Taking a Stand: The Discursive Re-Positioning of Journalism

Michael Koliska*, Kalyani Chadha

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


This study employs positioning theory to examine the discursive power struggle and negotiation over the rights and duties of the news media in the United States and illustrates how journalists discursively construct their professional identity within a specific situational interaction. The examination of 480 editorials by 570 news organizations—which were published in response to President Trump’s the news media “is the enemy of the people” accusation—reveals that news organizations around the country attempted to discursively re-position themselves and thus alter the local moral order defined by President Trump. Findings show that news organizations used three positioning practices (self-positioning, second-order or other positioning and third-order positioning) to not only reclaim professional, institutional and societal legitimacy respectively, but also undermine Trump’s legitimacy as an attacker and change the anti-press narrative he promoted. In this process journalists dynamically construct their professional identity by altering their position within different storylines, which also created inconsistencies in their claims to their professional legitimacy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)442-459
Number of pages18
JournalJournalism Studies
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2023


  • Positioning theory
  • discursive identity construction
  • discursive positioning
  • journalistic legitimacy
  • metajournalistic discourse
  • professional roles

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Communication


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