Hostname: page-component-cd4964975-xtmlv Total loading time: 0 Render date: 2023-03-27T21:26:43.517Z Has data issue: true Feature Flags: { "useRatesEcommerce": false } hasContentIssue true

Field Theory, Cultural Capital, and the First Amendment: Two Paradoxes in the Legitimation of News

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  27 December 2018


Does law influence the legitimation of news? I examine legitimations offered during ethics debates about news stories in which private people are thrust into the media spotlight. When navigating the space between what can be published lawfully and what should be published, journalism organizations offer legitimations that vary in ways that reflect the hierarchy of legal frameworks for decision. According to field theory, the cultural capital of the juridical field is constitutive of status hierarchies in the journalism field, even though the First Amendment leaves journalism to structure itself. This structuring leads to two paradoxes. First, in the performance of negative legitimation, news organizations justify ethics violations by converting the minimum standard of lawful speech into claimsmaking about laudable speech. Second, in acts of displacing legitimation, reporters suggest that more publicity is the remedy for invading privacy, translating the valorization of speech rights over privacy rights into a puzzling norm.

Copyright © American Bar Foundation, 2012 

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)



Adkins, David C. 2004. Right to Privacy?: Why the Private Facts Tort Cannot Coexist with the First Amendment. First Amendment Law Review 2:325–50.Google Scholar
Bennett, W. Lance. 2004. Gatekeeping and Press‐Government Relations: A Multigated Model of News Construction. In Handbook of Political Communication Research, ed. Lee Kaid, Lynda, 283314. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.Google Scholar
Benson, Rodney. 1998. Field Theory in Comparative Context: A New Paradigm for Media Studies. Theory and Society 28:463–98.Google Scholar
Benson, Rodney. 2004. Bringing the Sociology of Media Back In. Political Communication 21 (3): 275–92.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Benson, Rodney. 2006. New Media as a “Journalistic Field”: What Bourdieu Adds to New Institutionalism, and Vice Versa. Political Communication 23 (2): 187202.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Benson, Rodney, and Neveu, Erik, ed. 2005. Bourdieu and the Journalism Field. Cambridge, UK: Polity Press.Google Scholar
Boorstin, Daniel. [1962] 1987. The Image: A Guide to Pseudo‐Events in America. New York: Random House.Google Scholar
Bourdieu, Pierre. 1977. Outline of a Theory of Practice, trans. Richard Nice. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Bourdieu, Pierre. [1983] 1993. The Field of Cultural Production, or the Economic World Reversed. In The Field of Cultural Production, ed. Johnson, Randal, 2972. New York: Columbia University Press.Google Scholar
Bourdieu, Pierre. 1986. The Forms of Capital. In Handbook of Theory and Research for the Sociology of Education, ed. Richardson, John G., 241–58. New York: Greenwood.Google Scholar
Bourdieu, Pierre. 1987. The Force of Law: Toward a Sociology of the Juridical Field. Hastings Law Journal 38:805–53.Google Scholar
Bourdieu, Pierre. 1995. The Political Field, the Social Science Field, and the Journalistic Field. In Bourdieu and the Journalistic Field, ed. Benson, Rodney and Neveu, Erik, 2947. Cambridge, UK: Polity.Google Scholar
Clayman, Steven E., and Reisner, Ann. 1998. Gatekeeping in Action: Editorial Conferences and Assessments of Newsworthiness. American Sociological Review 63 (2): 178–99.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Champagne, Patrick, and Marchetti, Dominique. 1994. L'information Medicale Sous Contrainte: A Propos du “Scandale du Sang Contamine.” Actes de la Recherché en Sciences Sociales 101102.Google Scholar
Cohen, Henry. 2004. CRS Report to Congress: Freedoms of Speech and Press: Exceptions to the First Amendment. Washington, DC: Congressional Research Service.Google Scholar
Coombe, Rosemary J. 1989. Room for Manoeuver: Toward a Theory of Practice in Critical Legal Studies. Law & Social Inquiry 14 (1): 69121.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Couldry, Nick. 2003. Media Meta‐Capital: Extending the Range of Bourdieu's Field Theory. Theory and Society 32 (5/6): 653–77.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Dayan, Daniel, and Katz, Elihu. 1992. Media Events: The Live Broadcasting of History. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
DiMaggio, Paul J., and Powell, Walter W. 1983. The Iron Cage Revisited: Institutional Isomorphism and Collective Rationality in Organizational Fields. American Sociological Review 48 (2): 147–60.Google Scholar
DiMaggio, Paul J., and Powell, Walter W. 1991. Introduction. In The New Institutionalism in Organizational Analysis, ed. DiMaggio, Paul J. and Powell, Walter W., 138. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
Edelman, Lauren B., Uggen, Christopher, and Erlanger, Howard S. 1999. The Endogeneity of Legal Regulation: Grievance Procedures as Rational Myth. American Journal of Sociology 105 (2): 406–54.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Ewick, Patricia, and Silbey, Susan S. 1998. The Common Place of Law: Stories from Everyday Life. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Fraser, Andrea. 2001. Sensation Chronicle. Social Text 67 (19/2): 128–56.Google Scholar
Galtung, Johan, and Ruge, Mari Holmboe. 1964. The Structure of Foreign News: The Presentation of the Congo, Cuba and Cyprus Crises in Four Norwegian Newspapers. Journal of Peace Research 2 (1): 6491.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Gans, Herbert. 1979. Deciding What's News: A Study of CBS Evening News, NBC Nightly News, Newsweek and Time. New York: Pantheon.Google Scholar
García‐Villegas, Mauricio. 2006. Comparative Sociology of Law: Legal Fields, Legal Scholarships, and the Social Sciences in Europe and the United States. Law & Social Inquiry 31 (2): 343–82.Google Scholar
Greenawalt, Kent. 1980. Speech and Crime. American Bar Foundation Research Journal 5 (4): 645785.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Hagan, John, and Levi, Ron. 2005. Crimes of War and the Force of Law. Social Forces 83 (4): 14991534.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Halliday, Terence C., and Carruthers, Bruce G. 2007. The Recursivity of Law: Global Norm‐Making and National Lawmaking in the Globalization of Corporate Insolvency Regimes. American Journal of Sociology 112 (4): 11351202.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Hesmondhalgh, David. 2006. Bourdieu, the Media and Cultural Production. Media Culture and Society 28:211–31.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Holt, Douglas B. 1997. Does Cultural Capital Structure American Consumption? Journal of Consumer Research 25:115.Google Scholar
Krotoszynski, Ronald J. 2006. Comparative Law, Free Speech, and the Central Meaning of the First Amendment. In The First Amendment in Cross‐Cultural Perspective: A Comparative Legal Analysis of the First Amendment, 111. New York: New York University Press.Google Scholar
Lee, Orville. 2001. Legal Weapons of the Weak? Democratizing the Force of Words in an Uncivil Society. Law & Social Inquiry 26 (4): 847–90.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Lenoir, Rémi. 1994. La Parole est aux Juges: Crise de la Magistrature et Champ Journalistique. Actes de la Recherché en Sciences Sociales 101102.Google Scholar
Lester, Marilyn. 1980. Generating Newsworthiness: The Interpretative Construction of Public Events. American Sociological Review 45 (6): 984–94.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Lizardo, Omar. 2005. Can Cultural Capital Theory be Reconsidered in the Light of World Polity Institutionalism? Evidence from Spain. Poetics 33:81110.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Marlière, Philippe. 1998. Rules of the Journalistic Field: Pierre Bourdieu's Contribution to the Sociology of Media. European Journal of Communication 13:219–34.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Martin, John Levi. 2003. What is Field Theory? American Journal of Sociology 109 (1): 149.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Meyer, John, and Rowan, Brian. [1977] 1991. Formal Structure as Myth and Ceremony. American Journal of Sociology 83 (2): 340–63.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Mill, John Stuart. [1843] 1976. A System of Logic, Ratiocinative and Inductive: Being a Connected View of the Principles of Evidence and the Methods of Scientific Investigation, 8th ed. New York: Longmans.Google Scholar
Molotch, Harvey, and Lester, Marilyn. 1974. News as Purposive Behavior: On the Strategic Use of Routine Events, Accidents, and Scandals. American Sociological Review 39:101–11.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Nielsen, Laura Beth. 2000. Situating Legal Consciousness: Experiences and Attitudes of Ordinary Citizens about Law and Street Harassment. Law and Society Review 34 (4): 1055–90.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Nielsen, Laura Beth. 2006. License to Harass: Law, Hierarchy, and Offensive Public Speech. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
O'Neill, Robert M. 2002. Rights in Conflict: The First Amendment's Third Century. Law and Contemporary Problems 65 (2): 731.Google Scholar
Pedriana, Nicholas, and Stryker, Robin. 1997. Culture Wars 1960s Style: Equal Employment Opportunity—Affirmative Action Law and the Philadelphia Plan. American Journal of Sociology 103 (3): 633–91.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Pinto, Louis. 1994. Le Journalisme Philosophique. Actes de la Recherché en Sciences Sociales 101102.Google Scholar
Ragin, Charles. 1989. The Comparative Method: Moving Beyond Qualitative and Quantitative Methods. Berkeley: University of California Press.Google Scholar
Reisner, Ann E. 1992. The News Conference: How Daily Newspaper Editors Construct the Front Page. Journalism Quarterly 69 (4): 971–86.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Rosenfeld, Michel. 2008. Regulation of Hate Speech. In Global Perspectives on Constitutional Law, ed. Vikram, David Amar and Tushnet, Mark V., 181–97. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
Saguy, Abigail C., and Stuart, Forrest. 2008. Culture and Law: Beyond a Paradigm of Cause and Effect. Annuals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 619 (1): 149–64.Google Scholar
Savelsberg, Joachim J., and King, Ryan D. 2005. Institutionalizing Collective Memories of Hate: Law and Law Enforcement in Germany and the United States. American Journal of Sociology 111 (2): 579616.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Schauer, Frederick. 2001. Free Speech and the Social Construction of Privacy. Social Research 68 (1): 221–32.Google Scholar
Schoenfeld, Heather. 2010. Mass Incarceration and the Paradox of Prison Conditions Litigation. Law and Society Review 44 (3/4): 731–68.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Schudson, Michael. 1989. The Sociology of News Production. Media, Culture & Society 11 (3): 263–82.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Schudson, Michael. 1996. The Sociology of News Revisited. In Mass Media and Society, Second Edition, ed. Curran, James and Gurevitch, Michael, 141–59. London: Arnold.Google Scholar
Shapiro, Michael. 1962. The Right of Privacy: Normative‐Descriptive Confusion in the Defense of Newsworthiness. University of Chicago Law Review 30:722–34.Google Scholar
Shoemaker, Pamela J., Eichholz, Martin, Kim, Eunyi, and Wrigley, Brenda. 2001. Individual and Routine Forces in Gatekeeping. Journalism and Mass Communication Quarterly 78 (2): 233–46.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Terdiman, Richard. 1987. Translator's Introduction. The Force of Law: Toward a Sociology of the Juridical Field. Hastings Law Journal 38:805–53.Google Scholar
Tuchman, Gaye. 1978. Making News: A Study in the Construction of Reality. New York: Free Press.Google Scholar
Weber, Max. [1915] 1946. Religious Rejections of the World and their Directions. In From Max Weber: Essays in Sociology, trans. and ed. H. H. Gerth and C. Wright Mills, 323–62. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar

Cases Cited

Brandenburg v. Ohio, 395 U.S. 444 (1969).Google Scholar
Dameron v. Washington Magazine, 779 F.2d 736 (D.D.C. 1985), cert. denied, 476 U.S. 1141 (1986).Google Scholar
Gertz v. Robert Welch, 418 U.S. 323 (1974).Google Scholar
Gilbert v. Medical Economics, 665 F.2d 305 (10th Cir. 1981).Google Scholar
Hazlitt v. Fawcett Publications, 116 F. Supp. 538 (D. Conn. 1953).Google Scholar
New York Times v. Sullivan, 376 U.S. 254 (1964).Google Scholar
Planned Parenthood of Columbia/Willamette v. American Coalition of Life Activists, 290 F.3d 1058 (9th Cir. 2002).Google Scholar
Rosenbloom v. Metromedia, 403 U.S. 29 (1971).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Shulman v. Group W Productions, 944 P.2d 469 (Cal. 1998).Google Scholar
Texas v. Johnson, 491 U.S. 397 (1989).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Virginia v. Black, 538 U.S. 343 (2003).Google Scholar

Appendix: Media Data

Associated Press. n.d. Associated Press Statement of News Principles and Values, (accessed November 19, 2010).Google Scholar
Associated Press. 2003. Cubs Fan Bartman Goes from Goat to Antihero. Published by NBC Sports. (accessed November 19, 2010).Google Scholar
Bartman, Steve. 2003. Statement Released Wednesday, October 15.,2933,100218,00.html (site no longer active).Google Scholar
Brennan, Christine. 2003. Keeping Score. USA Today, October 15.Google Scholar
Butterfield, F., and Tabor, Mary B. W. 1991. Woman in Florida Rape Inquiry Fought Adversity and Sought Acceptance. New York Times, April 17, with editorial correction dated April 26.Google Scholar
Defede, Jim. 2003. Tempting Offer: Fine Life in Exile for Reviled Fan. Miami Herald, October 16. (site no longer active).Google Scholar
Good Morning America. 2003. Steve Bartman: Cubs Fan Who Blocked Catch of Foul Ball. (First broadcast October 16, 2003 by ABC News.)Google Scholar
Greenfield, Jimmy. 2004. Bartman Today. Chicago Tribune, February 26.‐040226bartman‐redeye‐story,1,4797139.story (site no longer active).Google Scholar
Haysom, Ian. 2003. Name Gives Us Pause to Consider. Times Colonists (Victoria, BC), October 18.Google Scholar
Janega, James. 2003. The Fan: “I Am So Truly Sorry.” Chicago Tribune, October 15.Google Scholar
Kurtz, Howard. 2003. Writing Hot on the Trail of the Lefty. Washington Post, October 20.Google Scholar
Lieber, Ron. 2003. How One Man Went from Regular Fan to a Cubs Legend: Steve Bartman's Foul Play Was Instant Hit on Web. Wall Street Journal, October 16.Google Scholar
Overholser, Geneva. 1996. Suppose He Didn't Do It? Washington Post, August 4.Google Scholar
Rhodes, Steve. 2003. The Foul Fan and Other Cubs Stories. Chicago Magazine, October 16.Google Scholar
Smoking Gun, The. 2003. Meet Steve Bartman., October 15. (page later revised to:‐fan‐who‐pulled‐bartman) (accessed November 19, 2010).Google Scholar
Society of Professional Journalists. 1996. Code of Ethics. (accessed November 19, 2010).Google Scholar
Spitter, The. n.d. Interfering Fan Mysteriously Killed 27 Times. Spitter. http://www.spitter.comspitter_interfering_fan.htm (site no longer active).Google Scholar
Steele, Bob. 2003. Cubs Fan Goes Public; Ethical Issue Shifts. PoynterOnline, October 15, updated October 16, 2003. (accessed November 19, 2010).Google Scholar
Steinberg, Neil. 2003. Forgive the Fan—There's Always Next Year. Chicago Sun‐Times, October 17.Google Scholar
Strupp, Joe. 2003. Sun‐Times Identifies Cubs Foul Ball Fan. Editor & Publisher, October 15. (site no longer active).Google Scholar