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Defending Journalistic Authority in the Current Information Disorder Metajournalistic Discourses on Disinformation in the French Press 2017-2022

Renaud, P. (2023). Defending Journalistic Authority in the Current Information Disorder Metajournalistic Discourses on Disinformation in the French Press 2017-2022. (Unpublished Doctoral thesis, City, University of London)


Ongoing disruptions to information ecosystems, especially from social media content, have brought into focus the pressure on journalists to identify disinformation. Epistemically, they are, thus, compelled to defend their authority as providers of independent and reliable information, against eroding trust levels and competing truth telling claims. In France, politics became interested, during Emmanuel Macron’s first term (2017-2022), in questions of truth and falsehood through “anti-fake news” regulations. For French journalism, this has meant greater threats to its prerogatives. Drawing on metajournalistic discourse and field theory, this research examines French media and journalists’ narratives on disinformation to understand how their authority is articulated, the functions of that discourse vis-à-vis society and their community, as well as limits for recreating trust with audiences. This study — building on the discourse analysis of nearly 400 news articles published between 2017 and 2022, and qualitative interviews with 15 journalists — compares narratives from the perspectives of journalistic authority, roles, and responsibilities. The findings highlight discrepancies between collective perceptions and individual conceptions: in the articles analysed, discussing disinformation serves as a catalyst to defend autonomy, by establishing boundaries around the journalistic community. While this public discourse helps stabilise the field, normalising practices, norms, and participants, it leaves little room for reflections on responsibility. Interviews, on the other hand, show a less united front, as journalists struggle to reconcile ideals and practices. By considering the interplay between journalists, news organisations and other actors of the social space, the significance of this research lies in providing a nuanced picture of French journalism, increasingly forced to perform a complex balancing act between ideals of autonomy and imperatives of accountability. Arguing that journalistic authority in the current information disorder rests as much on role affirmation as on responsibility admission, this research proposes reconsidering accountability mechanisms at the organisational, professional, and national levels.

Publication Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Subjects: D History General and Old World > DC France
J Political Science > JF Political institutions (General)
Departments: School of Communication & Creativity > Journalism
School of Communication & Creativity > School of Communication & Creativity Doctoral Theses
Doctoral Theses
[thumbnail of Renaud Thesis 2023 PDF-A_Redacted.pdf] Text - Accepted Version
This document is not freely accessible until 30 November 2026 due to copyright restrictions.


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