A well-established organizational culture and a working routine are crucial for legacy media when adapting to rapid changes in the digital age, a new study states. Ke Li, of the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign, did ethnographic research at the Chinese newspaper Beijing News for four months.
Li proposes a convergence and de-convergence model of journalistic practice. The model explains how journalists attempt to maintain a balance between meeting new requirements of the online world, on the one hand, and pursuing traditional, critical reporting on the other.
Beijing News has built its reputation on in-depth and critical reporting. With their de-convergence strategy, they consciously keep a distance from the online environment, characterized by emotional outpouring and the mixing of facts and fiction.
A newsroom cannot be redesigned using only technological solutions, the author emphasizes. Any technological change is also mediated through political considerations. The current government’s regime demonstrates unprecedentedly strict control over the symbolic order, one of the interviewees stated.
“Although Chinese newspapers and journalism are experiencing similar economic pressures as their Western counterparts, the different broad political context that Chinese journalism operates within is deeply rooted in may provide us with different understandings of digital impacts on journalism and journalists’ responses to them”, Li concludes.
The article “Convergence and de-convergence of Chinese journalistic practice in the digital age” was published in Journalism and is available on the publisher’s website (abstract free).
Picture: Geometric wood pattern by Teo Duldulao, license CC0 1.0