set of factors and properties according to the objectives established in the present document. Additionally, to express the constituent argumentative relationships in an integrated conceptual framework susceptible of being used to explain or predict situations, practices and phenomena present today in the journalistic research field. Thus, Table 1 concentrates the summary of the construct of the category of the first order, nine (9) factors of the second order to observe, describe and explain the behavior of the subaltern and dominant academic-scientific positions that are present today on the journalistic field and, in the third and last column, fifteen (15) descriptive and predictive indicators stand out that characterize said factors in the category of journalistic field as an ICF.


Around the ICF: Why is the journalistic research field an ICF?

A first question of openness to the theoretical understanding of the proposed disciplinary core and its possible application to the contexts, structures, processes and direct consequences of the academic research field about journalism, we establish it from one of the first works produced in this sense by Pierre Bourdieu, “Intellectual Field and Creative Project”. Here, Bourdieu (2002) points out that to grant an object of own analysis to the Sociology of intellectual creation, it is first necessary to locate the producer and his work in two relatively different levels: in one hand, inside the system of relationships that have been constituted by social agents directly linked with the production and communication of the intellectual work; on the other hand, in the position that every creator of their work occupies on an intellectual and cultural field. That is to say, because of the structure that keeps and involves these relationships between the agents and/or institutions in the fight. For Bourdieu (2002), this system of relationships that can include even editors, readers, journalists, teachers, art critics, etc., is determined by specific production conditions and circulation of its products; and works with a relative autonomy in every agent and social group that intervenes at any given moment in the fight for the appropriation of the capital that every ICF generates.

From the above, a second self-questioning is necessary to relate and apply the value of the interpretative methodology used here. In the context of relating and integrating both theoretical fields of action (Journalism and Sociology), our stated objective, although it is based on the ability to generate theory, a first requirement is necessary to fundament it in the data and in reality. Therefore, to save time in the exposition of content, the second questioning in essence is directed to the functioning of the ICF, what is required to understand the functioning of an ICF as it is the field of journalism? Fundamentally, there are three basic elements to consider in the analysis of the functioning of the ICF: first, that there is something at stake; meaning, an intellectual capital and common creator, and second, someone that is willing to take a role in the fight for the appropriation of the ICF. Also, that the producer agent (journalist, academic, scientific…) is gifted of a habitus that implies the knowledge and recognition of the inherent laws of the game that is at stake in the ICF (BOURDIEU, 2002). For this reason, Bourdieu (1997, p. 59), states that an ICF can be understood as:

A structured social space, a force field – there are dominants and dominated, there are constant relationships, permanent, and inequality that is developed within this space – which is also a field of fights to transform or preserve that force field. Each, inside their universe, compromises in their competition with others the (relative) force they posses and that defines their position in the field and, consequently, their strategies.

Applying said functioning to the inside of the field of academic research regarding journalism could be sequenced by a third questioning: how to express and evidence the functioning of the journalistic research field like an ICF? In my opinion, mostly to substantiate the expression of the studied academic reality in data or empirical evidence, which Bourdieu (2002) defines as a field structure, meaning, the state that evidences and objectifies the relationship between the producer intellectual agents that fight and the capital that is at stake (including the forms of distribution of their intellectual work) in the ICF. Consequently, when we refer to journalistic practice or, in the strict sense, the field of the academic research about journalism – and, of course, the professional practice of professional information-, we are talking about the material and symbolic structure that is the counterpart to the other fields, which could be the scientific or political fields. To Bourdieu (1997), the structure of the ICF, in such social space relatively autonomous of the production of symbolical goods, allows a comprehension of the determined position of a journalist or their professional practice in terms that transcend into the perception of a substantive reason (substantialism) like the mechanistic reason, that restricts them to their social and economic determinants.

For these and other reasons, the journalistic field can be understood, according to Bourdieu (1997, p. 57), as “a microcosm with its own laws and defined by its position in the world, as well as the attractions and the repulsions that they submit other microcosms to”, or professional and academic subfields. In any case, what we are looking to answer here is: why is the journalistic field an ICF? In my opinion, we would have to analyze additionally two specific central criteria in the works of Bourdieu, since I understand, are specific properties to be mediated in the second factor of the journalistic field as an ICF. In one hand, the intensity of the journalistic work and, in another, the position and orientation that the media and the intellectual producer – or creator – keep in the structure. Therefore, just as it happens in other professional fields, what occurs in the journalistic research field is the natural headquarter of a resulting symbolical cultural production, essentially applied intellectual work of a determined area of knowledge.

As it is well known, in the journalistic field exists more than an evaluation report of the professional activity that goes beyond what usually occurs in other fields, and maybe, like in no other cultural field; that is to say, the direct sanction of clients and the indirect sanction denominated as the index of audience. Even this last principle opens the door for us to assign one of the essential characteristics that, in my opinion, leads to distinguishing the field of journalism as a multifaceted, multidimensional and consequently, an appropriate field of study for an interdisciplinary perspective approach: we refer to the criteria that Bourdieu (1997, p. 107) underlines regarding the hierarchy of the assessment and dictum of the professional activity that is in fact a complex and contradictory criteria: “The hierarchy, according to external criteria, the success of sales, is practically the opposite of the hierarchy of the internal criteria, the journalistic seriousness”. Additionally to the complexity (and even subjectivity) of this distribution based on a structure of multiple links, complexity increases due to the place that the intellectual production occupies, depending on the media of traditional communication or emerging that produces it, since as affirmed by Bourdieu himself, that would lead us to the analysis of a series of imbricate structures on the field in function that would require the analysis of specific subfields under two poles in opposition, the cultural and the commercial:

Meaning, no matter how hard they work, almost always through the actions of singular people, the mechanisms that are established on the journalistic field and the effects they exercise on the rest of the fields are determined by its intensity and their orientation for the structure that characterizes said field

(BOURDIEU, 1997, p. 110).

Distinctions of the ICF: particularities of the academic research field of journalism

As previously discussed, Bourdieu (1997) holds that the journalistic field is autonomous, it has its own laws. A direct implication is that what happens in the field cannot be comprehended in a direct form parting from external factors. Analogous to the intellectual field, the journalistic field cannot be conceived, affirms Bourdieu (1997), as a neutral field of interindividual relationships but as it being structured as a system of relationships of power, in competition and conflict, between groups and different social agents that make up the social system and thus, are associated to different intellectual and artistic positions. Given certain previous homologations and similarities, I think we should make a distinction regarding the intellectual fields that apply, at least, in the social sciences areas. Epistemologically speaking, once a detailed review of the properties and theoretical dimensions of every work analyzed in the proposed theoretical disciplinary nucleus, meaning the Theory of State of French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu, which we want to define, distinguish and characterize here are the applicable properties of a theoretical-conceptual and relevant nature to the inside of the academic research of journalism and communication and that at the same time allows to be applied under any methodological integration strategy. For example, under what type of social conditions does the journalistic research field reside when compared to other professional fields and subfields? What is the specific role of the “intellectual”, the “ethic” or the “commercial” when we try to analyze, for example, the role that a dominant journalist plays in the structure of the field or, on the other hand, the role of the deontological code, and thus, the system of ethical, politic and ideological values with which they operate and proceed the journalistic practice in a determined professional arena? For example, supposing that the ideological-political currents have permeated the thoughts of journalists interested in the creation of knowledge, coming from other individuals, contexts and informational realities that have been historically transforming the structure of this (and other) fields, to adapt to the requirements that they find on the daily on their professional activities. Consequently, the same has happened in scientific academic communities that form the research field. Effectively, the case in Spain for example, some studies verified, allowing us to affirm that the number of members of the scientific research community of communications and journalism in Spain, has not only been duplicated in the last quarter of a century, but also this data might be the most relevant, that the academic scientific community of journalistic research has modified some characteristics, practices and strategies of research that clearly define said transformation.

Taking the evolution of the pattern of authorship of 1.000 published articles between 1990 and 2014 in five specialized magazines edited in Spain as an indicator, Martínez-Nicolás and Carrasco-Campos (2018), confirm that a) The progressive incorporation of women to the Spanish communicative research has increased its presence to half the authorships registered in the last decade (2005-2014); b) Regarding the origin of authorship in the contributions presented, the collaboration between researchers of different universities, equally increases, reaching almost 35% of the articles signed by two or more authors. Consequently, c) a radical decline of articles published and signed by a single author in the period analyzed is observed, and a corresponding increase in articles by multiple authors. Martínez-Nicolás and Carrasco-Campos (2018, p.1380), found that:

The inflection point had been produced in the transition between 2005-2009 and 2010-2014, moment in which the change of trends is so abrupt (the percentage of collaborative works is duplicated one by one, going from nearly 25% to surpassing 50%) which probably can only be explained by the pressure of external factors.

It is clear that the academic research of journalism field has by nature a complex constitution that not only presents a high variety of theoretical and methodological facets but also, internal contexts and multifactorial and multidimensional exteriors. In this sense, it is unquestionable to acknowledge that isolated knowledge will never be enough to approach complex problems that involve a considerable amount of disciplinary variables that are present today on the journalistic research field. Precisely because this, it can be understood that the academic work by Pierre Bourdieu is framed and depends highly on a first acknowledgement in the generation and application of knowledge inside the field: that practices, cognitive resources and investment made by every specialist of the journalistic research field, will have more and better performances in the process if different disciplinary theoretical nuclei are applied and integrated to the analysis of the ICF of a journalist work (thus, the creator of the work itself) that are affected by a whole system of social relationships, and in which it is realized, in essence, like an act of communication, or as Bourdieu himself indicates, “[…] more precisely, for the position of the creator in the structure of the intellectual field (which, at the same time, is in function, at least partly, of the past work and the reception it has had)” (BOURDIEU, 2002, p. 9).

Journalistic research field: analysis of the intellectual production practices and strategies

A consequent recognition exists in the conceptual theoretical proposition that Bourdieu approaches directly in the analysis of generational practices and strategies and the application of knowledge that the agents in the journalistic research field develop. It is carried out in the context of the recognition of the multidimenstional and multifacet of knowledge that is forged in every ICF in the recurrent proposition to not erase any possibility to comprehend and reflect profoundly what happens on its inside. The initiative that Bourdieu himself introduces and acknowledges as a valid academic practice since Sociology is the concept of habitus. The habitus, thus is a central conceptual theoretical factor of the second order in the construction of our category of study, is valid in the face of all issues that allow solving scientific and professional difficulties that might emerge. In that sense, Bourdieu (2002, p. 118) defines the habitus as:

The system of inconsistent dispositions produced by the internalization of objective structures. Like a geometrical place of objective determinisms and the subjective hopes, the habitus tends to produce practices (and therefore careers) objectively adherently to the objective structures.

Consequently, the habitus can be understood as the unifying principle and generator of all practices followed by the researcher in the structure of the participant scientific capital and regarding the specific history that the knowledge field carries, usually associated to the choice making or directly related as the effect of awareness of a knowledge maker agent in all ICF (BOURDIEU, 2002, p. 125):

The habitus as a system of acquired dispositions through implicit or explicit learning that works as a system of diagram generators, builds strategies that can be objectively conformed with the objective interests of its authors without being conceived directly with this purpose.

Particularly important in the analytic proposal of Bourdieu is the fact of emphasizing that the pretension that a researcher could have in the structure of the journalistic field would be a direct consequence or “automatic effect of belonging to the field and dominion of the specific history of the field that this implies” (BOURDIEU, 2002, p. 125). For this reason, and in a specific way, it is important to examine next the role that the habitus plays in the analysis and theoretical conceptual explanation that must be considered when we aspire to study the practices, strategies and academic, scientific and professional positions from a historical perspective and present inside the journalistic research field.

Which means, what are the aspirations and pretensions of the researcher or the research group within the ICF and what do they consist of? How to identify the specific properties that define the academic and professional practices that are present today in the journalistic research field while they are present acting as factors of the past which is a product of a collective or intellectual creator under study? According to Bourdieu (2007), the historical position is what confers the practices of the intellectual producer in their relative independence, regarding the determinations of the immediate present. Understanding, consequently, that all practice of academic change and transformation in the journalistic research field has a relative autonomy in which it is product of acted and acting past that functions as an accumulated individual and collective capital, producing a determined history from their own history of the field structure and assures that way the permanence in the change that individual or collective agents make.

In my opinion, the principle of differences and their location in the history of individual habitus is particularly important (LEÓN-DUARTE, 2006). In this sense, Bourdieu (2007) holds that to define the role of the intellectual creator in the history of the journalistic field structure it is necessary to locate its production in the singularity of present social trajectories in the own ICF, which, at the same time, corresponds to a series of organized and irreducible chronological determinations, one with the other. Thus, Bourdieu (2007, p. 98), affirms that:

The habitus that, in function to the structures produced by previous experiences, builds in every moment new experiences that affect those structures in limits defined by the power of their selection, making a unique integration, dominated by first experiences, experiences that are statically common to members of the same class […] It is easy to see the innumerable combinations in which the variables associated to the trajectories of each individual and the linage they come from can explain the never ending of singular differences can enter.

Once identified the position, production and role that the intellectual creator “plays” in the acted and present history of the structure of the journalistic field, I think it is highly important to consider a critical (self) questioning to the discussed theoretical core to grant more clarity and a denser and richer confection of the category under study. For example, how to identify the properties and strategies that the academic research performed in the journalistic field? What type of criteria and/or specific properties the work of Pierre Bourdieu refers to and, in turn, could characterize that category? Under what conditions does the production of knowledge in the journalistic field operates? How to identify the position that a journalistic or academic researcher occupies in the structure of the journalistic field? One of the main characteristics in the conformation of a professional and academic field such as the journalistic field is the structure of the academic and professional scientific capital distribution that intervenes there.

Namely, how the recognition or credit is distributed, which is granted to a journalist by the set of peer-competitors inside their own field. Generally, in the case of the academy field, this recognition is given by the number of citations, by the number of translations in foreign languages; by the academic or scientific awards received, etc. This act of knowing and recognizing the researcher, Bourdieu (2000) calls it scientific capital. This particular symbolic capital is also the main foundation to understand the transformations in the field made by strategies of intermediation of conservation or subversion of the structure that it produces by itself.

The production of knowledge in the journalistic field resides, according to Bourdieu (2000), on the particular social conditions of production. Those specific conditions nest, precisely, in a determined state of the structure and the functioning of the journalistic field. The production of knowledge in a professional and academic field such as journalism comes from what is supposed to be a specific method of interests from the professional information. Said practices, Bourdieu (2000) indicates, never appear to be uninterested more than as a reference to different interests, produced and demanded by other participants, in this case by journalists, publishing houses, citizens, who are at the same time the sources of the journalistic field.

As previously explained, the notion of field and journalistic field is relatively different, as Bourdieu (1997) himself points out. It is particularly emphasized here the practical sense of the role of the agent in the ICF. Which means, what has to occur when the interested student or citizen aspires to understand what they have made and realizes in the ICF, a determined journalist? Which are the parameters that must be taken into consideration for their identification in the field? According to the works of Bourdieu (2000), first two specific indicators have to be present in the journalistic field: on one hand, the position of the communication media in which it works and on the other, the journalists own position in the space of their newspaper or TV chain.

Meaning, if our own (self) questioning points to meeting particular place and results that every journalist occupies in a given moment of the structure of the professional field, therefore in the definition of the objectified position in the social and cultural institutions, and is incorporated in the practices and dispositions, a first element that is necessary to determine is the set of previous strategies of this journalist and their competitor peers (BOURDIEU, 2000). According to Bourdieu’s theory, said strategies will depend of their own power relationships between the leads in the fight in the ICF. Meaning, by the way in which the journalistic capital is distributed and from where its determined position is generated.

Trying to take the true theoretical contribution of the disciplinary theoretical core under study to the extreme, we can proceed to work in detail on a relevant and specific example to the journalistic field and the degree of influence or impact of the external factors. The approach that has been elaborated is made inside the category of study and with a single factor, in this case, effects of the factors that are external to the journalistic field. Its characterization is based on eleven properties. Repairing now the conceptual relationships and connections to Bourdieu’s works. Consequently, organize and locate in the explicative diagram of theoretical conceptual character that is summarized in Table 2.

Table 2 Effects of the external factors present in the journalistic field 

Second order factor Properties of third order
I) Effects of the external factors in the journalistic field. 1. Impact of the media and/or journalist in audiences.
2. Position of the media
3. Position of the journalist in the media.
4. Practical principles of legitimation.
5. Academic ethical recognition.
6. Effects of a higher recognition.
7. Rearranging of the journalist and impact in the structure of the field.
8. Distribution of the journalistic capital in the structure.
9. Analysis of the autonomy.
10. Expression of conflicts and contradictions.
11. Practical determination of the degree of autonomy and homogeneity.

Source: Own elaboration based on data from Bourdieu (1997, 1998, 2000, 2007).

The explicit objective is again, to characterize and distinguish between construct, factors and properties of theoretical-conceptual nature of the intellectual creator field theory of which are, additionally, applicable and of relevant character to expose the specific practical consequences inside the research field in journalism. According to the proposition made by Bourdieu (1997), and in difference to what occurs in other intellectual and cultural production fields, the journalistic field has a higher dependence of external factors and forces. In this section, a set of specific properties is identified, which add to the classification of the factor that is denominated as “Effects of the external factors present in the journalistic field” (see Table 2). Effectively, according to what Bourdieu (1997) holds, journalistic practice depends directly of demand because first it is submitted to sanctions of the market, the level of impact of the audience, the plebiscite, even more than the political field. According to the french sociologist, the alternative between cultural journalistic practice and the strictly commercial that can be observed in all fields is imposed with particular brutality in the journalistic field because the weight of the commercial pole is particularly strong (BOURDIEU, 1997, p. 77):

Of an intensity without precedents, it does not have comparison in the present, compared synchronously, with what occurs in other fields. But also, it cannot be found in the journalistic universe, the equivalent to what can be observed in the scientist, for example, that type of immanent justice that makes those who transgressed some concrete prohibitions burns or, on the contrary, those who submit themselves to the rules of the game becomes creditor of acclaim from their peers.

Consequently, we would have to question: where are the positive or negative ethical sanctions of the academic and professional journalism found and identified? To try to understand what a journalist can do in the ICF, we have to keep in mind a set of specific properties according to the journalistic field theory of Bourdieu (1997, 2000). On one hand, the position of the media that they are working with, and on another, their own position in the space of the publishing house or the journalist or TV chain. For the French sociologist, a couple of implications derived from external factors exist to understand the journalistic field as an ICF.

Thus, both of the mentioned factors are fundamental elements to understand the logical time that requires any type of contextual and temporal analysis that is an object of interest on the journalistic research field. On one hand, how the distribution of the journalistic capital is structured between the agents that take part in a determined context and moment in the structure of the journalistic field and of who the legitimacy of the field depends. On the other, what is the autonomy of journalistic practice and on what depends the degree of its autonomy. Furthermore, on what does it depend and in any case, how can practical practices and strategies of a scientific-political nature be identified and evidenced as they are a phenomena that could define specific characteristics? What do agents use to preserve or transform the journalistic field as an intellectual power creating field? (LEÓN-DUARTE, 2006).

Which means we are referring, in essence, to the diverse conditions and practices that impose the field to its own journalistic practice that is exercised in its structure. Moreover, we must take into account that the homogeneity of the journalistic field will increase, thus the actions or strategies reflected by a determined journalist of opposition between preservation and subversion tend to weaken and therefore, the probability of large periodic revolutions decreases. According to Bourdieu (2000), the agents called dominant in the professional journalistic practice, adopt strategies of preservation that tend to perpetuate the established scientific order of which they are an interested part of.

Discussion and conclusions

By relating, integrating and defining the theoretical category of first order “journalistic field as an ICF” we have tried to emphasize with the contributions and limitations of the case, first of all the practical sense of the role that the academic researcher plays against their own scientific capital of the journalistic field. Also, facing the information and the scientific production that runs in the media (social media and digital platforms; press; television; etc.) and of course, facing their own media in which the academic or professional of the information takes part. The practical sense of the theoretical core developed here applies particularly to the analysis of the generation and production of knowledge in the journalistic field, allowing to determine through a set of specific theoretical factors and properties the previous set of strategies of the academics and journalists and the set of competitor pairs. Therefore, allowing a specific analysis of the state that carries the distribution of the scientific capital and from where the dominant positions, alternatives or disruptive are generated.

Besides, the theory of state applied to the journalistic field as an ICF is explicitly heuristic in the sense it offers, as proposed here, an integral set of specific categories, factors and indicators to identify and characterize the strategies, practices and thus the positions that academics and professionals of journalism use to make sense and give meaning in the academic arena. It would be expected that academics in the field took more informed decisions about their position and of their peers regarding the epistemological and ethical relationships, as well as defining and specifying the types of differences that they wish to establish in the construct, factors and properties exposed here to generate new research questions, and even new research lines that consequently improve the practice of research when done.

Lastly, we want to highlight that all through the contribution we have worked the idea that the ICF theory of Pierre Bourdieu applied in the journalistic field helps to know, inform and examine the practices, strategies and positions acquired in a given moment by professionals and academics to act in a determined and specified situation, maximum when we aspire to connect theory with practice. Therefore, we consider that it must be taken into account that just as Barge & Craig (2009) hold, every theoretical-practical researcher focuses on the transformative practice and tends to self-critically emphasize the practices of the guild with the own professionals and academics within this particular area of study. Thus, the theoretical contributions of Pierre Bourdieu’s works mentioned here could be seen, additionally to the aforementioned, as a way of reflective commitment and as an alternative practical proposal and transformation to the research practices and strategies that are dominant today in the field of Ibero-American research in journalism and communication.


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Received: May 12, 2019; Accepted: August 02, 2019

Gustavo Adolfo León-Duarte

Currently works in the Department of Psychology and Communication at the University of Sonora. Gustavo investigates the theoretical nuclei of journalism, communication and social problems in interdisciplinary perspective. He is the Leader of the Communication Teaching and Research Group in Latin America (GEIC-AL). Degree in Communication from the University of Sonora. Master and Doctor in Journalism and Communication from the Autonomous University of Barcelona. Member of the National System of Researchers in Mexico (L-II). He has published 20 books and more than 100 articles in books and magazines. His most recent book is “Interdisciplinary and journalistic field. Case studies in Sonora, Mexico” (ISC-UNISON, 2017, 189 p.). E-mail:

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