Dr Joe Bryan Atkinson

MA (Canterbury) PhD (Yale)


Joe Atkinson has an MA from Canterbury and a PhD from Yale. He taught at Otago University before moving to Auckland in 1979. A former journalist and political columnist for Metro and North & South magazines, and an occasional media commentator, he has taught courses on Journalism and the Public Sphere, Comparative Media Politics, and New Media Politics. His recent research has been on the political economy of news hybridity and media coverage of New Zealand General election campaigns.

  • Honorary Research Fellow in Political Science & International Relations, School of Social Science
  • Academic Director Chapman Archive

Research | Current


The Performance Journalism Project

The project explores the causes and consequences of two tendencies in the contemporary news media: toward journalistic self-absorption and celebrification on the one hand, and toward more variegated and populist modes of news presentation on the other. These tendencies reflect growing demands for journalism to satisfy three overlapping (but conflicting) goals: to serve democracy, to cut costs and to maximize audiences. The  confluence of these goals has been impelled, in turn, by media convergence and global conglomeration, developments which also engender other forms of media fragmentation.

In particular, the external fragmentation of television news across channels, platforms, programme formats and market niches has been linked both to changes within and to shifts away from the conventional broadcast news package. Within television news packages a shift from information-giving towards story-telling and attraction modes of address has been noted. Meanwhile, by a process characterised as “internal fragmentation” the traditional news package is being gradually crowded out by other news forms, either within the bulletin, or as rivals to it. Observers have noted a trend away from tightly edited monological news packages, towards looser, less authoritative, more conversational modes of presentation and narrative – forms previously found in entertainment-friendly genres such as talk, breakfast and celebrity news shows. These more dialogical news forms involve question-asking and human interaction rather than information-giving and monologue.

The current project extends my ongoing research into what has been variously termed the ‘Americanization,’ ‘Tabloidization,’ or ‘Modernization’ of television news. It does so in order to take in more general dilemmas of media convergence and globalization, and to reduce the New Zealand-centric character of my earlier work.  It also seeks to bridge the connection between old and new media scholarship. As converging media and entertainment conglomerates try to stream branded products across multiple platforms, they are inclined to treat content as if it were ‘innately liquid and multipurposable’. Problems have arisen, however, in ‘gelling media properties operating in diverse markets’ exhibiting markedly different business practices and assumptions, and these problems constrain the spread genuinely global brands. Just as the McDonaldization and Disneyization of television news formats coexist uncomfortably both with each other and with normative journalism, so too do multi-platform news forms. The project explores how these conflicts arise and reflects critically on their commercial, political and public interest consequences.

I envisage the present work as a first step in an emerging research field of what might be called fragmentation studies. Lessons learnt from news fragmentation have potential spin-offs into studies of multi-media forms and the cultural conflicts to which they give rise. News fragmentation is generally deplored by modernists but celebrated by post-modernists, and this line of scholarship seeks to illuminate their disputes.


Dr Joe Atkinson's Research


Teaching | Current







Honours and Fellowships

  • Harkness Fellow 1971-73
  • Holt Memorial Prize 1994

Committees/Professional groups/Services

Professional positions
Honorary Research Fellow, Political Science & International Relations.
Academic Director of the Chapman Audio Visual Archive.
Former President of the New Zealand Political Studies Association
Member of the American Political Science Association
Jesson Trust Board Member

Selected publications and creative works (Research Outputs)

  • Atkinson, J. (2011). Informing Voters? Politics, Media and the New Zealand Election 2008. POLITICAL SCIENCE, 63 (1), 146-147. 10.1177/0032318711403904
  • Atkinson, J. (2011). Performance journalism: A three-template model of television news. International Journal of Press/Politics, 16 (1), 102-129. 10.1177/1940161210381646
  • Atkinson, J. B. (2011). The Debate Over Fake News: A Critical Review. Paper presented at Political Economy of Communication, JMAD conference, AUT University, Auckland, New Zealand. 15 September - 16 September 2011. Related URL.
  • Atkinson, J. B. (2010). Politics as Comedy. http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10666816. Related URL.
  • Atkinson, J. B. (2009). Performance Journalism: Ethics, Commerce, Theatre and the Public Interest. In M. Francis, J. Tully (Eds.) In the Public Interest: Essays in Honour of Professor Keith Jackson (pp. 35-49). Christchurch, New Zealand: University of Canterbury.
  • Atkinson, J. B. (2009). Fake News and Real Democracy: Are They Compatible?. Paper presented at New Zealand Political Studies Association, University of Auckland, Auckland, NZ. 29 November - 1 December 2009. Related URL.
  • Atkinson, J. B. (2009). Political Mediators. In R. Miller (Ed.) New Zealand Government and Politics (pp. 413-430). South Melbourne, Vic.: Oxford University Press.

Contact details

Alternative contact

Home phone: (09)  3666143

Primary office location

BELGRAVE - Bldg 212
Level B, Room B03
New Zealand