Talking Back: Journalists Defending Attacks Against their Profession in the Trump Era

Michael Koliska*, Kalyani Chadha, Alison Burns

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


According to neo-institutional theory, the survival of institutions in society is predicated on a cultural discourse. Dubbed “the institutional myth,” this discourse reflects the core values, practices and aspirations of an institution and legitimizes its existence to internal and external stakeholders alike. In this paper we suggest that recent attacks on mainstream news outlets—notably President Trump’s accusations that they constitute “fake news”—have led journalists to defend the journalistic institutional myth as part of their efforts to re-legitimize their profession. Our findings indicate that journalists seek to bolster and uphold their institutional myth through a range of discursive strategies ranging from highlighting established journalistic norms and practices and emphasizing journalism’s central role in the maintenance of democracy, to attacking the accuser and calls to action in which journalists make a case for ignoring the president’s rhetorical assaults and continuing to do their job.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1496-1513
Number of pages18
JournalJournalism Studies
Issue number11
StatePublished - Aug 17 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • attacks on the press
  • discursive journalistic authority
  • fake news
  • Institutional myth
  • journalistic responses
  • legitimacy
  • metajournalistic discourse
  • Trump and the press

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Communication


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