Challenged by the state and the Internet: Struggles for professionalism in Southeast Asian journalism

Emilie Lehmann-Jacobsen


As in other regions, journalism in Southeast Asia is under pressure. Journalists in many of the region’s emerging markets have to develop their profession while struggling with changing market conditions, increasingly more demanding audiences, different degrees of authoritative states and growing competition from the Internet. Based on qualitative interviews and drawing on a combination of role theory and Pierre Bourdieu’s field theory, this article compares the role performances of journalists in Singapore and Vietnam by looking into the different expectations journalists in the two countries meet. The article illustrates how journalists continue to feel most conflicted about conforming with the states’ expectations to their profession. However, online actors imposing on the journalistic field are beginning to have a progressively bigger impact. Though they push the boundaries and set the media agenda, journalists fear they are changing the journalistic habitus, devaluing the journalistic capital and eroding years’ worth of professionalization progress.


Journalism; professionalization; media regulation; Internet; field theory; role theory; Southeast Asia

Full Text:



Aubert, W. (1979). Sosiologi 1. Sosialt samspill. Oslo: Universitetsforlaget. Benson, R. (1998). Field theory in a comparative context: a new paradigm for media studies. Theory and Society, 28, 463-498. Benson, R. & Neveu, E. (2005). Bourdieu and the journalistic field. Cambridge: Polity Press. Benson, R. (2013). Shaping immigration news: a French-American comparison. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Bourdieu, P. (1984). Distinction: A social critique of the judgment of taste. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul Ltd. Bourdieu, P. (1993). The field of cultural production. Cambridge: Polity Press. Bourdieu, P. (1998). On television and journalism. London: Pluto Press. Bourdieu, P. (2005). The political field, the social science field, and the journalistic field. In Benson, R. & Neveu, E. (Eds.), Bourdieu and the journalistic field (pp. 29-47). Cambridge: Polity Press. Champagne, P. (2005). The ‘double dependency’: the journalistic field between politics and the market. In Benson, R. & Neveu, E. (Eds.), Bourdieu and the journalistic field (pp. 48-63). Cambridge: Polity Press. Dickinson, R. (2008). Studying the sociology of journalists: the journalistic field and the news world. Sociology Compass, 2(5), 1383-1399. Freedom House. 2015a. Freedom in the world 2015: Singapore. (accessed June 30, 2016). Freedom House. 2015b. Freedom in the world 2015: Singapore. (accessed June 30, 2016). Hindin, M. J. (2007). Role Theory. In Ritzer, G. (Ed.) Blackwell Encyclopedia of Sociology. (accessed August 20, 2015). Huong, D. T. T. (2008). Radio and its listenership in the Internet Age – Case study of the Voice of Vietnam (VOV) and VOVNews. PhD diss., Bournemouth University. Kahn, R. L., Wolfe, D. M., Quinn, R. P., Snoek, J. D. & Rosenthal, R. A. (1966). Adjustment to role conflict and ambiguity in organizations. In Thomas, E. J. & Biddle, B. J. (Eds.), Role theory: Concepts and research (pp. 277-282). New York: John Wiley & Sons. Møller Hartley, J. (2013). The online journalist between ideals and audiences. Journalism Practice, 7(5), 572-587. Doi: 10.1080/17512786.2012.755386 Neveu, E. (2005). Bourdieu, the Frankfurt School, and cultural studies: on some misunderstandings, in Bourdieu and the journalistic field, In Benson, R. & Neveu, E. (Eds.), Bourdieu and the journalistic field (pp. 195-213). Cambridge: Polity Press. Thomas, E. J. & Biddle, B. J. (1966). The nature and history of role theory. In Thomas, E. J. & Biddle, B. J. (Eds.), Role theory: Concepts and research (pp. 3-19). New York: John Wiley & Sons. Reporters Without Borders. (2016a). Press Freedom Index: Singapore. (Accessed June 30, 2016). Reporters Without Borders. (2016b). Press Freedom Index: Vietnam. (Accessed June 30, 2016). Yew, L. K. (1971). The mass media and new countries. Address to the General Assembly of the International Press Institute, Helsinki, June 9, 1971. Willig, I. (2012). Newsroom ethnography in a field perspective, Journalism 14(3), 372-387. Doi: 10.1177/1464884912442638 Willig, I., Waltorp, K. & Møller Hartley, J. (2015). Field theory approaches to new media practices: An introduction and some theoretical considerations, MedieKultur 31(58), 1-12. Willig, I. (2016). Field theory and media production: a bridge-building strategy. In Paterson, C., Lee, D., Saha, A., Zoellner, A. (Eds.), Advancing media production research (pp. 53-67). Palgrave Macmillan.


This website uses cookies to allow us to see how the site is used. The cookies cannot identify you or any content at your own computer.

ISSN: 1901-9726

Hosted by the Royal Danish Library