On a fundamental level, financial journalism provides information to individuals that helps them make informed economic choices, and understand how those choices impact their financial situation within the context of the broader political economy. The need for reliable information about prevailing business conditions has been recognized since the dawn of commerce, and since then financial journalism and commerce have developed together in a mostly symbiotic, albeit occasionally combative, relationship for hundreds of years. In its earliest iterations, in the 16th century, financial journalism consisted of little more than the publication of prices of commodities or other goods for sale. As trade and commerce expanded over the following centuries, so did the role and content of financial journalism. The globalization of commerce and increasing integration of the world economy since the late 20th century has increased the importance of financial journalism, while the spread of mass-market investment opportunities and defined-benefit retirement accounts in many countries has expanded the pool of individuals exposed to moves in financial markets, helping to make financial publications among the world’s most-read newspapers and websites. The focus of financial journalism is quite consistent no matter what country or language it is published in: broadly defined, financial journalism encompasses news about financial markets, macroeconomic data and trends, government economic policy, corporate news (especially earnings announcements), personal finance, and commentary about all of the above. However, the often mutualistic relationship between financial journalism and the organizations it covers has led to conflicts of interest, and to a debate over the proper role of a financial press: whether it is to merely disseminate data and information from those organizations, or to serve as a watchdog over them. For example, the bubble in internet-related shares in the 1990s was blamed partly on “boosterism” by the financial media, while many investors also blamed the financial press for failing to sound the alarm ahead of the Global Financial Crisis later in the following decade.
The role of foreign correspondent has long been prominent in journalism but is undergoing considerable change. While many in this role are considered elite, and have a very high profile, others practice their reporting in anonymous and sometimes precarious conditions. Prominent types of foreign correspondent are the capital correspondent, bureau chief, and conflict correspondent. Conflict correspondents can, in turn, be categorized into three main types depending on how they perceive their role: the propagandist; the recorder of history; and the moralist. The role of foreign correspondent has been the subject of a great deal of research, including analyses of news content focused on the nature of bias and story selection and framing in international reporting, and observational and interview-based studies of practitioners of the role. Research has sought to shift the focus from elite correspondents for international media organizations to the myriad local media professionals who play an increasing role in shaping international news stories; to the move toward social media as a newsgathering and news-dissemination tool; to the safety of journalists—as their work becomes increasingly imperiled around the world; and to the vital but largely hidden role of news agencies in shaping international news.
Siebert, Peterson, and Schramm’s Four Theories of the Press has been a powerful influence on scholarship on comparative press systems and normative press theories in the years since its publication in 1956. Its appeal comes from the way it combined a history of Western development with a normative schema that is simple and teachable. Critics have pointed out the shortcomings of both its historical accounts and its theoretical structure, charging that the book expressed a Cold War mentality, elided non-Western and nonliberal theories and practices, and neglected the complicating dimensions of race, class, gender, and ethnicity. Critics also note that actual press systems are usually governed by hybrid norms, and that press systems are increasingly interconnected, overlapping, and global. Yet, Four Theories of the Press retains significant influence despite these criticisms. One reason is that no real replacement has appeared and it is unlikely that a new map of normative theories will win acceptance. The work emerged at a unique moment of Western liberal global hegemony and a successor would require a similar hegemonic moment.
Brian L. Massey and Cindy Elmore
The profession of journalism can hardly be explored today without recognizing the large number of journalists who work as freelancers rather than as organizational media direct employees. While this type of work is not new, the number of freelancers is growing as a share of all journalists as legacy media organizations lose audiences, trim workforces, and outsource labor in the context of an industrywide digital revolution. The increase in freelance journalists also comes amid a larger, postindustrial capitalist desire for flexibility and dexterity in staffing, with the resulting structural benefits for organizations. Yet there are all manner of so-called freelance journalists, and they are not easily located or defined. The most successful find opportunities and freedom in being their own boss and choosing their work. Many, however, find themselves thrust into pay-reducing competition, which engenders economic uncertainty and work volatility, the need to supplement journalism with other work, and unpaid time spent to market themselves and their work, or to get assignments (or even paid). Some freelancers find that it is not worthwhile to do time-consuming projects for which they will not receive pay commensurate with the time required.
Freelancers are used in all manner of journalism work today, throughout the world where they have been studied, and involving every media platform. Some entire content models are based mostly or entirely on freelance labor. This has implications for journalism educators, who have traditionally trained students for organizational news media jobs; and for researchers, who have not considered the freelancer in their scholarship into journalism production, culture, or journalist practices, routines, and attitudes.
Pamela J. Shoemaker
One of the oldest social science theories applied to the study of communication, the gatekeeping approach emphasizes the movement of bits of information through channels, with an emphasis on decision points (gates) and decision-makers (gatekeepers). Forces on both sides of a gate can either help or hinder the information’s passage through a channel. The gatekeeping process shapes and produces various images of reality, not only because some bits of information are selected and others rejected, but because communication agents put information together in different ways. In addition, the timing and repetition of information can affect the prominence of events or topics and can influence the probability of future information diffusion.
Gatekeeping was originally modeled as a series of linear processes within the mass media, but in the late 20th century the flow of information through the mass and social media began to interact. Information is now understood to flow among journalists, among social media users, and among agents of both types of media. All such communication agents are gatekeepers. In addition, we can study these networked interconnections as one level of analysis, with the supra-gatekeepers (such as Facebook or Twitter) adding their own gatekeeping processes over and beyond those of their own clients of the mass media.
In addition to looking at various pairwise relationships between gatekeepers, gatekeeping theory should go beyond to instead consider the entire web of gatekeepers as a whole or system. A system is composed of elements (gatekeepers), interactions (relationships among them), and a goal or function. Multiple functions have been proposed by 20th-century scholars (such as socialization, entertainment, or surveillance) for the mass media, but scholars should now consider the function(s) of the gatekeeping system (mass and social media, as well as supra-gatekeepers) as a whole. Although each type of medium can be analyzed as its own system, such analysis would not facilitate new thinking about the various ways in which these partial systems affect one another and how the whole system functions beyond the simple addition of its parts.
Understanding the role of gender in the newsroom involves tracing a shift from an initial consensus that women’s only journalistic role was to write with “a woman’s touch” about women, for women readers, to a claim that women should be allowed to produce the same “unmarked” news as men. The claim became that women’s forms—women’s sections or other materials intended for women audiences—represented professional ghettos, and that women were needed to produce better, more ethical journalism. That is, within the newsroom, gender was first dichotomized, rendering the interests of women and men as opposites, and then it claimed to be irrelevant. Feminist scholars point out that, over time, men have consistently tried to protect their status, jobs, and salaries, and have failed to acknowledge how journalism was set up as a male enclave with “macho” values and a culture that disadvantaged women, especially mothers, with its tradition of long and irregular hours and lack of childcare.
Research on gender and journalism can be divided into two categories: (a) gender “at work” in newsrooms (including opportunities or inequities in jobs, promotions, and salaries, as well as sexism), and (b) representations of women. Scholars often assume that the first issue over-determines the second. On both issues, research shows improvement, but also continuing problems. Now women journalists appear to be well established; the news includes issues associated with women’s quotidian concerns, and it takes women seriously. Yet a variety of gender divides continue to characterize journalism. Researchers find gendered patterns in coverage, especially in politics and sports. Women television journalists are routinely sexualized, and their high visibility in television broadcasting—through explicit scrutiny of their bodies, hairstyles, clothing, and voices—is countered by their invisibility in management. Gendered double standards and a glass ceiling continue to stymie the promotion of women to key decision-making and governance positions in print and broadcast news organizations. Moreover, women are far from enjoying equity in the online context.
Women continue to be concentrated in low-status media outlets and beats: they dominate community, small-town, and regional news organizations, and they produce “soft news,” human-interest stories and features. Men still dominate, although they do not monopolize, most of the high status areas of news production, particularly politics and business, as well as the lucrative and popular area of sports, a highly gendered and sexist domain. The most overtly gendered arena is war correspondence. Women who report on war and conflict are judged by very different standards than men. In particular, mothers are condemned when they go off to dangerous conflict areas, although fathers who cover war continue to be largely immune from public criticism. Women war reporters run a high risk of sexual violence and harassment, although women who have been sexually attacked rarely tell their supervisors—probably for fear of being pulled off an assignment.
Countless platforms are now available to citizens to disseminate their views as citizen journalists, including blogs and Twitter; these provide opportunities for challenging gender roles and democratizing relations between men and women. On the other hand, social media threaten the business model of professional journalism; the resulting trend to part-time, freelance, and even unpaid work creates a precarious and potentially highly feminized labor force.
Levi Obijiofor and Folker Hanusch
Two dominant approaches underline the theory, practice, and methodology of global journalism. The first approach captures the various ways that journalism is practiced in different countries. This is reflected in the burgeoning field of comparative journalism studies. The second approach examines the underlying notion of globalization of the interconnected nature of the world and of global journalistic practices that not only relativize the significance of the nation state but also highlight the forces that shape the global village. Each of these perspectives has implications for journalism practice and how the world is understood. Each is influenced by complexities of the existing environment in which journalism is practiced, such as sociocultural practices and barriers, as well as economic, institutional, structural, legal, and political forces that inform journalism at national and international levels. Regardless of the differences, the two approaches are interrelated in various ways. They examine the interlocking relationship between journalism and globalization; factors that influence global news flows and foreign reporting; diverse journalistic practices and modes of education; and global journalism ethics. Altogether these perspectives provide rich analytical insights and background into the past, current, and emerging issues that inform global journalism.
Mel Bunce, Martin Scott, and Kate Wright
Humanitarian journalism can be defined, very broadly, as the production of factual accounts about crises and issues that affect human welfare. This can be broken down into two broad approaches: “traditional” reporting about humanitarian crises and issues, and advocacy journalism that aims to improve humanitarian outcomes. In practice, there is overlap between the two approaches. Mainstream journalists have long helped to raise awareness and funds for humanitarian crises, as well as provide early emergency warnings and monitor the treatment of citizens. Meanwhile, aid agencies and humanitarian campaigners frequently subsidize or directly provide journalistic content.
There is a large research literature on humanitarian journalism. The most common focus of this research is the content of international reporting about humanitarian crises. These studies show that a small number of “high-profile” crises take up the vast majority of news coverage, leaving others marginalized and hidden. The quantity of coverage is not strongly correlated to the severity of a crisis or the number of people affected but, rather, its geopolitical significance and cultural proximity to the audience. Humanitarian journalism also tends to highlight international rescue efforts, fails to provide context about the causes of a crisis, and operates to erase the agency of local response teams and victims. Communication theorists have argued that this reporting prevents an empathetic and equal encounter between the audience and those affected by distant suffering. However, there are few empirical studies of the mechanisms through which news content influences audiences or policymakers. There are also very few production studies of the news organizations and journalists who produce humanitarian journalism. The research that does exist focuses heavily on news organizations based in the Global North/West.
Research on emotion and intimacy has been slow to develop in journalism studies. This is due to an allegiance to the model of liberal democracy and the associated ideal of objectivity. However, a growing body of work has shown that despite the historical allegiance to the ideal of objectivity, journalistic texts are—and always have been—profoundly infused with emotion. Emotion and intimacy serve crucial roles in the public discourse of journalism. They are used deliberately and strategically by journalists because they facilitate audience engagement and understanding. Audiences appear to connect with concrete stories of lived experience that dramatize the large and often abstract events that make up the news. Such connection can facilitate the cultivation of compassion—or feeling with others—and thereby engender cosmopolitan sensibilities. Growing scholarly attention to emotion and intimacy in journalism has occurred within the context of a rapidly changing media ecology. Technological changes associated with the digital era, including the rise of user-generated content and the emergence of social media, have ushered in a greater role for “ordinary people” in news production and participation. This has brought about the privileging of more emotional and embodied forms of storytelling. At the same time, these transformations, alongside broader existential threats to journalism, have rendered attention to the emotional impact of journalistic labor particularly urgent.
Erik Albæk, Morten Skovsgaard, and Claes H. de Vreese
Three models are presented to explain variation in news content. In the first model the explanation is based on the individual journalist, in the second model on the professional journalist, and in the third model on the organized journalist. The individual journalist model focuses on how the background and values of individual journalists may impact their journalistic products; the professional journalist model considers the professional values and work norms that apply across individual journalists and across news organizations; the organized journalist model looks at how the organization within which journalists work may affect news content.
Karin Wahl-Jorgensen and Allaina Kilby
The relationship between journalism and its audience has undergone significant transformations from the earliest newspapers in the 18th century to 21st-century digital news. The role of the audience (and journalists’ conceptions of it) has been shaped by economic, social, and technological developments. Though the participation of the audience has always been important to news organizations, it has taken very different forms across times, genres, and platforms. Early newspapers drew on letters from their publics as vital sources of information and opinion, while radio established a more intimate relationship with its audience through its mode of address. Though television news genres may not have emphasized audience engagement, research on the medium was heavily invested in understanding how it affected its audience.
The rise of the Internet as a platform for journalism has represented a significant turning point in several respects. First, it has challenged conventional hierarchies of news production and value by facilitating user-generated content and social media, enhancing opportunities for audience contributions. This presents new opportunities for engagement but also challenges journalists’ professional identities, compelling them to assert their authority and skill sets. Further, digital journalism has led to the rise of the quantified audience, leading to the increased role of metrics in driving the behavior of journalists. As the audience and its behavior are shifting, so are the practices of journalism. The two actors—journalists and audiences—remain interlocked in what may be a troubled marriage, but one which is structurally compelled to change and grow over time.
Olivier Baisnée and Jérémie Nollet
Journalism as a field is a theoretical construction inspired by Pierre Bourdieu’s field theory, which sheds new light on the issues of media studies. This analytical framework was developed in France, beginning in the 1990s with the work of Patrick Champagne on the mutual influences between the fields of journalism and politics; the rare writings of Bourdieu on the journalistic field; and finally the work of young researchers on the subfields of specialized journalism. Reception of field theory in international journalism research dates back to the early 2000s, in particular around the work of Rodney Benson.
The journalistic field is a theoretical framework consisting of about 10 main concepts that raise a large number of research questions, both theoretical and empirical. It first describes the internal relations in the social space, both as a field of struggle (with concepts of illusio or field effect) and as a field of forces (with concepts of capital, commercial vs. civic poles, autonomy, or subfield). At an individual level, it also makes sense of the conduct of individual journalists (with concepts of habitus, position and position taking, and strategy). Second, it enables consideration of the place of journalism in society and its relations with other social spaces (the concept of media capital), referring in particular to the analysis of information sources or mediatization of society.
This research program has been incompletely realized thus far: general descriptions of the structure of current fields are lacking; little work has been done on the reception of media messages and consideration of the development of the Internet; and transnationalization of the media is insufficient. The journalistic field nevertheless has a strong heuristic potential in at least two directions. First, it is a useful tool for comparing media systems because its relational approach avoids the pitfalls of nominalism and facade comparisons. Second, it is valuable in considering the history of journalism because it describes the emergence of specifically journalistic activity without giving way to anachronism or culturalism.
The journalistic field is a demanding but nonexclusive theoretical framework, presenting a refreshing analytical challenge for traditional topics of journalism studies, such as the production of journalistic information, the mediatization of societies, the history of journalism, or the comparison of media systems.
Tim P. Vos
Journalism is an institution inasmuch as it is constituted by shared beliefs and norms, informal rules and routines, and explicit rules. These features of journalism are expressed in journalists’ practices and products but also in journalists’ own discourse about journalism, or in what institutional theorists refer to as institutional or cognitive scripts. Institutions are intellectually interesting objects of study because they both limit individuals’ agency and enable their ability to work productively and creatively. Thus they maintain stability but allow for adaptability. Institutions also denote a distinct area of social authority, signaling institutional autonomy. However, they are also inherently social and thus inextricably interconnected with other institutions. This autonomy and interconnection become the sources of ongoing battles over journalism’s legitimacy. Indeed, some institutions—including journalism—have not only lost some measure of legitimacy but the beliefs, norms, and rules that have constituted the institution have also been destabilized. Some even argue that journalism is deinstitutionalizing in the face of economic and technological changes. Others understand these changes as part of a broader process of institutional adaptation and reinstitutionalization. Early adaptations of so-called new institutionalism informed an early use of institutional theory in journalism studies. But institutional theory comes in a variety of forms—historical institutionalism and discursive institutions hold particular promise for journalism studies. Historical institutionalism directs attention to path-dependent processes that account for the stability of institutions over time. Meanwhile, discursive institutionalism highlights the importance of discourse as the social bond that maintains institutions but also provides the means for adaptation and change. Nevertheless, institutional theory remains underutilized in journalism studies and holds still untapped potential to explain intellectually interesting phenomena.
Culture is a broad term that is often used in a wide variety of contexts. Its meanings can be anything from very narrow conceptualizations such as the notion of high culture to a much broader view of culture being all-encompassing. In addition, scholars identify different types of cultures, such as regional, national, or even global cultures, as well as sub-cultures or cultures of shared social practices. At the social systems level, culture is often defined as relating to shared social practices, meanings, beliefs, symbols and norms. The relationship between journalism, culture, and society is a symbiotic one. Journalism influences culture, but it is also influenced by it. In fact, as some argue, journalism is culture.
While journalism’s influence on culture has found extensive attention in the cultural studies literature, cultural and societal influences on journalism have been far less researched. When studies examine broader media system influences on journalism, the focus tends to be on political and economic determinants. However, cultural influences also provide substantial explanatory potential when trying to understand why journalism is practiced differently across the globe. Culture as the broader system of beliefs and practices in a given society, as in the case of cultural values, has an established research tradition in cross-cultural psychology. Three key works on cultural values provide guidance for examining cultural influences on journalism, and involving these in research improves understanding of journalism cultures on a variety of levels. Both normative calls for the preferred role of culture in journalism, as well as empirical studies of the influence of cultural values on journalism demonstrate the value such approaches bring to journalism studies.
Journalism education at the college level was first offered in 1869, and developed primarily in the United States. No other country has had a similar impact on the discipline, and the United States’ pioneering role has shaped curricula around the world. While journalism education was also offered in Europe throughout the 20th century, especially from the 1980s onwards, its global spread came in the 1990s and 2000s. This is closely linked to the proliferation of media in countries where economic growth, technological progress, and rising literacy have combined to create a dramatic increase in readership and audience, especially in the most populous nations, China and India, but also in Africa and Latin America.
In 2013, the census of journalism education programs kept by the World Journalism Education Council listed almost 2,400 programs globally. This spread does not only mean a shift in geographical terms, but also in conceptual terms. North American scholars imagined journalism as central to democratic life. But the notion of journalism serving first and foremost democracy puts it at odds with other parts of the world, where different forms of governance are prevalent. This necessitated the American inspired image of journalism, legitimized by its centrality to democracy, to be modified. In this global process, journalism education importantly did not relinquish its normative constituent, but moved it to the ideal of journalism and journalists serving the public.
Equally remarkable, and telling, is the consistency of subjects in curricula around the globe, especially in what are deemed the vocationally relevant subjects. In 2007, and again in 2013, UNESCO released model curricula for journalism education. These are ostensibly directed toward developing countries and emerging democracies, but are used globally and in countries as diverse as Afghanistan and Rwanda. This has raised the question of whether a homogenization of journalism around the world could be observed. At this stage, however, differing political, cultural, and religious conditions exert too much influence on a country’s journalistic output for this to occur.
The intentions behind the support for journalism education vary over time and between countries. Although journalism education is never openly acknowledged as an ideological battleground, it has been used to spread influence. After the disbandment of the Soviet Bloc, the United States and European nations sent journalism educators to the countries of the former Soviet Bloc, ostensibly to teach journalists the values of a free press, but also to build their commercial interests in new media markets. In Africa, after decades of Western assistance in media education,, China has attempted to challenge the dominance of the traditionally Western helpers, although with limited success.
The most prevalent and persistent issue regarding the content of journalism education has been the theory-practice division. This extends to the suitability of journalism education as a tertiary study area and the composition of its curricula, which have been debated since its inception. The earliest programs in formal journalism education in the United States consisted of teaching technical skills as well as writing and editing. This inclusion of skills training pointed from the very beginning to the gulf journalism education would have to bridge in academic institutions. Many countries, notably the United Kingdom, left the training of journalists to the industry until the 1990s.
Academic literature, by its very nature, argues for the place of journalism education in academia. The voices against come from the industry, where employers and editors see journalism education as theory-laden and out of touch with industry realities. Since the 1990s, media companies have largely accepted that journalism training be done in colleges and universities, mostly because it frees valuable resources in a strained industry.
All the same, the criteria for measuring success in journalism education continue to differ between the industry and the academy. The debates on what and how to teach are similarly divergent, although since the early 2000s the idea of educating future journalists as “reflective practitioners” seems to have taken hold. But this comes at a time when in North America, Europe, and Australia the main challenge for journalism education is the fragility of legacy media, which traditionally absorbed the highest number of graduates. Media sustainability has therefore been named as one of the foremost concerns for journalism education.
In times of digital journalism, the challenges for journalists come from many sides. Not only the precariousness of employment, but also the diminishing of authority is affecting the profession. Professionalism is again emerging as a vital concept, although it remains as contentious as ever. At a time when journalistic authority is under attack, professionalism is seen as a tool in the boundary-work taking place between journalists, a public participating in news creation and distribution, tweeters, and bloggers. Journalism schools are using various ways to train journalists for a new, shared world. This includes teaching “entrepreneurial journalism” in order to prepare their students for an anticipated de-institutionalized future.
While much has been written about how and what journalism education should be, little research has been done on the effects of journalism education. A major problem is the difficulty of empirically quantifying this influence. One area where the impact of journalism education can be researched is on students during their years of study, although this goes only a small way toward establishing the influence that journalism education has on the practicing journalist.
Since 1869, much has changed yet some things remain. Journalism education will continue to be characterized by its dichotomous nature. It will remain caught between theory and practice, normative and empirical, academy and industry, market and public service, dependence and autonomy.
Patrick Lee Plaisance
News workers—writers, editors, videographers, bloggers, photographers, designers—regularly confront questions of potential harms and conflicting values in the course of their work, and the field of journalism ethics concerns itself with standards of behavior and the quality of justifications used to defend controversial journalistic decisions. While journalism ethics, as with the philosophy of ethics in general, is less concerned with pronouncements of the “rightness” or “wrongness” of certain acts, it relies on longstanding notions of the public-service mission of journalism. However, informing the public and serving a “watchdog” function regularly require journalists to negotiate questions of privacy, autonomy, community engagement, and the potentially damaging consequences of providing information that individuals and governments would rather withhold.
As news organizations continue to search for successful business models to support journalistic work, ethics questions over conflicts of interest and content transparency (e.g., native advertising) have gained prominence. Media technology platforms that have served to democratize and decentralize the dissemination of news have underscored the debate about who, or what type of content, should be subjected to journalism ethics standards. Media ethics scholars, most of whom are from Western democracies, also are struggling to articulate the features of a “global” journalism ethics framework that emphasizes broad internationalist ideals yet accommodates cultural pluralism. This is particularly challenging given that the very idea of “press freedom” remains an alien one in many countries of the world, and the notion is explicitly included in the constitutions of only a few of the world’s democratic societies. The global trend toward recognizing and promoting press freedom is clear, but it is occurring at different rates in different countries. Other work in the field explores the factors on the individual, organizational, and societal levels that help or hinder journalists seeking to ensure that their work is defined by widely accepted virtues and ethical principles.
Michael Karlsson and Kristoffer Holt
In the early 21st century, almost everyone takes journalism on the web for granted. However, it was not many years ago that journalism moved online and a distinct form of journalism began to develop. Ranging from online doubles of the paper editions to publications exclusively produced for the web, the evolvement of web journalism has entailed both dramatic and not-so-dramatic changes in the way that journalistic products are produced, disseminated, and received. Online journalism has usually been demarcated from traditional journalism by four traits: interactivity, immediacy, hypertextuality, and multimodality. These characteristics are generally identified by scholars as points where journalism on the web brings added value in comparison to the old print newspapers. Interactivity involves various aspects of user activity and participation in the processes of consuming, contributing to, and disseminating news afforded by the web. Immediacy refers to the nature and consequences of the faster pace of publication in web news. Hypertextuality has to do with the possibilities of linking journalistic texts to other texts, which makes the text more transparent and open. Multimodality denotes the telling of news with the use of many different modes at the same time. When studying research about these aspects of web journalism, three general observations can be made. First, researchers have approached these characteristics unevenly in terms of scope and interest. The interactive aspects of web journalism are by far the most investigated. Second, the four characteristics have been studied through the lenses of different theoretical frameworks. Third, empirical research shows that change in journalism is slow and not always as radical as many predicted when journalism on the web was in its infancy.
Journalism’s “social contract” refers to journalism’s role in democracy, primarily its obligations to inform the public and scrutinize government. The notion of a contract, however, entails the exchange of rights and obligations for mutual benefit. In this exchange, journalism enjoys the rights to free expression and publication, and it is obliged to cover the world fairly and accurately, providing citizens with the information they need to perform their roles as citizens. The notion of a social contract of the press is primarily rooted in liberal philosophy, though there is also a moral side to the contract that can be traced to republican theories of democracy. The question of reciprocity is central to the research on journalism’s social contract, primarily on the relationship between journalists and audiences, an area of research that is gaining traction as networked public spheres grow in importance as new venues of audience participation. Although the notion of a social contract is most visible in discussions of journalism ethics and professional practice, democratic media models also assume that journalism’s social contract constitutes an important conduit of democratic processes. As such, journalism’s social contract largely describes normative dimensions of journalism’s role in society, primarily embedded in notions related to the quality of information and an informed citizenry.
Henrik Örnebring and Michael Karlsson
The notion of journalistic autonomy is the idea that journalism as a societal institution, as well as individual journalists in their workplace (the newsroom), should be free from undue influence from other societal institutions and actors. The term “independence” is frequently used as synonymous with autonomy. Journalistic autonomy is commonly seen as normatively desirable as it is linked to two of journalism’s core democratic functions: information provision (journalists who are not autonomous may produce biased information) and the watchdog function (non-autonomous journalists may act in the interests of other actors when fulfilling the watchdog function rather than in the public interest).
Autonomy exists on three distinct analytical levels: first, the institutional level (referring to journalism as a whole, being independent from other societal institutions like the state and the market); second, the individual level (referring to individual journalists having discretionary decision-making power in their own work); and third, the organizational level (referring to the workplace level, where individual preferences frequently are mediated by institutional constrains). In general, journalism research has focused mostly on analyzing autonomy on the institutional and individual levels and less on the organizational level.
Research on journalistic autonomy on the institutional level focuses on the autonomy of journalism from the state (or, more broadly, the political sphere in general) and the market. The key instrument for both state and market actors seeking to influence journalism (thereby decreasing journalistic autonomy) is information subsidies, that is, information resources of different types that conform to journalistic genre demands and professional norms but which also advance the agenda of the actors who produce them.
Research on journalistic autonomy on the individual level focuses on so-called perceived influences on journalistic work, that is, the factors that journalists themselves see as limiting their autonomy. There are broad cross-national patterns to such perceptions. The political system is the most important determinant of perceived political influence, as journalists in more authoritarian countries perceive more political interference than journalists in democratic countries. Another broad pattern is that nation-level and individual-level influences are perceived as more important than organizational-level influences. Almost regardless of country, most journalists actually see themselves as having a high degree of workplace autonomy.
This is in contrast to the research on organizational-level autonomy (as well as much of the research on autonomy on the institutional level), which demonstrates that journalists’ workplace autonomy is constrained in many important ways. Tacit rules, implicit policies, and norms of professionalism all combine to make journalists obedient employees who generally voluntarily accept many constraints on their autonomy without perceiving them as such. Only overt and explicit attempts from political and commercial actors to control reporting are perceived as interference, whereas informal norms of story selection that favor resource-rich actors are seen as “natural” or “normal.” Thus in many ways, journalistic autonomy is a rhetorical construct as much as a normative ideal.
Florence Le Cam
From the end of the 19th century until the present, journalists have created associations, trade unions, clubs, and major international networks to organize workers, defend their rights, set out their duties, establish rules of good conduct, and structure their professional journalistic skills. These journalistic organizations are central actors in the history of the professionalization of journalistic groups around the world. They have enabled journalists to make their demands public, exchange views with journalists from other countries, and sometimes even promote and achieve legal recognition of their profession. In general terms, they have provided journalists with fora to discuss their working conditions, their profession, and the social role of the media and journalism. In this way, they have helped to structure not only discourses and practices, but also networks of solidarity at both national and international levels.
These organizations can exist in different arenas: within media companies, at the national level, or internationally. And, despite their variety over time, they have often pursued similar objectives: protect journalists’ pay and employment conditions and status; conceive strategies to maintain a certain form of autonomy in authoritarian political contexts; nourish international networking ambitions that have made it possible to disseminate ways of doing and thinking journalism; and finally generate a set of actions that aims to defend the ethics of journalism, the quality of news, and the lives of journalists.