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What is a “journalist”? Here’s the WJS answer
CWJS investigator Ivor Shapiro played a leading role in helping the global Worlds of Journalism Study team determine whom to include under the category of “journalist” in the recently launched third wave of the international project.
Ivor co-convened, with Martin Oller Alonso of the University of Milan, a working group of 11 investigators to define the meaning of “journalist” and other key concepts for sampling purposes in the next wave of the Worlds of Journalism Study (WJS3) .
The working group’s definitions were adopted in November, 2019, as an extension of the global study’s methodological framework. More than 110 country teams are expected to participate in WSJ3. The Canadian team, led by Lisa Taylor, will include Heather Rollwagen, Colette Brin, and Nicole Blanchett.
Unlike previous waves of WJS research, the third iteration’s sample will include two categories: “professional journalists,” and “peripheral journalists.”
Following a literature review and theoretical discussion, the working group agreed that these sampling categories should be founded upon a set of “concise, pragmatic, semantically rational, and longitudinally consistent definitions” for the primary concepts involved and selected secondary concepts.
A journalist is defined as:
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”).
Other primary definitions include:
- 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.
Secondary definitions (for other constructs deemed methodologically useful) include Professional Journalist, Peripheral Journalist, News Organization, Media Platform, Media Range, Media Property, and Social Media.
The groups recommend avoiding inherently ambiguous terms such as “citizen (or amateur) journalist,” “mainstream journalist/media,” and “alternative media.”
The working paper is freely available as:
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.