Year

2000

Degree Name

Master of Arts (Hons.)

Department

Graduate School of Journalism

Abstract

The collapse of communism in Eastern Europe in 1989 and the dramatic political, economic and social change, which occurred almost simultaneously throughout the region, has been the subject of a variety of studies. Different theories on the collapse of communism have approached this from perspectives based on assumptions such as the system's inability to "modernise" or secure progress, relative deprivation, loss of legitimacy, and institutional dysfunction, to name just a few (Wnuk-Lipinski 1995,Juchler 1996).

All of these studies were based on some kind of "transformation" concept, or more recently, "transition", which is extended to studies of mass media in postcommunist societies. "Transition" conceptually can have very different meanings and needs to be clarified. It suggests that there is a movement from one stage to another, that is, from communism/ authoritarianism to capitalism/ democracy. The problem with this view is its inherent value-ladenness: these labels referring to different political systems have the connotations of "control" on one hand and "freedom" on the other. This duality is too simplistic, and does not accurately describe the way media systems function.

The research presented here challenges the idea that political and economic labels can be used exclusively to describe ~ media system. Such labels tend to redefine the media systems of postcommunist countries as "progressing" from one type to another. Theoretically, it can be said that all media systems are in transition, in the sense of continuous adaptation, and that this is a process of mediation, adjustment, and trying to reach a compromise between freedom and control. The role of the journalist, at the centre of this transitional process, will be examined.

This research on the press in postcommunist Poland is geared towards three outcomes. Firstly, previous research on the media, specifically the press, in Poland and other postcommunist or "transitional" countries will be analysed to suggest a more general theory which can be used to describe and compare media systems. Secondly, based on the general theory, a model for describing media systems, including those in transition, will be proposed, using Poland as an example. Thirdly, the role of journalists in Polish print media today is examined within this framework.

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