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Research Procedures

I examined boundary work and performances in different venues and situations: when reporters dealt with sources; in conversations they had with each other and that I had with them; in metadiscourse, that is, when journalists talked about journalism in situ as well as in the news16 and other public venues; at ritual moments of occupational consecration.

The main portion of the empirical analysis is based on field research on two state house press corps: The Legislative Correspondents Association (LCA) in Albany, New York, and the Landtagspresse (LP) in Munich. I chose state capitals over national capitals to study national press culture because the latter are places of exceptional concentrations of political power and media competition. I was in the field between April 2009 and August 2012. The first part of the research was in Albany and lasted until July 2011, with a 2-week follow-up in February 2012. I continued my research in Munich in October 2011 and stayed in the field until the end of July 2012.

Field research involved observation of reporting practices and 72 interviews with journalists from 31 different news organizations and spokespeople from different branches of government and legislature. In Albany, I did a total of 42 interviews with 31 journalists (seven of whom I interviewed twice) and four spokespeople; in Munich, 30 interviews with 24 journalists and six spokespeople. The larger part of the 300 hours of observation in Albany occurred between Governor Andrew Cuomo’s election in the fall of 2010, and the end of his first legislative session in office in June 2011. In Munich, I gathered 50 hours of observational data. I developed a coding matrix to analyze interview and observational data, using the Qualitative Data Analysis (QDA) application HyperResearch.

Interviews were semi-structured, which means I used an interview guide with a list of issues and questions and saw my role as an interviewer in facilitating narration and keeping it on the issues of interest. This required varying efforts of probing and steering conversations. I asked reporters what they considered bad journalism, occupational virtues, their responsibility to the public, and triumphs and failures of their national press culture. I confronted them with the notion of pack journalism—a pejorative term for press corps reporting— and asked them how they felt about it. Aside from this conversation about occupational values, I talked to them about what they considered the most fundamental changes in their work lives. If they did not address digital media themselves (most of them did) I asked them directly. Another section of the interviews dealt with the specific conditions of newsgathering within a political institution (including spatial arrangements), source relations, and professional autonomy. I talked to spokespeople about some of these issues, especially about press-politics relations.

Regarding observation, I spent time in the general area of the LCA, went to press conferences and witnessed more casual encounters between reporters and politicians. I shadowed four specific reporters in their offices at the State Capitol and followed them around, two of them extensively. Observation in Munich was basically reduced to plenary session days since journalists were only at the Landtag on these occasions for the most part. On those days I spent most time in the common area at the Maximilianeum (the state legislature). Observation in Munich was limited for reasons of spatial arrangement and access (see Appendix). Because of this imbalance, observational data play a subsidiary role in this book, more for illustrative purposes than systematic comparison.

Chapter 3 is mostly based on a comparative analysis of sacred discourses of professionalism and occupational mythologies in journalism. I considered jury statements of major national journalism awards in both countries between 1980 and 2013: The George Polk Award, Peabody Award and Pulitzer Prize in the USA; Hanns-Joachim-Friedrichs-Preis fur Fernsehjournalismus, Henri-Nannen Preis, and Theodor-Wolff- Preis in Germany. The sample included a total of 417 award statements. Furthermore, I analyzed obituaries of journalists in national newspapers and news magazines. Most of these were randomly chosen from a list of winners of aforementioned journalism awards who deceased between 1980 and 2013, amounting to a total of 151 obituaries of 88 journalists.

In the discourse analysis of award statements and obituaries I looked for reoccurring conceptions of good journalism and professional worth. The analyses of these two distinct bodies of text partly overlapped, partly complemented each other. Obituaries expressed ideas of professional worth through the achievements and embodied qualities of commemorated journalists. Award statements discussed professional worth more through journalistic works of excellence, the more or less particular accomplishments (specific news stories or lifetime achievements), and the reporting that made them possible. Another way how both bodies of text articulated criteria of good journalism was by drawing boundaries toward bad journalism.

 
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