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Sample

To implement data collection, two provincial and two major cities from each country in the BRICS coalition were selected: In Brazil, Brasilia, Rio de Janeiro, Vitoria, Juiz de Fora; in Russia, Moscow, St. Petersburg, Yekaterinburg, Petrozavodsk; in India, New Delhi, Hyderabad, Kolkata, Pune; in China, Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Wuhan, and, in South Africa, Johannesburg, Cape Town, Durban and Port Elizabeth. The study included both traditional media (print, radio and television) and, at the time, the rising online news media. To accommodate local conditions, where purely online news outlets were small in number or non-existent, news portals and online versions of traditional news media were included; this was the case for India and South Africa.

Parameters that were common across the countries were as follows: journalists were selected from a spectrum of media types (television, radio and so on), of media ownership (private, mixed and state, i.e., government owns more than 50 per cent of direct or indirect assets, as applicable), and of influence (quality, i.e., influential in public life, and popular, i.e., having a large audience). Here, too, local considerations were important: for example, while the Brazilian team defined quality news vehicles as those having the highest impact on the political agenda, the South African team defined them as community media.

Altogether, with a few exceptions, 24 news outlets were selected from each capital city and 12 from each provincial city, with two journalists from each major/pro-vincial city outlet.The final sample included 729 journalists from the five BRICS countries as follows: 487 capital and 242 provincial city'journalists, and 484 offline and 245 online journalists. The in-depth interviews began in December 2012 and were completed by the end ofjanuary 2015.

In the in-depth interviews, journalists were asked to narrate the three main qualities ofjournalistic professionalism, the functions ofjournalism as an institution, and the roles of journalists who have their own agency. These variables provide us with an opportunity to highlight the localizing approach we adopt in this chapter. They comprise the essence ofjournalism and thus are often the target for normative reductionism and evaluation. Journalists were also asked to address their social media use given its relative newness at the time of the study and the opportunities it provides journalists to gather and deliver news even in restricted contexts, and thus allows for new freedoms.

The BRICS perspective as an exercise in localizing

For a localization perspective to work, it is important to consider epistemologies. Kivikuru (2009) mentions an example of an epistemological shift, influenced by Western narratives about journalism, which took place over time in communication research in Africa, a shift from development to democracy as a primary value. In the face of such narratives, some important strategies to consider in journalism studies research include using place-based epistemologies ofjournalism that are derived inductively from the local context in the interpretation of findings (Wasserman and de Beer, 2009),

In an exercise relevant to our adoption of a localizing approach in discussing findings, Albuquerque and Lycariào (2018) explored the potential of BRICS to provide an alternative to the Western normative perspective adopted often in international media studies.They suggested that BRICS is a ‘performative category’, i.e., a heterogeneous group of countries, diverse in their historical, political, economic and cultural conditions, but united ‘by a common struggle for recognition’ in a UScentered neoliberal world order that is characterized by Western hegemony. BRICS embodies the idea of a future where the global order is not unipolar, i.e., one that is not dominated by any one country or an alliance of countries (de Coning, 2016). For Albuquerque and Lycariào, this ‘collective project’ or ‘common agenda’ translates into a ‘BRICS perspective’ (2018: 2878), one that explores the impact of the unipolar world order on academic research and, in doing so, offers an analytic strategy comprising ethical, epistemological and methodological aspects. Such an analysis makes manifest the premises of mainstream international media studies research and provides an alternative interpretive mode, which in our view echoes in some aspects the localizing model we have adopted.

From the ethical viewpoint, the BRICS struggle is ‘against similar ways of thinking and acting that establish and sustain status difference and economic and political inequality’ (Downey, 2008: 70). Essentially, this viewpoint, which finds value in the diversity of the BRICS countries, calls for a multipolar approach in international media studies rather than using normative comparison with a unipolar ideological order. Thus, according to the ethical aspect of the BRICS perspective, it is imperative to avoid an interpretive strategy that places countries in a hierarchy that considers some countries as ‘less’ than others. In essence, no one country should be held up as the virtuous model.

The epistemological aspect of this analytic strategy positions itself in opposition to the approach in much international media studies research that uses the premises and data mostly from non-academic agents, such as Freedom House, whose roots often lie in neoliberalism. It ‘emphasizes the political biases lying behind the data presented by these agents’ (Albuquerque and Lycariào, 2018: 2884).The strategy’s methodological angle ‘considers the countries under analysis from a relational perspective and explores other units of analysis existing [at the] supranational and ... infranational [levels]’ (ibid.: 2882). In a relational approach, countries are not analyzed in isolation ‘as existing apart from other societies’, and the analysis explores the countries’ relationship with supranational and infra-national units in terms of power asymmetry and thus influence of the more powerful on those in the periphery (ibid.: 2883). Supra-national institutions are mostly Western transnational sites that are often neoliberal in their orientation and, due to their power advantage, are able to influence research agendas. Infra-national institutions are within-country elite groups that perpetuate in-country colonization of sub-elite groups.

The methodological approach has some degree of overlap with the ethical and epistemological approaches in that, first, it refers to the moral hierarchy of virtuous and not, which is created in country-comparative media research when the analysis adopts methodological nationalism, i.e., treats a country as a homogeneous unit to be normatively compared with other units, and, second, suggests researchers pay attention to asymmetrical power relations that allow non-academic Western organizations to influence research agendas.

 
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