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Article

Professional roles are a key topic in journalism research along with the fundamental elements in defining journalism as a profession. For many decades, scholars have devoted their efforts to analyzing normative standards and journalistic ideals, while their analysis through the lens of professional performance has remained in the background. Nevertheless, considerably more attention has been paid over the past decade to the theorization of the different concepts in play when analyzing professional roles in journalism, especially the study of journalistic role performance (i.e., the manifestation of professional roles in both news decisions and the news outcome that reaches the public). Studies on journalistic role performance are able to tell us how or to what extent news professionals have enough autonomy for their role conceptions or perceptions to be manifested in journalistic practices, as well as in the news product made available to the public. So far, research on journalistic role performance has systematically found patterns of multilayered hybridization in journalistic cultures across and within advanced, transitional, and non-democratic countries. Several studies have also shown significant discrepancies depending on societal, organizational, and individual factors, as well as a wide gap between journalistic ideals and professional practices. Some of these studies have also found significant discrepancies between journalists’ role conceptions and their perceived role enactments. Future studies need to address the intrinsic capacity of social media platforms to deinstitutionalize communication through parallel channels, which may turn out to be a crucial element when it comes to performing both traditional and new journalistic roles.

Article

Unni From

Lifestyle journalism is a significant and very substantial field of journalism. Unlike other fields of journalism, however, it has not been the focus of much scholarly debate. Providing audiences as it does with “news you can use,” it is often considered a supplement to breaking news, political news, and news on social and cultural conflicts. Lifestyle journalism has frequently been defined in opposition to the normative ideal of journalism and therefore in terms of what it is not. This means that it has often been defined from within other journalistic fields, or as a fusion of journalistic elements such as soft news, service journalism, consumer journalism, popular journalism, or even cultural journalism. Lifestyle journalism has also been an umbrella term for more specialized beats of journalism such as travel journalism, fashion journalism, or food journalism. But while lifestyle journalism is partly defined by the topics addressed, it is also characterized by specific genres or modes of addressing the audience (as consumers, for example). Common to a lot of characterizations is a strong connection with advertising and public relations, which means that lifestyle journalists often have been accused of running the errands of the market. For this reason the journalistic role and the self-perceptions of journalists in this field have been a special point of interest in the scholarly debate. In addition to being challenged from within journalism, the legitimacy is also challenged by the many new voices that participate in the field of lifestyle issues in a digital media landscape, a participation that increasingly blurs the boundaries between professionals and non-professionals. The field of lifestyle journalism is, however, itself characterized by blurred boundaries, both between the various subfields and between soft and hard news. Genres traditionally used in hard news, for example, have been adapted to soft news, and topics such as health can in one context be presented as “soft news” (e.g., “how to improve your health”) but in others as “hard news” (e.g., “smoking causes economic expenses”). The relatively new practice of constructive journalism can serve as a case of how approaches associated with lifestyle and service journalism have migrated to more traditional hard news fields.

Article

The notion of professionalism within journalism is widespread and has been thoroughly explored. “Professionalism” refers to a normative value system utilized by professionals in relation to their clients, work practices, and occupational socialization. The perspective implies a number of characteristics distinguishing professions from occupations: autonomy, exclusive knowledge, ethical codes of conduct, occupational ideals/culture, and altruistic features (i.e., to act in the public interest). Jointly, these values function as a framework for journalists in everyday practice, guiding and controlling them. In a Western context, this framework legitimizes the social contract that allows journalism the privilege of autonomy and self-regulation on a structural level. The professionalism of journalists has been empirically studied since the 1950s, and the field is constantly expanding. Similar popular conceptualizations when interrogating the norms, practice, and ideals of journalists include, for instance, “role,” “habitus,” “interpretive community,” “ideology,” and “culture.” However, the major body of journalism studies has tried to capture those aspects from a perspective of professional theory. Today, the professional status of journalists is challenged and questioned. Exclusivity is broken, autonomy declines, and other actors are increasingly redefining the field. In this context, new methods and ideals arise. The professional discourse of journalists evolves and adapts in new ways, as does the research in this area.

Article

Thomas Hanitzsch

Comparative research in journalism studies typically involves systematic comparison of two or more countries or territorial entities with respect to some common dimension (e.g., journalistic practices, orientations, and cultures). Early works in this tradition can be traced back to the 1930s, but it was not until the late 1990s that cross-national research gained popularity in the field. Comparative journalism studies have historically evolved and developed around four distinct but partly overlapping paradigms: the United States and the rest (1950s–1960s), the North and the South (1970s–1980s), the West and the West (1980s–2000s), and the West and the world (2000s–2010s). In all these eras, comparative journalism researchers have focused on three topical areas: journalists’ professional orientations (journalistic roles and professional ethics), the contexts of news production (influences on news work and their subjective perception), and news cultures (normative and empirical analyses of press systems and journalistic cultures). Overall, a growing awareness of the advantages of comparative research has led to an explosion of these studies since the turn of the century. Comparative journalism research has thus become a principal avenue of study in the field, and it has meaningfully contributed to both knowledge about journalism and the formation of journalism studies as a discipline.

Article

Diasporic news refers to information, entertainment, and education news that is politically, economically, and socioculturally relevant to diaspora audiences. This news content is produced by diasporic news media established for and by diasporic groups. According to scholars, diasporic media plays two broad roles: an orientation role relating to information and advice to help diasporic groups adjust to the host country and a connective role relating to information about events in the homeland. The affordability of new media technology spurred the growth of diasporic media making countless platforms available to diaspora groups to disseminate their views via the legacy media of print, radio, and television; and via the new media of Internet and social media. However, their business model is still preedominantly independent and small scale, and their printed edition is circulated mostly through alternative distribution outlets such as grocery shops, churches, restaurants, and airports. Their practitioners subscribe broadly to the tenets of journalistic professionalism, but these are discursively reinterpreted, appropriated and contested in line with the cultural sensibilities of diaspora audiences. On their part, the diaspora audiences use them as a platform for political activism; to connect with their group members; to watch movies and listen to music. But in recent times, the home governments are using them to tap into the diaspora resources including remittances and skills transfer.

Article

The study of journalists’ professional roles is a principal avenue to understand journalism’s identity and place in society. From the perspective of discursive institutionalism, one could argue that journalistic roles have no true “essence”; they exist as part of a wider framework of meaning—of a discourse. At the core of this discourse is journalism’s identity and locus in society. As structures of meaning, journalistic roles set the parameters of what is desirable in the institutional context of journalism: they are subject to discursive (re)creation, (re)interpretation, appropriation, and contestation. In other words, the discourse of journalistic roles is the central arena where journalistic culture and identity is reproduced and contested; it is the place where the struggle over the preservation or transformation of journalism’s identity takes place. Journalists articulate and enact journalistic roles on two analytically distinct levels: role orientations (normative and cognitive) and role performance (practiced and narrated). The four categories of journalistic roles—normative, cognitive, practiced, and narrated roles—correspond to conceptually distinct ideas: what journalists ought to do, what they want to do, what they really do in practice, and what they think they do. Normative roles encompass generalized and aggregate expectations that journalists believe are deemed desirable in society. Most normative roles of journalists are derived from a view that emphasizes journalism’s (potential) contribution to the proper workings of democracy. Cognitive role orientations comprise the institutional values, attitudes and beliefs individual journalists embrace as a result of their occupational socialization. These roles tend to appear as evident, natural, and self-explaining to the journalists. They index their individual aspirations and ambitions and the communicative goals they want to achieve through their work. Practiced role performance captures the roles of journalists as they are executed in practice; narrated roles, finally, denominate subjective perceptions of and reflections on the roles that journalists carry out in practice. Comparative research has demonstrated that journalists tend to subscribe to a variety of cognitive roles, largely depending on the political and social contexts they work in. Here, journalistic roles address six elementary needs of political life: informational-instructive, analytical-deliberative, critical-monitorial, advocative-radical, developmental-educative, and collaborative-facilitative needs. In a time, however, when traditional social institutions cease to provide a normative framework, journalism increasingly provides collective orientation in a multi-optional society. In the domain of everyday life, journalism’s normative roles therefore extend to the contexts of consumption, identity, and emotion. Over time, researchers have shifted their focus from the analysis of journalists’ occupational values, attitudes, and beliefs to the study of journalistic performance and the way professional orientations are enacted in the world of practice. Studies of this type so far produced seemingly contradictory evidence: one the one hand, there seems to be a gap between the roles journalists aspire to and the roles they execute in practice, but at the same time, many studies also found a robust correlation between cognitive and performed roles of journalists.

Article

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.