ARTICLE: Political journalists differ from others, but not much

Newsroom of the New York Times newspaper by Marjory Collins, licence CC0 1.0

Do political journalists stand apart in how they perceive their job and its requirements? Jari Väliverronen, of University of Tampere, studied Finnish political journalists by analysing survey data gathered originally for the Worlds of Journalism study. Väliverronen’s data consisted of two survey samples: the first covered journalists in general (N=345) and the second targeted political journalists in specific (N=80).

The author compared political journalists to three other groups: all journalists, “generalist” and “news specialist” journalists. Broadly speaking, Finnish political journalists do not stand out dramatically. All groups are highly committed to the profession’s ethical guidelines and all are quite reluctant to use controversial practices.

Yet, political journalists stand apart on some accounts. Especially in terms of role conceptions, political journalists prioritize different goals than the other groups. As one might expect, providing political information is more important to political journalists than to any of the three other, analysed groups.

News specialists appear to be most akin to political journalists. The two subgroups share three priorities that set them apart from the others: analysing current events, scrutinizing leaders and motivating people to participate in politics.

Compared to the three other analysed groups, political journalists are more homogeneous in their role perceptions and more absolute in their ethical judgement. This might be due to the prestige of the beat and the small number of journalists specialized in it, Väliverronen suggests. In other words, political journalists might face less outside pressures, thus being at liberty to develop and follow the profession’s ideals.

The article “More of the Same or a Different Breed Altogether?” was published by the journal Nordicom Review. It is freely available online on the publisher’s website (open access, PDF file).

Picture: Newsroom of the New York Times newspaper by Marjory Collins, licence CC0 1.0.

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