A transnational research project: “Journalism in Change: Professional journalistic culture in Poland, Russia, and Sweden”
The purpose of the project “Journalism in Change” is to identify common parts of a transnational journalistic culture and common changes in journalism in general in different media systems, as well as the differences among the three selected countries. It is also possible to relate the results to national differences in history and culture, to analyze the relationship between globalization and national differences.
The research design can be described as a “most-different” selection of cases. The project includes three countries representing different media systems, of different historical and political backgrounds and different sizes – Sweden, Russia and Poland, situated on the Baltic Sea. All of them have had relationships in the past. They were intense between Poland and Sweden in the times of the 16th and 18th centuries, and between Sweden and Russia from the 12th to 19th century, and Poland and Russia have had a very deep relationship from medieval times until today. The communist period (1945-1989) was significant for Polish and Russian journalism and professional cultures. Despite a common geographical location and history, the three states are different in many aspects: journalistic culture being influenced by different external factors, such as a democratic tradition (or lack of this experience), religion, education systems, economic development, and access to new technologies of communication. In fact, “Journalism in Change” is the first comparative project covering journalistic culture in these three countries.
We were aware of these differences from the beginning, , but we also wanted to look at whether there are any similarities. With the study design it has become possible to analyze what changes in journalism in different types of society have in common, and what kind of differences come from the characteristics of each society.
Who takes part in the project and why?
Journalism has experienced deep changes in recent decades. For this reason, it seemed interesting to verify this general opinion in the case of only a few countries using empirical research. The points of departure for this book are based on two variables – technical and economic; it was our goal to observe how these two types of changes are influencing different media systems. The research project “Journalism in Change – professional journalistic cultures in Poland, Russia and Sweden” was conducted in the period 2011-2014. The project assumes a multidisciplinary approach, with researchers in journalism, media sociology, and political science. Researchers from Södertörn University (Sweden), Moscow State University (Russia) and University of Wrocław (Poland) worked together in the project to produce this final monograph. Two additional reports were published at the earlier stages of the project (Nygren et al., 2012; Anikina et al., 2013). Dissemination activities also include a number of articles published in scientific journals (Anikina, Dobek-Ostrowska and Nygren, 2013; Dobek- Ostrowska, Barczyszyn and Michel, 2013; Dobek-Ostrowska, Barczyszyn, Michel and Baranowski, 2013; Johansson, 2013, 2014; Johansson and Nygren, 2014; Nygren, 2012c).
We formulated the two groups of hypotheses (see more 2.2.1.), which are important from the comparative perspective. The first group is linked with similarities/differences among journalistic cultures in three countries:
H1: There is an increasing similarity in journalistic cultures in different media systems; market influence and liberal ideals are more common in pushing journalism in the direction of a commercialized Western model.
H2: The similarities between journalistic cultures are mostly superficial, nationally rooted traditions of history and culture still deeply influence journalistic cultures and preserve differences between them.
The liberal ideals in journalism are getting stronger with market liberalism; a global media culture is emerging (Hallin and Mancini, 2004). This hypothesis can be defined as a homogenization of journalism in different media systems under the influence of technological and economic development, and the counterhypothesis can be the opposite that the similarities are mostly superficial:
H3: Media development makes the profession weaker as a collective, the borders of journalism are more diffuse and professional autonomy weaker. Journalism, both as media content and as a profession, will be more difficult to perceive, because it will be different from that which we knew during the 20th century.
H4: Media development can strengthen the position of the individual journalist, giving him/her new possibilities both in research and in publishing. This can give journalists a new kind of autonomy.
Other research shows that social institutions like journalism are hesitant to abandon their conventions even in the “age of the net” when communication patterns in society are changed (O’Sullivan and Heionen, 2008). A professional culture is sluggish, and moves only slowly in spite of changes in the surroundings – technical, economic and political. Journalists are often seen as conservative, and research shows that fast changes also promote a reaction of defense of old values (Witschge and Nygren, 2009). This can also be defined as hybridization, when hybrid systems emerge, melting together elements from the global development and national history and traditions (Hallin and Mancini, 2012).
The hypotheses presented below provoke a long list of research questions, which are presented by the authors in each chapter. The research questions are linked with an area of analysis, but in general, three fundamental questions were addressed:
RQ1: What are the differences and similarities among journalists in Poland, Russia and Sweden when it comes to the basic dimensions (age, sex, education and professional training, membership of professional associations), working conditions, professional autonomy of the individual, organizational and societal level, ideals, standards and values of research’s participants, their relationship with politics and politicians, their attitudes towards commercialization, the new technologies used in journalistic practice?
RQ2: What are the most important factors explaining the differences observed between media systems?
RQ3: How are the factors mentioned in RQ1 influenced by media development in the three countries?
The researchers from the three countries participated in the research workshops and in accomplishing the research. Three methods were used:
Survey/quantitative data analysis: A total 1500 respondents – a sample of 500 journalists from each country - Poland, Russia and Sweden, participated in the survey (see more 2.2.3.).
Interview/qualitative data analysis: 60 in-depth interviews were conducted with a broad selection of 20 journalists in each country (see more 2.2.4).
The survey and the interviews have covered several areas:
Who are the journalists? – age, gender and social position, income, and education.
The daily work – employment and conditions, perceived autonomy and influence.
Professional identity and relation to politics, commercialism and media owners.
Attitudes towards technology, interactivity and change in work. Social media use and multiskilling.
Professional roles in society, quality and press freedom.
Quantitative and qualitative comparative analysis: Surveys and interviews which were conducted in the three countries allowed us to use the received results for analyzing data sets by listing and counting all the combinations of variables observed in the data set. We compared the unique combination of values of its independent and dependent variables. We compared the data as numbers, percentages, standard deviation, means, factor analysis, and Pearson correlation.
The project has not studied journalism performance and media content. It has focused on the journalists, on how they think about their role in society and in media companies, about their daily work and their reflections on change. For example, journalists gave opinions on the quality of journalism, answering the question of whether it could be said to decrease, or not. There are no empirical data to support these opinions, no content analyses. The results are only the opinions of the journalists.
But in a comparative perspective, this still can bring new knowledge. It is possible to compare different generations, journalists in different kinds of media and in different media systems. What the journalists say has relevance, as long as we believe there is a connection between what you think and how you act.
Monograph “Journalism in Change”
This book is designed as a series of comparative chapters in different areas. Each author is responsible for the chapter, but the results have been discussed in the group and were carefully evaluated.
In Chapter One Gunnar Nygren gives a theoretical background to comparative journalism studies. The study covers theories on professions, autonomy, as well as research on how current media developments influence journalism.
In Chapter Two, background information on media systems in three selected countries is provided by Gunnar Nygren, Bogusława Dobek-Ostrowska, and Elena Johansson. The manuscript also contains a description of methods in the survey and the interviews and how the results have been analyzed.
In Chapter Three Michał Głowacki makes attempts to answer the question “Who is a journalist today?” He puts the emphasis on selected dimensions of comparative studies of journalism: demographic traits and facts on education, conditions of employment and the role professional associations.
In Chapter Four Jöran Hök analyzes daily work practices, working conditions, multiskilling and other dimensions of daily work.
In Chapter Five Gunnar Nygren focuses on the perceived autonomy among journalists and the degree of freedom within given frames in the three countries, as well as on political and commercial pressure on journalists in their daily work.
In Chapter Six Maria Anikina analyzes ideals and values, professional ethics and attitudes towards society. Also verification and other key values are analyzed in relation to media developments.
In Chapter Seven Bogusława Dobek-Ostrowska analyzes the relationship between journalism and politics, both the political preferences of journalists and how politics interferes in news processes.
In Chapter Eight Bogusława Dobek-Ostrowska analyzes the relationship between journalism and commercialization. This includes foreign ownership and also external economic pressure.
In Chapter Nine Elena Johansson analyzes how journalists relate to social media, how they use social media and for what purposes.
In Chapter Ten Gunnar Nygren and Bogusława Dobek-Ostrowska summarize the analysis, and relate the results to other comparative research in journalism. They discuss the questions of homogenization of journalism globally, or if development is more likely to be described as hybridization of journalism with new forms of media systems emerging.
Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang Edition , 2015. , 333 p.