Braständaren och iakttagaren : engelsk press och journalistik 1695-1825

Detta är en avhandling från Eslöv : B. Östlings bokförl. Symposion

Sammanfattning: The role of the press for the development of democracy is studied in the case of the English press and journalism of the 18th and early 19th centuries. In a first sub-investigation the issue is engaged on a theoretical level. Against the ”negative” backdrop of three modern theories of press and democracy: a Swedish version of ”the social responsibility theory”, a liberal press theory, and Jürgen Habermas’s concept ”the public sphere”, classical examples of the political role of the English press are submitted to a new reading. While the theories referred to tend to honour a rational press, the new reading asks if the irrational qualities of the press can have been crucial to the development of Western democracy. The method is an analysis of content and argument, first of the political press and then of the moral press. The preliminaries are subsequently taken into account in a discussion of British political history of the 18th century and Enlightenment ideas.The first sub-investigation leads on to a second, going into the details of form, style and function of essay journalism. The method is a close reading, where the effects of the literary technique on such functions as opinion formation and description of reality is discussed. The periodical essays of Daniel Defoe and Richard Steele are highlighted, and a journalistic tradition is outlined, suggesting a merger between the periodical essay and older forms of portrayal of men and manners. It is further shown that even if the typical essay papers died out, their journalism continued to flourish after 1800. The parliamentary portraits of Thomas Barnes for the critical weekly Examiner and John Wights pioneering ”human interest stories” for the daily Morning Herald were new forms of the same tradition. This tradition represent a journalism that challenged modern journalistic taboos of blending facts and values, of subjectivity and irrationality - yet, it also can claim the right to the epithet ”modern”. Its opinion formation was provocative but at the same time open-ended; its description of reality questioned reality while at the same time describing. As a substitute to the classical but unjustified role of a ”Fourth Estate” the essay press is offered the role of a firelighter. This role is better in line with its low and contradictory character, yet the irreverence it personifies may have brought about the English culture of discussion, perhaps the crucial element of democracy. While the firelighter also subsumes the political journalist, the moral journalist is portrayed as another professional profile. The watcher insisted on the personal point of view and expression, and he was always sensitive to the ironies of life.

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