The Press in Transition

The Press in Transition

A Comparative Study of Nicaragua,
South Africa, Jordan, and Russia

by Adam Jones

Hamburg: Deutsches Übersee-Institut
December 2001

496 pp. + preface & bibliography

Order The Press in Transition
from the Deutsches Übersee-Institut.

You can also read Chapter One,
"Towards A Comparative Model of Press Functioning",
online now!

From the Introduction to The Press in Transition:

The Press in Transition examines the functioning of the press in general and the transitional press in particular. Between theoretical bookends (Chapters 1 and 6), it details the paths taken by four media systems and six press institutions through transformations that range from the incremental to the fundamental.

The research presented here is the latest outgrowth of a near-lifelong interest in the press. As a nine-year-old at elementary school, running off mimeographed copies of a newsletter for sale to friends at five cents, I had my first intimations of journalism's power to disseminate information and forge bonds of community. Later, as an instructor and scholar, I found myself guided by the same basic ambitions. Accordingly, while this volume concerns itself with the comparative politics of journalism in transition, it is journalism of a sort as well. I see no reason to establish artificial boundaries between the two disciplines: journalism and comparative politics need not be strangers. The relationship of politics to journalism over the centuries has been intimate, even -- or especially -- for those seeking to undermine or overthrow established political orders. Think of the careers of Thomas Paine, Karl Marx, Vladimir Lenin, Rosa Luxemburg, George Orwell, Václav Havel, and Polish Prime Minister Tadeusz Mazowiecki. Think of The Conditions of the Working Class in England and Democracy in America. In which pantheon should Homage to Catalonia and Fanshen find a home, or The Soccer War, or Lenin's Tomb? Are they seminal political texts, history, or "just" great reporting? Take your pick -- or skip the pointless exercise altogether.

At the level of elite institutions and patterns of rule, the lines between politics and the press are similarly blurred. The interpenetration of media and politics in the developed West, notably the U.S., has long been grist for radical critics. Their influence on my thinking and research has been far-reaching. In addition, much of my journalistic work has been with the alternative press. I served as founding co-editor of Latin America Connexions, a Vancouver solidarity publication, for many years. While alternative media figure only peripherally in this study, I do consider them essential to realizing the broader potential of the press in society -- I did, after all, devote years of my life to helping launch and sustain one such project. My convictions about the necessity of media diversity, and my fear of corporate homogenization (with or without monopolization), derive naturally from my experience with the alternative press.

To engage with the press transitions of the last decade, in a project that has taken almost as long to research and write, has been to ride a wild tiger. The newspaper analyzed up close in the Russia case study, Izvestia, is a good example. It witnessed the sacking of its chief editor and the exodus of many senior staff barely a month after fieldwork closed. A little over a year later, it was plunged into a new crisis that was, in a sense, terminal. As part of the savage cost-cutting measures demanded of Russia's business class as the economy collapsed around it, Izvestia's owners merged it with a newly-founded daily, Russkiy Telegraf. A fresh wave of staff cuts saw the payroll of both newspapers reduced by fifty percent. The example of Barricada (Chapter 2) demonstrates that such a rollercoaster trajectory, though perhaps not typical, was far from unique.

The challenge in these pages has been to capture some of the drama, scale, and import of these transitions -- each in its way unique and utterly unpredictable. At the same time, I have tried to construct a framework that allows some unifying themes and patterns, or at least coherent lines of theoretical inquiry, to emerge. (...)

Table of Contents

Preface and Acknowledgments

Chapter One:
Towards A Comparative Model of the Press in Transition

The Mobilizing Imperative
The Professional Imperative
The "Moral Economy of Journalism"

Taking advantage of splits in sponsors' ranks
Exploiting a "Soft" Authoritarianism
Exploiting the Foreign Dimension
Presenting the Professional Imperative
as a Path to System Stability
Choosing Exit

Sabotage, Silence, Surrender


Chapter Two:
Barricada and the Struggle for the Sandinista Press

1979-1991: The Party and the Paper

The Vanguard's Vanguard
The FSLN and
Barricada: "Norming" the Material Relationship
Norming the Political Relationship

Beyond the Barricades: A New Journalism for Nicaragua, 1987-1994

1990: The Earthquake
A Revolutionary Liberalism?

In the National Interest: 1991-94
Material Crisis, Institutional Response
The Politics of Barricada, I: The Challenge of Opposition
The Politics of Barricada, II: Sandinismo and Self-Censorship

1993-94: Chronicle of a Coup Foretold

Coup and Interregnum
The "Negotiated Exit"

Back to the Barricades: An Official Press Reborn, 1994-1997

"A Relative Objectivity Such As Decency Demands"
Barricada's New Comandante: An Interview with Tomás Borge
One Who Stayed: Alfonso Malespín
Decline and Fall

The Death of Barricada

Conclusion: Barricada in Comparative Perspective


Chapter 3

Not So Black and White:
South Africa's English Press Enters the Democratic Era

Introduction: The English Press and Apartheid

The Social and Economic Legacy
Monopoly Ownership

The Press As Opposition
"The English Model": Mobilizing and Professional Imperatives

Regime Policy and the Parameters of Transition

The Media and the "Grand Bargain"
Transformation from Without: Shifting Patterns of Press Ownership
Transformations from Within, I: Political and Professional Reorientation
Transformations from Within, II: Market Reorientation
Transformations from Within, III:
Black Empowerment and Affirmative Action
"Libidinization" and the Repealing of Censorship

From Rightist to "Brightest"? A Case-Study of The Citizen

The Info Scandal and After
Meyer Abraham Johnson
Citizen Redux

Sowetan and The Star: Argus Unbundles

Sowetan and the Legacy of the Black Press
Political Identity

Nation-Building and Institution-Building
The Star: An Overview
Outreach and Affirmative Action
Experiences Under Affirmative Action
Management and the New Order

Chapter 4

Press, Regime, and Society in Jordan Since 1989


The Jordanian Media System: Broad Outlines

Authoritarianism and Tribalism

The Jordanian Liberalization: Political Parameters

The Press and the Onset of Liberalization
The Press and the Gulf War
The Rise of the Popular Press

The (Self) Censor's Scissors: Shifting Patterns of Press Legislation

Legislation: Applications, and Broader Regime Strategies

Institutional Continuities: The Limits of Liberalization

The Press and the Monarchy
The Department of Press and Publications (DPP)
The Jordan Press Association (JPA)

1994-98: The Cold Peace and After

Liberalism, Jordanian-Style: A Case-Study of the Jordan Times

The Times Under the Old Regime
The Relationship with the Sponsor
The Liberal Times

Chapter 5

Two Steps Forward, One Step Back:
Russian Journalism in the Post-Soviet Era

The Soviet Model: Mobilizing and Professional Imperatives

Portrait of a Veteran: Stanislav Kondrashov

Glasnost and the "Golden Age"

The Death of the USSR and the Onset of Material Crisis

Press and Regime in the Post-Soviet Era

Non-Regime Actors

Regional Governments
Municipal Authorities

The Para-Statal Corporations and Media Magnates

Constituencies, Old and New

Models of Professionalism


Izvestia: A Case Study

Izvestia under the Soviets
The Battle with Parliament
Political Orientation and Independence
The New/Old Constituency: Plus Ça Change ...
The Search for Sponsorship
Coup and Aftermath

Chapter 6

Conclusion: The Press in Transition

Overview of the Press in Transition

Transition and the Crisis of Resources

Mobilizers in Transition: Regimes and Non-Regimes Actors

Non-Regime Actors

Institutional Responses

Transformations in Staffing and Infrastructure
The Quest for a Constituency

The Professional Imperative in Transition

A Model of the Press in Transition

Staying Alive