Rethinking news media and local government: Journalism, politics and symbolic power

Kristy Hess, Lisa Waller

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


This essay explores why the relationship between news media and local government has been of little interest in journalism studies, especially in the Australian context. We argue that the reasons are complex but can be traced to issues of symbolic recognition and legitimacy. An overview of local government and news media in Australia and Aotearoa/New Zealand grounds the discussion in journalism and democratic theory. We draw on Bourdieu’s tradition of field-based research and theories of media power to highlight the important role 19th-century newspapers played in the establishment of municipalities. We then argue that local government’s omission from the Australian Constitution relates to issues of legitimacy and recognition that are reflected in the wider field of power and perpetuated within journalism practice and scholarship. Finally, practitioner perspectives and contemporary research under-line the need for critical engagement and inquiry that recognise the fundamental importance of news and politics closest to the people.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5-18
Number of pages14
JournalAustralian Journalism Review
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2016
Externally publishedYes


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