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The celebrified columnist and opinion spectacle: Journalism’s changing place in networked public spheres

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Bethany UsherORCiD



This is the authors' accepted manuscript of an article that has been published in its final definitive form by Sage, 2021.

For re-use rights please refer to the publisher's terms and conditions.


The professional practices of journalists have transformed. Dynamics of self-branding, celebrification and audience interactivity now govern modes of production on and beyond social media. Persona construction and performance in networked media environments increases visibility and reach, with followers, clicks, shares and likes, the markers of professional success. While British newspapers have a long tradition of high-profile columnists from across media and political spheres, the complexities of networked practices as part of globalised news and politics have transformed structure and agency. Lines are blurred between ‘social media influencer’, ‘celebrity’, ‘journalist’ and ‘political activist’ and this comparative case study uses mixed methods to analyse the work of two leading figures who embody such changes. First, it highlights how production practices intertwine the multimedia techniques of digital-first microcelebrities with the newsgathering methods and discourses of print and broadcast journalism. Second, it examines how performances negotiate displays of authenticity, authority and ‘attack’ to construct self-identities and political commentaries that resonate with followers/audiences and then channel them towards action. Finally, it demonstrates that their work reflects the hallmarks of spectacle and considers commercial and political purposes and impacts on journalism’s place in deliberative democracies.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Usher B

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Journalism

Year: 2021

Volume: 22

Issue: 11

Pages: 2836-2854

Print publication date: 01/11/2021

Online publication date: 21/01/2020

Acceptance date: 25/10/2019

Date deposited: 01/12/2020

ISSN (print): 1464-8849

ISSN (electronic): 1741-3001

Publisher: Sage


DOI: 10.1177/1464884919897815


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