Political editing office of the Berliner Börsen-Zeitung. Source: Bertkau 1930, 57.

Working Group (2016-2020)

Observing the Everyday: Journalistic Practices and Knowledge Production in the Modern Era

The working group Observing the Everyday traces the history of the production of journalistic knowledge from the establishment of modern journalistic practices in the nineteenth century to the rise of popular science in the twentieth century. It asks how the journalist came to assume authority over knowledge about the social world and how the newspaper came to be an “encyclopedia of the everyday” (Löbl 1903). In this period, journalists were not just gatekeepers and recorders of information, but producers of new knowledge. Both as observers and as active agents, journalists influenced the ways in which newspapers made social phenomena accessible to the public. The working group will result in volume that will focus on the struggles of these journalists in the United States and Europe to produce legitimate and accepted knowledge within the boundaries they had defined themselves, and within sometimes conflictual relationships with other knowledge authorities. The book is based on a collaborative effort of scholars from various disciplines. Their cross-disciplinary conversations are mirrored in eleven historical case studies, which focus on journalistic practices in fields as diverse as politics, gender, medicine, psychology, literature, and the humanities. For the first time, the collection will bring a newly conceived history of knowledge into dialogue with journalism history, revealing how journalists have constructed epistemic communities and cultivated journalistic personae in order to generate and shape social knowledge.

Observing the Everyday began as a collaborative project of the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science (Berlin, Germany) and the German Historical Institute (Washington, DC), and this working group was formed after an initial call for applications in 2016. During the two closed meetings of the group, in March 2017 and June 2018, individual projects were presented and full-length, precirculated drafts of the chapters were discussed in detail and commented on by all group members. The publication of the volume is envisioned for 2020.

News & Press

Research Scholar Hansjakob Ziemer quoted in Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung on the history of music