The concept of ongoing professionalization has been a key area in journalism studies for many years (Zelizer, 2004; Schudson, 2003; Waisbord, 2013). Journalism has been described as gaining influence within the media system, mainly in relation to political power and state. With common standards and professional institutions, journalism has grown stronger in modern society. But is this still the case in an emerging interactive network society? Is the development the same in different media systems – is it possible to still have a process of professionalization in some parts of the world, and the reverse process in other parts of the world; a de-professionalization? Is professionalization the same in different media systems?
This theoretical introduction gives some background to these questions covered in the project “Journalism in Change”. It gives different perspectives from research in four areas:
- Professions and professional logic, based on sociological research on professions.
- Ideals and standards as described in comparative journalism research.
- Professional autonomy and pressure from the political and economic spheres.
- Professionalization and media development, professional control and open participation.
In the title, the object of study is labelled as “professional journalistic cultures” in Poland, Russia and Sweden. We know from cultural studies that cultures are not fixed, but remain in a constant flux and develop under influences from outside – from other cultures and areas. In journalism this becomes clear in the study of the history of journalism; for example in Sweden journalism has developed since the 18th century under French, German, British and American influence (Gustafsson and Rydén, 2010). The question is not if but how journalistic cultures are changing; if globalization brings a more homogeneous journalistic culture, or if the development rather can be labelled as a hybridization where some element of global values and standards in journalism are adapted to national journalistic cultures (Hallin and Mancini, 2012:286).
“Culture” is one of the key notions in this project, and the other is “professional”. To be a professional demands some kind of control over your own work, to have some kind of autonomy to follow the standards and values of the profession. Research in professions emphasize this autonomy as a question of power, about creating institutions making it possible for the members of the profession “to make a living while controlling their own work” (Freidson, 2001:17). Research has described a professionalization of journalism during the 20th century, but the question is how this is influenced by media development. Digital technology and commercialization are global trends, but how does this influence nationally rooted professional cultures? Are the consequences for professional autonomy the same in different kinds of media systems?
For example: in Western countries, some researchers describe a de-professionalization of journalism: more unclear borders around the profession, harder economic conditions for traditional media and professional control questioned by an interactive network society (Nygren, 2008b:168, Örnebring, 2010b:568, Waisbord, 2013:60). But at the same time, journalists and media in many developing countries struggle for more professional control in relation to authoritarian regimes and also use new kinds of media platforms to achieve this. In countries with authoritarian regimes, professionalization can still be a strategy towards a greater degree of press freedom (Harro-Loit et al., 2012:153).
In the project “Journalism in Change” we use theories on professionalization and comparative journalism research to analyze how professional cultures are influenced by media development. Our basic assumption is that the changes are not the same in countries as different as Poland, Russia and Sweden. But it is also likely to find similarities – and these might bring journalistic cultures closer to each other.
In the end there is also the underlying question about media content; how are standards and practices among journalists influencing journalistic content, which is so important for all citizens to construct their picture of the world? This project does not include analyses of media content, but the basic assumption is that journalists´ belief about standards and values and their professional practice also influence the results in newspapers, broadcasts on TV and radio and in online news sites.
That is why professional journalistic cultures are not only a question for journalists, but for society as a whole.
Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang Publishing Group, 2015. 19-40 p.