Professional Role Orientations and Perceived Influences among Canadian Journalists: Preliminary Findings from the Canadian Worlds of Journalism Study [Research Note]

2017 Proceedings of the Journalism Interest Group, Canadian Communication Association. By Heather Rollwagen, Lindsay Fitzgerald, Lauriane Tremblay, Geneviève Bonin and Ivor Shapiro.

Abstract: Using data from the Canadian Worlds of Journalism Study (N=361), this research note explores how journalists orient themselves in their professional work and the extent to which various influences impact journalistic practices. Results indicate that Canadian journalists overwhelmingly understand themselves to act as monitors of political and business interests, and resist an identity of supporters of government policy. Canadian journalists feel their work is heavily influenced by their available resources, including access to information, media laws and regulation, time, and the constraints of journalism ethics. Results also suggest that these role orientations and perceived influences are explained in part by the employment context in which a journalist works, and to a lesser extent, the journalist’s political orientation.


The Canadian Journalist of the 21st Century:  Highlights from the Worlds of Journalism Study. 

Presentation to the Canadian Communications Association, Toronto, May 30, 2017. Heather Rollwagen, Genevieve Bonin, Lindsay Fitzgerald, Lauriane Tremblay, Ivor Shapiro

Abstract: In this first full report on the Canadian “Worlds of Journalism” (WJS) Study, we will provide highlights of what we have learned about the demographic profile, attitudes and practice of journalists across Canada. This report will be based on responses from a representative national sample of 352 journalists who responded to an internationally consistent survey instrument in person-to-person telephone interviews, enhanced with 50 qualitative in-person or Skype interviews that probed aspects of the quantitative data. Both the quantitative and qualitative phases of our data-collection have been carefully sampled for representativeness of anglophone and francophone Canadian journalists working across all media platforms and from a wide range of news organizations including freelancers. Our findings are directly comparable to responses from journalists in 63 other countries and may be more broadly understood in the context of important prior work by David Pritchard, Marc-François Bernier, Florian Sauvageau and others over the past two decades.
In our 2015 work-in-progress report to the CCA, based on an initial pilot of 100 interviews, we hypothesized that Canadian journalists are “detached watchdogs” in the four-way international typology proposed by Thomas Hanitzsch, that they tend to trust individuals more than they trust any public or private institutions, that they feel less constrained by political or business interests than by resources and media policy, and that they tend to lean left of centre in voting preference. All these hypotheses appear to be supported by our final results. Overwhelming majorities of journalists think it is somewhat or very important that journalists remain detached observers, report things “as they are,” monitor political leaders as well as business, and provide analysis of current affairs. Sizeable majorities say they experience considerable autonomy both in choosing and in shaping the stories on which they work.
Our findings also suggest that francophone Quebec journalists are significantly more likely to identify with an overtly political “fourth-estate” type of understanding of their professional role, while anglophone peers are significantly more likely to focus on satisfying audience needs, including the need for entertainment and advice. Similar statements can be made in two other countries with strong francophone minorities — Belgium and Switzerland — as we found in a joint analysis with WJS colleagues in those countries.
Details about journalists’ perspectives on ethical standards, credibility and time available for reporting, as well as their views on audiences, the role of various workplace influences and demographic information, will complete our paper of Canadian journalistic perspectives. These findings will be particularly interesting to journalism students, scholars, journalists, as well as union representatives and other relevant industry stakeholders who seek to understand this everchanging field, one currently characterized by many as being “in crisis.”

Slides can be viewed here.

Quelle Différence? Language, culture and nationality as influences on francophone journalists’ identity.

Journalism Studies (18,5) [Special Issue: Comparing Journalistic Cultures] Geneviève Bonin, Filip Dingerkus, Annik Dubied, Stefan Mertens, Heather Rollwagen, Vittoria Sacco, Ivor Shapiro, Olivier Standaert & Vinzenz Wyss

Abstract: Canada, Belgium and Switzerland are multicultural countries with several similarities including having French as a minority language. The trio also shares similar media landscapes, systems and approaches to journalism to those of other Western European and Northern American countries. These commonalities offer an opportunity to probe for the possibility of a language-based differentiation in journalists’ professional identities. Our comparative analysis of Worlds of Journalism Study data suggests that francophone journalists in our three countries have much more in common than not with their other-language peers. However, the francophone journalists seem more likely to identify with a politicized role that includes agenda-setting, citizen-motivation and scrutinizing power, and less likely to be driven by attracting and satisfying audiences. A différence francophone exists, but it is modest.

La perception des journalistes francophones canadiens de leurs rôles professionnels et de leur identité

15ème conférence annuelle sur la communication et les médias de masse, Athens Institute for Education and Research, 9 mai 2017, Athènes, Grèce. Lauriane Tremblay, Genevieve Bonin, Heather Rollwagen, Ivor Shapiro . 

Résumé: Le Canada compte 7.3 millions de francophones, bien que le Québec soit la seule province où le français est la langue officielle. Environ un million de francophone vivent dans de petites communautés dans les autres provinces canadiennes. Le journalisme francophone est donc une réalité importante au Canada. Cette étude s’inscrit dans le cadre du World of Journalism Study, une recherche où plus de 60 pays effectuent des analyses locales pour dresser un portrait global du journalisme aujourd’hui et pour comprendre comment les journalistes perçoivent leur identité professionnelle. La composante canadienne est divisée en deux: l’équipe francophone basée à l’Université d’Ottawa et l’équipe anglophone basée à l’Université Ryerson. Les mondes journalistiques anglophones et francophones sont fréquemment considérés trop différents par la communauté scientifique pour être étudiés ensemble. Quant à lui, le paysage journalistique francophone est souvent subdivisé selon les journalistes québécois et les journalistes francophones en milieu minoritaire malgré que les recherches semblent montrer que les groupes ne sont pas si différents dans la perception de leurs rôles professionnels. Pour cette étude, l’inclusivité a été privilégiée et les deux groupes ont été étudiés ensemble. 116 journalistes francophones canadiens ont été sélectionnés de façon aléatoire pour répondre à un questionnaire. Les résultats de la section portant sur l’identité professionnelle ont montré que les journalistes francophones canadiens s’identifient au concept du chien de garde. Ils mettent l’emphase sur fournir au public des informations neutres et objectives. Ils ont moins tendance à vouloir influencer l’opinion publique. Protéger la démocratie semble être au coeur de leur identité professionnelle. Le chien de garde est souvent associé au journalisme Nord-Américain, ce qui nous pousse à nous demander si les mondes journalistiques canadiens anglophones et francophones sont réellement différents.

Journalists in Canada: Country Report

Rollwagen, Heather, Ivor Shapiro, Geneviève Bonin, Lindsay Fitzgerald, and Lauriane Tremblay: “Journalists in Canada: Country Report.” Worlds of Journalism Study. 11 October, 2016.

The professional identity of anglophone Canadian journalists: hypotheses suggested by a pilot study.

Presentation to the Canadian Communications Association, Ottawa, June 3, 2015. Ivor Shapiro, Heather Rollwagen, Genevieve Bonin, Lindsay Fitzgerald

Slides can be viewed here.


For more publications from the Worlds of Journalism Study, globally, please see the study’s international website.