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Public intellectuals and the media: integrating media theory into a stalled debate

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A continuing debate regarding public intellectuals consistently involves a narrative of decline. This declinist position rests on an assumption that the media are central to the public intellectual role, though the declinists focus strictly on institutional explanations, to the neglect of the role played by the media. This paper explains how the application of media theory to this debate will give us a better understanding of the public intellectual. I suggest five avenues for the integration of communication theory into the study of public intellectuals. First, there are fruitful comparisons to be made between public intellectuals and journalists. Second, the ritual dimension of public intellectual communication is worth exploring. Third, we should consider the roles played by media organizations and institutions as they shape the public intellectual role. Fourth, recent developments in the sphere of public intellectuals demonstrate the need to examine public intellectuals across all media. Fifth, we should be careful to analyse the authority at work in public intellectual communication.
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Keywords: journalism; media theory; public intellectual; sociology of intellectuals

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Lake Forest College.

Publication date: 01 July 2006

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  • The International Journal of Media and Cultural Politics is committed to analyzing the politics of communication(s) and cultural processes. It addresses cultural politics in their local, international and global dimensions, recognizing equally the importance of issues defined by their specific cultural geography and those that traverse cultures and nations.
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