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Conditional Autonomy. Journalistic practice in the tension field between professionalism and managerialism

Journal article
Authors Amanda Waldenström
Jenny Wiik
Ulrika Andersson
Published in Journalism Practice
Volume 13
Issue 4
Pages 493-508
ISSN 1751-2786
Publication year 2019
Published at Department of Journalism, Media and Communication (JMG)
Pages 493-508
Language en
Links https://doi.org/10.1080/17512786.20...
Keywords autonomy; journalism; journalistic practice; management; managerialism; professionalism
Subject categories Media and Communications

Abstract

Current developments in the Swedish news business have resulted in clashes between the professional stands of journalists and the incentives of their managers, or—from a theoretical perspective— a confrontation between discourses of journalistic professionalism and managerialism. While professionalism includes values of autonomy, self-regulation and public interest, managerialism on the other hand promotes business ideals, standardisation and organisational efficiency. Above all, it promotes a centralised management model of line control at the cost of collegial decision-making and peer review. But what does this mean in practice? In what situations does the negotiation between those discourses arise in everyday news work and how does it affect the autonomy of journalists? This paper aims to answer those questions by focusing on the experiences of Swedish journalists working in the tension field between professional and managerial discourses. This empirical study includes observation studies as well as interviews with journalists and their managers in four Swedish daily newspapers. The results clearly reveal a conditioned journalistic autonomy, and shows how professional ideals are tarnished. The economistic view of journalistic activities is forcefully and successfully implemented by management.

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