ARTICLE: Learning and knowing at a public broadcasting company

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Journalistic practice should be seen as open-ended and performative, rather than fixed and routine, a new study states. Aare Värk and Eneli Kindsiko of the University of Tartu studied on-the-job learning and knowing in journalistic practice, following the work at Estonian Public Broadcasting.

The researchers did a year-long ethnographic study including 19 on-site observation sessions, 25 interviews, and analyzing related documents.

They found that journalists’ communities of practice are actively negotiating a shared understanding of what is good practice. At the same time researchers saw room for journalists’ own agency. Journalists studied had considerable autonomy in choosing how to use the collectively gained competence, and they also participated actively in creating this shared understanding. Journalists were also responsive to ongoing and anticipated future changes.

“In the open-ended performance of journalism, knowledge that informs needs to be responsive to the changes in the wider texture of practices that journalism is part of”, Värk and Kindsiko write. This texture consists of practices that are reported about, journalistic practices of other public broadcasting companies, and practices of their audiences.

To conclude, the authors present practical implications for journalistic organizations and their management: 1) shifting emphasis of institutionalised knowledge created in training towards facilitating local processes of knowing, 2) allowing autonomy for individuals to establish relationships with other practices that are relevant 3) individual experiences should have a way to affect their daily community of practice.

The article “Knowing in Journalistic Practice” was published in Journalism Practice and is available online (free abstract).

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