The final speakers in the ASMC14 session is by Tamara Witschge and Mark Deuze. Tamara begins by noting her skepticism about the current state of journalism, and highlights the fact that many journalists are highly reluctant to work as freelancers outside of the conventional newsroom – yet those journalists who do work as freelancers often say that they would not go back to an institutional setting.
This is a question relating to the social dimension of news production, of course. New models challenge the conceptualisation of what is news, who produces it, and what it is for; new news startups show remarkable passion and innovation in rethinking the idea of news, and do not necessarily work with conventional conceptualisations of journalism. Tamara's and Mark's project aims to gain insight into such new organisations.
What is a bottom-up definition of what is news, then, and of what it is for? What are news producers' definitions? Conventional, research definitions of news are not necessarily conducive to understanding the full range of views on and passions for the news which journalism practitioners have. News producers are also critiquing mainstream media, and a bottom-up approach is able to give them a platform for these views.
This also ties into the recent focus on entrepreneurial journalism in recent journalism studies. That focus does not do justice to the full range of views and perspectives in the field; rather, there is a need for theories with heart – with respect and detailed attention to the embodied emotions that drive people to work in and with media. It is necessary to recognise and understand these emotions much more clearly in order to understand the full, lived, physical experience of contemporary journalists.
Journalists participating in the study talked about data, technologies and social media as things to have fun with – they mentioned playing with data, and indeed described themselves as playing at being journalists. Nonetheless, their journalism does fulfil a real watchdog role, and it is imaginative in how it defines and position itself. Impact, for them, means moving people in some way – to move them emotionally, in particular. This emotional aspect of journalism and journalism practice is often underexplored, and is sadly missing from journalism education, too.