Panel Session based on the Worlds of Journalism Study (WJS) IAMCR Conference, July 27-31, 2016 Leicester, UK ‘Worlds of Journalism Study: Journalistic professional conceptions, political trust and vision of democracy’

Chair and discussant: Beate Josephi, University of Sydney, Australia

The Worlds of Journalism Study, encompassing 60 countries and complete as a data set, opens up innumerable possibilities for data exploration. This panel gives but a sample of the comparative studies that can now be undertaken. These can be large-scale investigations, such a study of journalists’ professional role conceptions in eight Ibero-American countries, testing the influence of political, cultural and linguistic factors. But the WJS data can also be combined with other data sets to analyse very differing research questions, for example about ideological proximity between citizens and journalists in Italy influencing citizens’ trust in the news media or journalistic willingness to take a political stance, whether in South-East Asia or Europe.

  1. Journalists’ professional role conceptions in eight Ibero-American countries

International studies have found remarkable similarities in journalists’ professional role conceptions around the world. However, comparative studies of Latin American journalists have been scarce, and less so studies which connect countries’ changing political and media systems with journalists’ role conceptions. Even though culturally and geographically close, Central and Latin American countries are far from similar. Most of them have experienced diverse types of authoritarian governments, hold presidential types of government and private media systems, had different forms of transition to democracy, experienced economic liberalization at varying paces, and currently undergo a wide range of social challenges: crisis, endemic inequality, violence and conflict, corruption, segregation, political polarization, contrasting debates on media policy and reform and even clear-cut antagonism between some media outlets and populists heads of State. For example, countries like Argentina or Ecuador face a reemergence and highly interventionist type of populist state while others like Mexico, Chile, Brazil, Colombia or El Salvador continue to display a high level of media concentration and collusion between media and political elites. This paper explores variance between journalists’ role conceptions in countries with contrasting types of governmental intervention in their media systems.


Martin Oller Alonso (Ecuador)

Rosa Berganza, King Juan Carlos University (Spain)

Claudia Mellado, Pontificia Universidad Católica de Valparaíso (Chile)

Carlos Arcila, King Juan Carlos University (Spain)

Sallie Hughes, University of Miami (México)

Jesús Arroyave, Universidad del Norte (Colombia)

Adriana Amado, National University of Matanza (Argentina)

José Luis Benítez, Universidad Centroamericana José Simeón Cañas, UCA (El Salvador)

Sonia Virginia Moreira, Rio de Janeiro State University (Brazil)


2. Learners, producers and consumers: Intimations from an Asian media ecosystem

Journalism is not fixed. Its role as a watchdog emerged from a specific political climate; its format adapted specific technologies; its practitioners adopted values forged in a certain geographic region. These have all changed, with old concepts of authority challenged by democratic information sources, the Internet opening up the media to communities whose needs have not been served by journalism, and influence shifting from Western hegemony to a more equitable balance with Asia.

Faced with these changes, this study compares opinions of the roles of journalists among three groups in one Asian media ecosystem: journalism students (learners); practising journalists (producers); and readers (consumers). Based on three surveys, including the Worlds of Journalism Study and the Journalism Students Around the Globe study, it finds that all three groups agree on journalism’s role in monitoring political leaders, and the importance of letting people express their views. The groups disagreed most, however, over advocacy for social change. Learners felt it was more important to promote tolerance and diversity; were less concerned with conveying a positive image of political leaders or supporting national development; but were more likely to approve of journalism influencing public opinion and encouraging people to participate in political activity. These add up to a greater interest in social issues and activities among the next generation of journalists, with less interest in the ‘political’.

Andrew Duffy

Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information

Nanyang Technological University, Singapore

3. Does ideological proximity between citizens and journalists in Italy influence citizens’ trust in the news media?

The spatial (ideological) proximity model of voter utility (Downs 1957; Adams et al., 2005) has been hardly applied to other fields. The model predicts that voters derive the most utility from the candidate or party closest to them on some ideological or policy continuum. This paper assumes that the role of spatial proximity also matters beyond the “electoral stage”. For example, it has been illustrated how the relative ideological proximity between a citizen and his/her cabinet is able to affect (greatly) his/her level of satisfaction with democracy and his/her level of satisfaction with life (Curini et al. 2012; Curini et al. 2015). Although the large literature on the role of mass media in affecting (political) behaviors, there is a lack in exploring how media practitioners’ ideological position may affect citizens’ trust or distrust in news media. This paper analyses the impact of spatial (ideological) proximity between citizens and the overall average position of the newsmakers in Italy based on the World Journalism Study survey of Italian journalists and Eurobarometer 2014, which explores citizen attitudes towards the news media.

Sergio Splendore

Department of Social and Political Sciences

University of Milan

Luigi Curini

Department of Social and Political Sciences

University of Milan

4. Does Western Journalism Still Provide Public Value?

The paper aims to contribute to recent discussions about the relationship between journalism and democracy, especially how journalists perceive their role in a democratic society within the frame of their daily work routine. Codified into European law and possibly one of the most crucial functions of mass media, the public function expects Western journalism to enable democratic processes, monitor the government, and provide public value. However, in times of substantial changes of the field, the link between journalism and democracy seems to be crumbling.

While considering the importance of the public function, often perceived as one of the cornerstones of the journalistic self-concept, the following question arises: Is there a future for a prescribed public function in journalism? Will journalists—especially young journalists—continue to take on the role of a public servant?  For answers, the Austrian sample of the World of Journalism Study will be used.

Early results contain compelling insights: while all other democratic functions remain relatively stable, the monitoring function in particular appears to be in significant decline amongst younger journalists. The younger a journalist is in Austria, the less likely it seems that he or she will take on a monitoring role towards the government or economy. This development sheds a worrisome light on the future of public functions.

Marie-Isabell Lohmann

Österreichische Akademie der Wissenschaften

Vienna, Austria

5. What prompts journalists in violent zones to inform the public through anonymous postings on social media?

Academics and activists identify anonymous postings on social media as a way Mexican journalists inform communities about violence and crime. This safer but still problematic alternative for dissemination of vital public information happens in a context where drug gangs enforce silence through intimidation and assassination. We report findings from a national sample of professional Mexican journalists who responded to queries about changes in professional practice in response to risk. We use logistic regression modeling, including demographic and workplace variables, perceived influences on work, conceptions of journalism’s roles in society, whether the journalist had been threatened previously and the security context in which the journalist works. We find that being younger, unsurprisingly, was a statistically significant predictor of having used this tool. However, reporting an indigenous identity, perceiving stronger economic influences and weaker organizational influences, and working for daily newspapers as compared to radio were also significant predictors. Thus, indigenous journalists’ international networks, the environment created by bosses, economic pressures in state-dominated advertising markets, and the access newspaper journalists have to social media were more important than the technological age gap or even having been threatened or living in a more insecure place. Implications of findings for global theories are discussed.

Sallie Hughes

University of Miami

Miami, USA

Mireya Márquez

Universidad Iberoamericana

México City, México