Journalism in Change

Journalistic Culture in Poland, Russia and Sweden

by Gunnar Nygren (Volume editor) Bogusława Dobek-Ostrowska (Volume editor)
©2015 Edited Collection 333 Pages


Media developments change journalism all over the world. But are the changes the same in different media systems? How is professionalization influenced by the constant growth of a network society and social media? How are commercialization and political influences in the media relating to each other? These are some of the issues discussed in this study. It is based on the research project Journalism in Change – professional journalistic cultures in Poland, Russia and Sweden. From 2011 to 2014 researchers from Sweden, Poland and Russia at Södertörn University in Stockholm have been cooperating closely in order to survey a sample of 1500 journalists and 60 in depth interviews with journalists. The results are presented in a comparative design covering different areas.
It is an unusually tightly focused volume that sheds much light on the values, roles and working conditions of these journalists in a revealing comparative perspective. It is a model of well-conceptualized and carefully conducted comparative cross-national journalism research.
David H. Weaver, Bloomington, Indiana University, USA

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Contents
  • Abbreviations
  • Introduction: Journalism professionalization and journalistic culture as a matter of research
  • Professionalization, media development, and comparative journalism studies
  • Professional journalistic cultures design and methods in the research
  • Who is today’s journalist ? Mapping selected dimensions for comparative study on journalism
  • Changing working conditions
  • Media development and professional autonomy: the factors influencing professional journalism in different media systems
  • Ideals and values of modern journalists: the search for balance
  • Journalism and politics
  • Journalism and commercialization
  • New tools forh old practices? The journalistic profession in the context of interactive participation
  • Journalistic cultures between national tradition and global trends
  • References
  • List of tables
  • List of figures
  • Appendix
  • Appendix 1: The Questionnaire of the “Journalism in Change” Survey, 2012
  • Appendix 2: Interview
  • Notes of contributors
  • Index


Introduction: Journalism professionalization and journalistic culture as a matter of research

Gunnar Nygren and Bogusława Dobek-Ostrowska

Journalism is a kind of social invention. It was born and developed with industrialism, enlightened then and strove for democracy. The link between these factors is well described by Schudson:

“Journalism is the business or practice of producing and disseminating information about contemporary affairs of general public interest and importance (…), normally presented as true and sincere to a dispersed and anonymous audience so as to publicly include the audience in a discourse taken to be publicly important.” (Schudson, 2003:11)

Journalism is for society and to serve the public sphere, but it is also a business to create the necessary economic conditions. Journalism is supposed to be autonomous from state and to be able to act freely. According to liberal theory it shall be the fourth estate of power (Burke, 1989). Independence from political and economic pressure constitutes the role of journalism in a democratic society.

Today, journalism is in crisis. It would suffice to mention the development of a network society (Castells, 1996), new notions of media (media-like services), changes of traditional one-way communication towards more interaction, and a system of “many-to-many” (Jakubowicz, 2009). Business models of the media industry are under pressure; American researchers have just noted: “there is no such thing as the news industry anymore!” (Anderson et al., 2013). The professional roles of journalists are questioned by social media and by users who have become the producers of media content (Lewis, 2012).

Convergence creates new kinds of interactive media systems, and has a profound impact on the functioning of traditional media firms (printed press, television, and radio). The media workplace is changing in the same directions as in other industries –workers have to be flexible, the demands on re-skilling and multiskilling increases and commercial pressure is much heavier (Deuze, 2007; Quandt and Singer, 2009). At the same time ideals and values are sluggish, old ways of thinking clash with new demands in daily work. Journalistic culture is perhaps stronger than many spokesmen of convergence assume (Fenton, 2010; Witschge and Nygren, 2009). ← 9 | 10 →

This development is most visible in the U.S. and the Western part of Europe. There are both differences and similarities between countries and media systems; yet newspapers still flourish in big economies like India and China and traditional TV is the main media format in most countries. Globalization has also created a convergence in journalistic orientations and practices in different parts of the world. Traditional Western ideals of objectivity and impartiality seem to dominate in many newsrooms, and there are many similarities in professional routines and editorial processes (Hallin and Mancini, 2004, 2012; Hanitszch, 2007; McQuail, 2013; Waisbord, 2013). But still there are also many differences among journalists in their ways of being professional, rather reflections of societal influence more than from media organizations and professional norms. Journalism is still very national in many ways, still connected to history and political traditions (Weaver and Willnat, 2012 a; 2012b).

Main concepts – definitions

In journalism studies, scholars hold different approaches to journalism as a profession. Zelizer (2004) defines five sets of perspectives in the studies of journalism – as a profession, as an institution in society, as text (content), as people, and as a set of practices. These perspectives are not mutually exclusive; the project “Journalism in Change” covers at least three of them:

Journalism is this area of human activity, which has changed dynamically during the last few decades (see more in Chapter 1). What is journalism today? One of the most important factors is technology that provokes many implications for both society and journalism (McQuail, 2013: 13). Waisbord (2013) argues for a need to “reinvent professionalism.” He further shows dilemmas and ambiguities, and defines “the professional logic of journalism.” In this context, the model of the three traditions of journalism presented by Donsbach – subjective, public service and commercial (2010:41), seem very interesting and useful for our studies. ← 10 | 11 →

Professional (journalistic) culture is a key concept, which has been used in the project. In social and humanistic research culture is a “whole way of being,” common ideals and practices in a group that separate it from other groups. Culture is socially constructed, and is carried by the people living in the culture as both values and ideals and as tacit knowledge hidden in daily routines. So culture is not only a question of ideology, it is also visible in practice – in journalism it also materializes in the working processes. In the words of Zelizer:

“For recognizing journalism as a culture – a complex web of meanings, rituals, conventions and symbol systems – and seeing journalists (…) as its facilitators offers a way to think about the phenomenon by accounting for its changing, often contradictory dimensions.” (2005:198)

The journalistic culture is an arena where different ideologies and practices can compete and live side by side. Journalistic culture has some common traits, but also big differences. It can be visible from the global level to national journalistic cultures, down to cultures in different media companies. In the comparative research project “Worlds of Journalism” (Hanitzsch, 2007) the notion “journalistic culture” has been deconstructed into three levels of analysis where culture is articulated:

Hanitzsch (2007) presents three dimensions of journalistic culture, such as: institutional roles, epistemologies and ethical ideologies, which have been useful when creating research tools for our analysis. The purpose of the project “Journalism in Change” is to identify common parts of transnational journalistic culture, general changes in journalism in different media systems, as well as differences between the three 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. ← 11 | 12 →

Literature – earlier studies

Studies on journalism are very well developed in the Anglo-Saxon world, and in some Western European countries (Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, Switzerland). In recent years studies in this respect have also been very popular in Scandinavian countries, and one can speak about “a golden decade” in Nordic communication research with the leading position of Sweden (Fernández-Quijada, 2014). Central and Eastern Europe is lagging behind in this respect.

Research in Western countries

Most research on how journalism changes in the era of new media development is conducted in the U.S. and Western Europe (Mitchelstein and Boczkowski, 2009; Quandt and Singer, 2009). The results are seldom related to differences in media systems and in journalistic cultures; it is often taken for granted that these results are valid in all kinds of media systems. There is a lack of empirical results in comparative research about changes in journalistic cultures. Most research on journalists is being conducted on a national level, as for example “The American Journalist. News People Around the World” (Weaver et al., 2007) and “The Swedish Journalists” (Asp, 2007). State-of-the-art includes many important chapters published in “The Routledge Companion to News and Journalism” (2010), where one can find an interesting consideration of professional identities (Donsbach, 2010) and journalism development (Waisbord, 2010). In this book, we note some arguments for a stronger homogeneity and convergence among journalists both nationally and internationally – due to commercialization and the increasing of editorial control (Donsbach, 2010).

During the last two years several books were published. The key concept of journalism, dilemmas and ambiguities of professional identity, logic of journalism, hybrid professional culture, post-professional journalism, were reconceptualized by Waisbord in 2013. One cannot forget about McQuail and his latest monograph “Journalism and Society” (2013), where technological changes in journalism are widely analyzed. It is worth mentioning “The Hybrid Media system” by Chadwick (2013), in which the author dedicates one chapter to changes in journalism due to technological conditions, and shows the boundaries between “professional journalism” and “amateur” blogging.

One of the few exceptions of comparative journalism study is “The Global Journalist in the 21st Century” (Weaver and Willnat, 2012) covering the changes in journalism in 21 countries around the world. Research led by Weaver and Willnat includes the examples of Poland and Russia analyzed by Stępińska et al. (2012) ← 12 | 13 → and Pasti et al. (2012) accordingly. Another significant project, “World of journalisms”, is led by Hanitzsch et al. (2010) and presents results from 18 countries (Russia included). Finally, “Media Accountability and Transparency in Europe (MediaAcT)” the European Union’s project in 2010–2013 was conducted. “MediaAcT” helps us to understand accountability cultures in 14 different countries; it includes the example of Poland (Fengler et al., 2014).

Research in Central and Eastern Europe

Without a doubt journalism studies in Central and Eastern Europe have not developed to a similar extent. Their results often cover the example of one country; due to the fact that the studies are often published only in national languages, the access to them is very difficult for scholars from other part of the world.

Similarly to this, there are also some regional comparative studies concerning Central Europe but they are rather narrow and the results are not widespread. The majority of studies are dedicated to political communication and media systems but they lack research on journalistic culture. During the last decades only some scholars from Russia (Hanitzsch et al., 2010; Weaver and Willnat, 2012), Poland (Weaver and Willnat, 2012; Fengler et al., 2014), Bulgaria (Hanitzsch et al., 2010), Romania (Hanitzsch et al., 2010; Fengler et al., 2014), Hungary and Slovenia (Weaver and Willnat, 2012), Estonia (Fengler et al., 2014) participated in international comparative projects.

In recent years some new important publications have enriched studies dedicated to this region of Europe. One of them is “Comparing media systems beyond the Western world” edited by of Hallin and Mancini, where we find chapters on Poland (Dobek-Ostrowska, 2012), Lithuania (Balčytienė) and Russia (Vartanova, 2012).

“Media and Democracy in Central and Eastern Europe” (MDCEE), was an interdisciplinary project funded by the European Research Council (2009–2013). Many interesting reports and articles are the fruit of this research (Štětka, 2013; Bajomi-Lázár; Örnebring, 2013), but also the monograph of Bajomi-Lázár “Party Colonisation of the Media in Central and Eastern Europe” (2014). He analyzes five former communist countries (Hungary, Bulgaria, Poland, Romania, and Slovenia) and tries to explain variations in media freedom and the politicization of the news media in and across countries.

A collective book “Media Transformations in the Post-Communist World: Eastern Europe’s Tortured Path to Change” (2013) edited by Gross and Jakubowicz, is another publication important for the “Journalism in Change” project, above all for the case of Poland. The authors present not only the positive effects ← 13 | 14 → of transformation after the collapse of communism, but also the problems and uncertainty of this process.

Finally, we should mention “Journalism that Matters. Views from Central and Eastern Europe” where we find one general study “How the Internet changes journalism: some trends in the ‘West’ and ‘East’” of Bajomi-Lázár (2014), two chapters dedicated to Poland (Stępińska and Głowacki 2014; Milewski, Barczyszyn, and Lauk, 2014) and one to Russia (Pasti, 2014). All of them are very useful and enriched our research.

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. ← 14 | 15 →

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).



ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2015 (July)
Media systems Political influende Commercialization Professionalization
Frankfurt am Main, Berlin, Bern, Bruxelles, New York, Oxford, Wien, 2015. 333 pp., 82 tables, 27 graphs

Biographical notes

Gunnar Nygren (Volume editor) Bogusława Dobek-Ostrowska (Volume editor)

Gunnar Nygren is a professor of journalism at Södertörn University in Stockholm. He specialises in local journalism and professional roles of journalists as well as changing journalistic practices. Bogusława Dobek-Ostrowska is professor at the University of Wrocław (Poland) and Chair of the Department of Communication and Journalism. She is a founder of the Polish Communication Association and specialises in the development of the media systems and journalism in Poland.


Title: Journalism in Change
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336 pages