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Shaping Immigration News
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Book description

This book offers a comprehensive portrait of French and American journalists in action as they grapple with how to report and comment on one of the most important issues of our era. Drawing on interviews with leading journalists and analyses of an extensive sample of newspaper and television coverage since the early 1970s, Rodney Benson shows how the immigration debate has become increasingly focused on the dramatic, emotion-laden frames of humanitarianism and public order. In both countries, less commercialized media tend to offer the most in-depth, multi-perspective and critical news. Benson challenges classic liberalism's assumptions about state intervention's chilling effects on the press, suggests costs as well as benefits to the current vogue in personalized narrative news, and calls attention to journalistic practices that can help empower civil society. This book offers new theories and methods for sociologists and media scholars and fresh insights for journalists, policy makers and concerned citizens.


'Shaping Immigration News uses one of the most salient and challenging issues facing contemporary democracies - immigration - as a lens through which to examine that critically important democratic institution, the press. Comparing the experiences of France and the United States for explanatory leverage, the author of this fine book identifies and tracks the prevalence of alternative frames and authorized spokespersons in immigration news over four decades - and in so doing demonstrates how institutional differences in the journalistic field refract coverage of events and debates in striking and often unanticipated ways.'

Paul DiMaggio - Princeton University, New Jersey

'Rich in literature and well documented. This is one of the few volumes that offers an empirical verification of Bourdieu’s field theory applied to a very puzzling theme - immigration and news media in a comparative dimension. Differences in French and US coverage of immigration are placed within a convincing interpretive framework, supported by data and a well-rooted theoretical apparatus.'

Paolo Mancini - University of Perugia

'Anyone puzzled by the oddly misdirected character of much recent US journalism on immigration policy would benefit from this book. Benson offers valuable insights as to why many journalists prefer to frame the subject as ‘emotional storytelling’ about race and culture rather than about US labor markets and income inequality, while routinely portraying opposing policy perspectives as ‘liberal’ or ‘conservative’ even though these conventional categories have long explained rather little about divergent US perspectives on immigration. The book also provides valuable comparisons of the distinctive histories, values, and economics of journalism as they have evolved in two liberal democracies, the United States and France.'

Michael S. Teitelbaum - Wertheim Fellow, Labor and Worklife Program, Harvard Law School

'In this comprehensive study of news coverage of immigration in France and the United States, Benson shows the virtues of comparative media research. Bringing together insights from media policy, the sociology of journalism, and globalization studies, the study examines why coverage is different in both countries. Benson deftly probes conventional wisdom by dissecting differences and similarities between ‘national’ journalistic fields. With a fine-toothed comb, he examines the strengths and limitations of French and US journalism. He has amassed powerful evidence showing why globalization does not make journalism homogeneous across borders. Against rushed conclusions about media convergence, he offers a cogent and persuasive argument about why political dynamics and economic issues contained within states remain crucial for understanding how journalism works … Benson has produced a sophisticated, elegant, and evidence-packed cross-national analysis that will be a go-to reference for comparative research.'

Silvio Waisbord - George Washington University, Washington DC

'Rodney Benson offers a comparison of French and US immigration news that is modest in the scope of its analysis but ambitious, and even exemplary, in demonstrating what comparative communications is capable of methodologically … cogent and compelling.'

Mark Hannah Source: International Journal of Communication (

'[Shaping Immigration News] is conceptually sophisticated, methodologically rigorous, analytically cogent … [and] intellectually rewarding.'

Raymond Kuhn Source: International Journal of Press/Politics

'This is a terrific book, an inspiring book, and one that is important far beyond the study of immigration news or indeed the study of French and American journalism. This is a mixed-method, historically informed, comparative analysis of news regimes that not only tells us how to do good research, but shows it, unfolding the theoretical, empirical, and normative implications of its findings.'

Source: award announcement for the 2015 Best Book Award, International Journal of Press/Politics

'Benson presents a compelling comparison between the format and frames used in television news coverage and newspaper coverage … Benson makes a strong case for the indispensability of the field framework for assessing journalistic, and for that matter all, cultural production.'

Christine V. Wood Source: Social Forces

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