Defining the Worlds of Journalism Study Sample: Working Paper on Sampling Methodology for the Third Wave of the Worlds of Journalism Study.

By Martin Oller Alonso, Ivor Shapiro, Kenneth Andresen, Maria Anikina, Mariana De Maio, Basyouni Hamada, Folker Hanusch, James Hollings, Guðbjörg Hildur Kolbeins, Sallie Hughes, Levi Zeleza Manda, Parkie Mbozi, and Lia-Paschalia Spyridou.  Worlds of Journalism Study, November, 2019.

Abstract: This report to investigators in the Worlds of Journalism Study (WJS) responds to a methodological need, expressed at the WJS Global Convention held in Madrid on July 5 and 6, 2019, for clearer and more globally viable definitions of various key concepts in our research, especially those that affect sampling method. Following a literature review and theoretical discussion, we propose that sampling for WJS3 be founded upon a set of concise, pragmatic, semantically rational, and longitudinally consistent definitions for the primary concepts involved and selected secondary concepts.

The proposed definitions for three pivotal constructs are as follows:

  • Journalist: Someone who regularly seeks, describes, analyzes, interprets, contextualizes, edits, produces, presents or portrays intentionally accurate information about current affairs (news), in any text, sound and/or or visual form or medium, as part of a process of providing or interpreting this information to a more generalized group of people than those previously familiar with it, and without expectation of deriving personal benefit from the consequences of this information being made available. The journalist’s work may or may not specialize in any particular subject matter or “beat” (e.g. politics, culture, business, crime, sports, lifestyle). The journalist may be employed by one or more news outlets, and/or may be self-employed (“freelance”).
  • News: Subject matter that consists of factual information about current affairs, analysis of or commentary upon that information, or any combination thereof.
  • News Outlet: An original editorial product (e.g., a newspaper, TV newscast, online news site or radio station) with an identifiable focus on providing news.Definitions are also proposed for other constructs deemed methodologically useful, including Professional Journalist, Peripheral Journalist, News Organization, Media Platform, Media Range, Media Property, and Social Media. We recommend avoiding inherently ambiguous terms such as “citizen (or amateur) journalist,” “mainstream journalist/media,” and “alternative media.”

Note: this document was produced by a working group of investigators from 11 countries co-convened by Martin Oller Alonso of the University of Milan and Ivor Shapiro of Ryerson University. The  complete paper and all its recommended definitions were approved to accompany the WJS3 Methodological Framework in November 2019.   

Global study offers unique insight into state of journalism today

By Sherry Ricchiardi.  International Journalists’ Network, March 20, 2019. 

When Professor Lisa Taylor brought the Worlds of Journalism Study (WJS) to life at a media ethics conference in Doha, Qatar, in January, many in the room were hearing about the groundbreaking project for the first time… [Read on]

Just Who Do Canadian Journalists Think They Are? Political Role Conceptions in Global and Historical Perspective

By Heather Rollwagen, Ivor Shapiro, Geneviève Bonin-Labelle, Lindsay Fitzgerald, and Lauriane Tremblay. Canadian Journal of Political Science 52 (3) September 2019 , pp. 461-477. DOI:

Abstract: In view of the robust link often inferred between autonomous journalism and the strength of a society’s democratic institutions, and against the background of current challenges to journalists’ traditional roles as purveyors of timely and independent information, we interviewed 352 Canadian journalists about their social and political roles and the influences on their news choices. Comparison of their responses against an international data set (N = 27,567) suggests that Canadian journalists place greater value on detached monitorial roles and claim relatively greater autonomy from commercial and other influences on their work. Further, in comparing these findings to an influential panel study from 1996 to 2003, we conclude that the Canadian journalists’ “credo,” focused on neutral reporting and oriented more to perceived public interest than to business or audience interests, remains surprisingly intact despite contemporary pressures on news forms and business models. This professed neutrality is mitigated by a desire to promote diversity and tolerance.

Compte tenu du lien solide souvent inféré entre le journalisme autonome et la force des institutions démocratiques d’une société, et dans le contexte actuel de remise en question des rôles traditionnels des journalistes en tant que fournisseurs d’information opportune et indépendante, nous avons interviewé 352 journalistes canadiens sur leur rôle social et politique et les influences qu’ils exercent sur leurs choix de nouvelles. La comparaison de leurs réponses avec un ensemble de données internationales (N = 27 567) suggère que les journalistes canadiens accordent plus d’importance aux rôles de « surveillance détachés » et revendiquent une autonomie relative par rapport aux influences commerciales et autres sur leur travail. De plus, en comparant ces résultats à ceux d’une étude de panel influente de 1999 à 2003, nous concluons que le « credo » des journalistes canadiens, axé sur des reportages neutres et centré davantage sur l’intérêt public perçu que sur les intérêts des entreprises ou de l’audience, demeure étonnamment intact malgré les pressions actuelles sur les nouvelles formes et modèles commerciaux. Cette neutralité professée est atténuée par le désir de promouvoir la diversité et la tolérance.

As Ottawa helps the news industry, latest research suggests journalists’ loyalties are tough to buy

By Heather Rollwagen and Ivor Shapiro.  The Conversation, March 20, 2019.

…If news organizations get government money, do journalists become government servants? This question’s importance as it relates to freedom of the press cuts both ways.

On the one hand, there is no freedom of the press if the press does not exist, or if its existence hangs on a daily thread of avoiding bankruptcy. On the other, funding journalism fosters at best the appearance of a conflict of interest and at worst the tendency of pipers to pick tunes that please their payers.

Our research offers reason to think that Canadian journalists’ loyalties cannot be bought as easily as some fear. Rather, …most Canadian journalists express a collective sense of mission that requires them to be detached from those who provide their funding. Those sources of funding have long included… [Read on]

Profiles of Journalists: Demographic and Employment Patterns

By Beate Josephi, Folker Hanusch, Martin Oller Alonso, Ivor Shapiro, Kenneth Andresen, Arnold de Beer, Abit Hoxha, Sonia Virgínia Moreira, Kevin Rafter, Terje Skjerdal, Sergio Splendore, and Edson C. Tandoc, Jr. In Worlds of Journalism: Journalistic Cultures Around the Globe (pp. 68-102) ed. Thomas Hanitzsch, Folker Hanusch, Jyotika Ramaprasad, and Arnold S. de Beer. (Columbia University Press, 2019.)  

Journalistic Culture in a Global Context: A Conceptual Roadmap.

By Thomas Hanitzsch, Laura Ahva, Martin Oller Alonso, Jesús Arroyave, Liesbeth Hermans, Jan Fredrik Hovden,  Sallies Hughes, Beate Josephi, Jyotika Ramaprasad, Ivor Shapiro, & Tim P. Vos. (2019). In Worlds of Journalism: Journalistic Cultures Around the Globe (pp. 23–45) ed. Thomas Hanitzsch, Folker Hanusch, Jyotika Ramaprasad, and Arnold S. de Beer. (Columbia University Press, 2019.)

Funding journalism means defining who’s a journalist – not a bad thing

By Ivor Shapiro. The Conversation, November 25, 2018.

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

By Geneviève Bonin, Filip Dingerkus, Annik Dubied, Stefan Mertens, Heather Rollwagen, Vittoria Sacco, Ivor Shapiro, Olivier Standaert & Vinzenz Wyss. Journalism Studies (18,5) 2017. [Special Issue: Comparing Journalistic Cultures]

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.

Journalists in Canada: Country Report

By Heather Rollwagen, Ivor Shapiro, Geneviève Bonin, Lindsay Fitzgerald, and Lauriane Tremblay. Worlds of Journalism Study, 11 October, 2016.

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

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

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.

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

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

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. 

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

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.

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

Presentation to the Canadian Communications Association, Ottawa, June 3, 2015 by 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.