External Interference in Finnish Professional Journalism

Tutkimustuotos: VäitöskirjaCollection of Articles

Abstrakti

Autonomy is regarded as a cornerstone of modern Western journalism and often considered a prerequisite for professional journalism’s ability to fulfill its democratic functions effectively. In stable democratic societies with highly institutionalized press freedom, the autonomy of journalism and the mental and physical safety of journalists have often been taken for granted. However, social, political, economic, cultural, and technological transformations constantly make their mark on the status and position of journalism, and the process of transition from the analog era’s mass-media landscape to a still-evolving contemporary digital hybrid media environment has brought new challenges. Professional journalists in today’s media environment face a multitude of external pressures and threats, ranging from political and commercial interference to online harassment and growing anti-press sentiments.

The dissertation examines how external actors strive to interfere with journalists and their professional conduct in Finland, and it explores the associated implications for journalistic work. Adapting elements from field theory, this work positions professional journalism as a field engaged in constant struggle to protect its autonomy and its specific logic, norms, and practices from encroachment by external fields, with concrete manifestations of that encroachment being articulated and operationalized via the concept of external interference. The latter conceptual umbrella covers all active and/or invasive methods that actors external to journalistic organizations employ in aims of transgressing the bounds of the relevant professional autonomy and interfering in journalistic processes and their outcomes. This lens affords exploring a host of interference types simultaneously, from low- intensity mechanisms such as verbal pressure to more aggressive and intrusive ones such as explicit intimidation and violence directed at journalists. This makes it possible to produce a nuanced and multifaceted picture of various types of interference present in contemporary journalists’ work.

Three core aims underlie this project. The first is to produce empirical evidence demonstrating how external interference manifests itself and the ways in which professional journalists negotiate and make sense of it in the context of stable and democratic high-press-freedom countries such as Finland. Secondly, the dissertation explores how social, economic, political, cultural, and technological transformations accompanying transition from a mass-media environment to today’s hybrid one are reflected in the ensuing external interference and its influence on professional journalists. The final aim is to produce output that supplies the actors in the journalistic field with practical knowledge whereby they can improve their responses to external interference and bolster their resilience against it.

The research followed a sequential mixed-methods approach combining quantitative and qualitative datasets and methods. The foundation of its quantitative component is descriptive and statistical analyses of 875 sets of survey responses from Finnish professional journalists. The qualitative material comprises an array of open- ended comments from 353 journalists in a questionnaire-based survey, semi- structured focused interviews of 31 journalists, and background interviews with representatives of four stakeholder organizations. An inductive variant of applied thematic analysis was applied to the qualitative data.

Together, the findings presented in the four associated original publications characterize the manner in which external interference introduces stressors and sources of mental strain to journalistic processes, thus affecting journalists’ work and their personal wellbeing. External interference is not uniform, however; neither does it affect all professional journalists equally. While most Finnish journalists encounter expressions of external interference only rarely and sporadically, a small set of journalists who hold certain positions and capital in the journalistic field get targeted disproportionately. The results suggest that evolution of a hybrid media environment has intensified specific aspects of external interference. With novel tools of communication, organization, and action at their disposal, audiences have emerged as a significant source of interference and threat in the current media environment. Polarization of politics and of society more generally has imposed new challenges to professional journalism’s social status and legitimacy. They manifest themselves in a perceived increase in hostility toward professional journalists and their work. These developments require journalistic organizations to pay special attention to how they might foster professionalism, confidence within their ranks, and a culture of open communication among journalists while simultaneously offering effective means of support to mitigate key detrimental effects of interference.

By detailing the case of Finland, the dissertation reveals patterns in how external interference is exhibited and affects professional journalists in a democratic Western nation that has strong legal, cultural, and institutional safeguards of press freedom and autonomy in place. Because that aspect of journalism’s production has seldom been studied in the context of countries that accord great value to freedom of the press, this treatment makes an important contribution to global debate on the challenges that face professional journalism in a communication environment amid transformation.
AlkuperäiskieliEnglanti
JulkaisupaikkaTampere
ISBN (elektroninen)978-952-03-2486-5
TilaJulkaistu - 2022
OKM-julkaisutyyppiG5 Artikkeliväitöskirja

Julkaisusarja

NimiTampere University Dissertations - Tampereen yliopiston väitöskirjat
Vuosikerta636
ISSN (painettu)2489-9860
ISSN (elektroninen)2490-0028

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