FSD3041 Interpretation, Objectivity and Autonomy in Journalists' Work in Finland 2013

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  • Reunanen, Esa (University of Tampere. Tampere Research Centre for Journalism, Media and Communication (COMET))


autonomy at work, censorship, communication personnel, freedom of speech, journalism, journalists, news, newspaper press, values

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The study examined how Finnish reporters view their role in society, what they thought about interpretive journalism, and how they viewed their own freedom of expression in their work. The study was funded by the Helsingin Sanomat Foundation.

Relating to interpretive or opinion journalism, the respondents were asked whether they were encouraged to or prohibited from writing columns and comments, how often they wrote different pieces (e.g. newspieces, columns, leading articles), and to what extent they agreed with a number of statements (e.g. "I would gladly write interpretive or commentary pieces, but all my time goes into news reporting and other required tasks"). Further questions surveyed the importance of different functions of journalism (reporting, backgrounding, participation in discussion) in the respondents' work and in journalism generally, changes in the content of the newspaper in the last decade, and assessments of potential changes in the content in the future.

Views on the truthfulness, fairness, and objectivity of reporting were examined by asking the respondents the extent to which they agreed with several statements (e.g. "I strive to present different points of view fairly, even when I personally have a clear opinion on the matter", "A reporter cannot present things 'as is', because the focus, sources and viewpoint of an article are always based on consideration", "In a newspiece, a person who makes a claim is responsible for its truthfulness. The reporter is only responsible for citing the source correctly.")

Transparency and openness in revealing own values and opinions were surveyed. The respondents were asked how widely they were prepared to share their opinions on different issues to different people, whether they wished to remain anonymous or to be known as a journalist, and whether they thought that reporters should reveal their opinions on topics they write about.

Finally, the respondents were asked how often in the previous 12 months their piece had been modified or left unpublished because of the opinions or values it contained, and to what extent they agreed with a number of statements about autonomy at work (e.g. "News editors or producers decide the majority of topics and perspectives of the pieces I write").

Background variables included the respondent's gender, age, job title/tasks, and length of career in journalism as well as circulation of the newspaper.

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