The ethos of freelance journalists and information work
2010 (English)Conference paper, Presentation (Other academic)
The number of a-typical media workers is on the rise worldwide, and a big part of this group consists of selfemployed freelance journalists. This, together with the commercialization of the media, creates the backdrop for the research presented in this paper. In the discourse order of journalism, there is a clear dividing line between journalism and information, and the trustworthiness or ethos of a journalist can be compromised if s/he does information, PR or – even worse – advertising. Journalism is here kept separate from, but is also seen as more valuable than information, PR and advertising. This way of reasoning is however challenged by new developments in the media industry, where borders between information and journalism are becoming blurry and many journalists are working with information. The aim of this paper is to understand and analyze freelancers’ ethical reasoning concerning journalism and information work from a perspective of journalism ethics research in general and Aristotelian virtue ethics in particular. The research material consists of working life story interviews conducted with thirteen Swedish freelance journalists, all living in the remote province of Norrbotten. The interview transcripts have been analyzed, using a combination of discourse analysis and narrative theory/life stories. According to the findings, eleven freelancers out of thirteen were occasionally or regularly working with information type assignments such as company magazines, customer magazines or material for employees, instead of journalistic assignments, some even earning the lion part of their income this way. The essence of how the journalists perceived their role is their capability to narrate, explain and mediate in ways that everybody can understand. These capabilities are sought after in the information business, which makes the journalists emphasize the similarities between information and journalism. The journalists were all relating to entrepreneurial discourses, mainly distancing themselves from an older (social democratic) anti-entrepreneurial discourse, were the journalists’ role was to scrutinize business owners, and instead embracing a newer proentrepreneurial discourse, which is linked to neo-liberalism. Furthermore, boundary settings between information/PR and journalist roles, and information and journalist type assignments are crucial for sustaining the journalist’s professional roles and self images of integrity and impartiality. To conclude, the use of Aristotelian virtue ethics makes visible a role conflict between the role as breadwinner and a virtuous journalist. The professional role entails certain ethical principles, which are internalized by the virtuous journalist. The particular situation of the freelance journalist is that s/he stands alone in his/her ethical judgment, without an organization behind. Binding together the individual and the structural level, this is analyzed as societal developments rather than solely dependent on decisions of individual journalists.
Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Freelance journalists, Interviews, Ethics, Information work, Other social sciences - Media and communication studies
Frilansjournalister, Intervjuer, Etik, Informationsarbete, Övrig samhällsvetenskap - Medie- och kommunikationsvetenskap
Research subject Media and Communication Science.
IdentifiersURN: urn:nbn:se:ltu:diva-40568Local ID: fbfa6530-d508-11df-8b36-000ea68e967bOAI: oai:DiVA.org:ltu-40568DiVA: diva2:1014090
Communication and Citizenship: International Association for Media and Communication Research : 18/07/2010 - 22/07/2010
Godkänd; 2010; 20101011 (marlad)2016-10-032016-10-03Bibliographically approved