The Croatian public sphere and the journalistic milieu
Social theorist Jürgen Habermas describes the public sphere as a network for communicating information and perspectives that creates public opinion, a network which is neither of the state, nor of private economic and household life. The ideal public sphere is a rational communicative process allowing participation in political and scholarly debates towards finding agreement, where speakers and addressees need not talk about themselves. Habermas does not blur the line between public and private; the two complement each other instead. Intersubjectivities reach consensus---or achieve what journalism calls "professional objectivity".
Drawing from ethnographic fieldwork conducted from 1999 to 2003 and contextualized with historical sources, this dissertation explores these Habermasian ideals with data from the everyday life of Croatian journalists, important participants in transforming their post-socialist, post-war nation-state. Using broad strokes, the public sphere model is useful to describe transitional Croatia, but, when we look at the fine grains of the everyday lifeworld and put the newsroom in the wider context of culture, the communicative rationality of the journalistic milieu is not just the complementarity of the public and private, but the complicative, as well.
The concept of the public sphere is a useful analytic descriptor for institutional creatures with a "monolithic" identity as "journalist". Ethnography, however, shows us journalists as individuals---individuals with sanguine and affinal ties, with organizational and associative pulls, with overt and covert identities. As I tell the stories of Croatian broadcast reporters and consider their ever-evolving subject matter (in this case, the Croatian presidency), I describe molecular variables of the journalistic field within wider cultural articulations. I find the concept of the public sphere needs to include a rhizomic model of communication, where uncentered connections are made or broken at any given spot, with interruptions and new networking happening at any occasion. As planes of communication mediate between structured orderly thinking on the one hand and the chaos of chance happenings and the complexity of their ever-shifting origins and outcomes on the other, Habermas' modernist attempts to find the normative place in communicative rationality are fleeting when working from the ground up in the Croatian journalistic milieu.
0708: Mass media