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Watchdogs, Advocates and Adversaries: Journalists’ Relational Role Conceptions in Asylum Reporting

Markus Ojala and Reeta Pöyhtäri
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Markus Ojala: Department of Social Research, University of Helsinki, Finland
Reeta Pöyhtäri: Research Centre for Journalism, Media and Communication COMET, University of Tampere, Finland

Media and Communication, 2018, vol. 6, issue 2, 168-178

Abstract: Journalistic role conceptions are usually understood as internalised professional conventions about the tasks reporters pursue in society. This study insists that more attention be put on the relational and context-dependent nature of journalistic role conceptions. Adopting a social-interactionist approach to journalistic roles, the study examines how Finnish journalists conceived of their professional roles when covering asylum issues during the so-called “refugee crisis” of 2015–2016. Based on an analysis of open-ended, semi-structured interviews with 24 journalists, we highlight how considerations of the political context and interactions with three key reference groups—officials, asylum seekers and anti-immigrant publics—shaped the journalists’ conceptions of their tasks and duties. The article contributes to the study of journalistic role conceptions by illustrating how the conceptualisation of journalistic roles in relation to reference groups takes place in practice. It also sheds light on the tensions involved in journalistic balancing and negotiation between various available role conceptions, especially in the shifting societal and political contexts of a Europe marked by multiculturalism and the simultaneous rise of anti-immigrant movements.

Keywords: asylum; seekers; migration; journalism; refugee; crisis; role; role; conception (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2018
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