French Journal For Media Research

Etienne Damome

Marc-François Bernier, Les journalismes : information, persuasion, promotion, divertissement. Laval-Québec, Presses Universitaires de Laval, 137 p.

1“There is no journalism. There are several journalisms.” Marc-François Bernier’s work begins with this solemn declaration. Journalism is dead. Long live journalisms, we might paraphrase. The author immediately explains his reasoning so as to reassure those who might be somewhat disturbed by this provocative statement. In his view, we are confronted with a plurality of practices, especially as the aims and functions of these practices also differ. We can thus speak of forms of journalisms, of the “fragmentation of a moral, social, political, ideological, cultural and economic activity” (p. 3) recognisable as such everywhere and in all circumstances. A convenient stance and expression to better reflect the daily work, the relationship with the profession of all those who can call themselves journalists, wherever in the world they practice. Out with the normative discourse on Journalism. It is a “misleading illusion” from which we must “free ourselves” (p. 3).

2The first chapter deconstructs precisely this illusion of a single journalism, outlining the principles that allow us to establish a typology of journalisms. The fundamental criterion considered is function. Each function is understood as drawing on specific values, activities, roles and content and therefore as defining the boundaries of a specific profession, both independently and in conjunction with others. As such, there is information journalism, influence journalism, awareness journalism and entertainment journalism. But once again, we must speak of journalism in the plural form, first, because practices vary, and second, because the relationship to function and practices is unique when considered at the individual level. The author therefore asserts that “there are almost as many journalisms as journalists”. At the same time, he recognises that this heterogeneity may create an identity malaise since those who practice journalism do not seem to clearly see how they are connected to others within the profession, while they see more clearly what they have in common with a multitude of individuals who fulfil the same functions – at times with the same practices and means – without claiming the title of “journalist”. After establishing these principles, the rest of the book presents each of the components of the typology.

3The second chapter presents “information journalisms” as a “metacategory” that groups together information journalists, investigative journalists, generalists and specialists in specific fields. This grouping is based on function, information, and compliance with the code of professional conduct.

4The third chapter is devoted to “persuasive journalisms” which are more visible “today due to economic and technological factors” (p. 43). This category is represented by journalists whose discourse touches upon opinions, attitudes, cognitive processes and behaviours. We may cite activist journalists who defend a cause, or those who use satire, along with editorial writers, columnists, critics and those who address gender issues. One principle unites them: freedom of expression.

5The next chapter presents “promotional journalists,” those who Jean Charon and Jean de Bonville describe as practising communication journalism. This category comprises journalists who produce promotional content and collaborate with their sources, private companies and public institutions. It includes what is referred to as ‘source journalism’, which consists of those who are employed by organisations; a journalism of solutions that is sometimes referred to as positive journalism or civic journalism, meaning journalism that serves citizens and democracy, the journalism of peace and conflict resolution, the journalism of development and that of brands or advertising.

6The final chapter presents “entertainment journalisms”. This includes journalists whose role is to foster emotions, thus characterized by their proximity to the worlds of aesthetics (performance, fashion, arts, etc.), enjoyment (travel, cooking, leisure, etc.) and passions (sports, etc.).

7The primary benefit of this work is that it defines journalism from the perspective of function. This creates complementarity between journalists and breaks down the artificial and self-promoting hierarchies found in the profession. Thus, instead of viewing journalism as a community, an entity whose purpose is internal, meaning that it is sufficient in itself, it is perceived as a society with a purpose which is directed outwards and governed by a common set of rules. Defining journalism based on function also effectively leads us to recognise practices related to institutional promotion as journalism, on the same level as others, without value judgements. This is why the use of the plural takes a more democratic stance than the singular, which imposes a normative theory of journalism as the gold standard.

8This stance is innovative in that it breaks with the idea that it is not the context that creates diversity, but the purposes connected to practices. Indeed, the diversity of journalism has never been called into question, since the reality covers a multitude of different professions, whatever the media sector. The general trend probably tends to consider that models of journalism emerge based on the relationship with facts. Others evoke journalistic pluralism in reference to the socio-political and cultural contexts that shape practices and impose a particular relationship with the profession. In such a scenario, there would be as many journalisms as countries. What is new here is that Marc-François Bernier does not say that the journalism is the same, but rather that it is practised more or less differently in different contexts. He says that, regardless of the context, there are, in fact, many journalisms.

9That said, one might nevertheless wonder why the term journalism is used for all of these functions. Does this not indirectly imply that there is a fundamental principle whereby even those who do different things and pursue diverging interests are considered to practise journalism? The very existence of the word journalism means that we must search for what constitutes unity amidst diversity, for the essence amidst the diversity of accidents. Function represents something; it is not the primary principle. As such, it is perhaps regrettable that the author has not defined the term, even though the principle of a typology is based on the idea that categories only exist because a common whole exists. The definition may be misleading, of course, since there is a risk of relating everything to the dominant type. However, it is precisely the act of defining, which is carried out through grouping-exclusion that allows us to determine the essential, and therefore common characteristics of a given reality. When we start out with the one, we can better see the multiple. When we start out with the multiple, it is harder to see the one. In the case of journalism, it is the one that provides the basis for the multiple and not the other way around. We may therefore conclude that using functions or practices as a starting point only allows us to define journalism by abstraction.

To quote this document

Etienne Damome, «Marc-François Bernier, Les journalismes : information, persuasion, promotion, divertissement. Laval-Québec, Presses Universitaires de Laval, 137 p.», French Journal For Media Research [online], Browse this journal/Dans cette revue, 16/2021 Children and youths in the center, Notes de lecture, last update the : 03/02/2022, URL :

Quelques mots à propos de :  Etienne Damome

Etienne Damome

HDR lecturer (accredited to supervise research) in Information and Communication Sciences

MICA (EA 4426) – Bordeaux Montaigne University.

As the head of the “Media, Culture and Society” research area, he analyses contemporary developments in media and journalism



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