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Entrepreneurial journalism

Entrepreneurship in journalism is booming. Roughly half of the 7000 Dutch journalists is producing, selling and distributing news items independently. How does this entrepreneurship impact journalistic work and how does it affect their task to inform Dutch citizens? Associate professor Media and Journalism Studies and Rosalind Franklin Fellow Tamara Witschge received a VIDI-grant in 2015 to develop research in this domain: Entrepreneurship at Work: Analysing Practice, Labour and Creativity in Journalism.

Young journalists are often entrepreneurs
Young journalists are often entrepreneurs

PhD students working as entrepreneurs

The VIDI project of Witschge will combine traditional and theoretical methods with a form of practical action research. Together with Frank Harbers, who is working as a postdoc on the project, she will conduct interviews and ethnographic research. Two PhD students, both with formal training as journalist, are conducting action research: they will set up their own entrepreneurial project. They will analyse the process they experience as starting entrepreneurs through auto-ethnographic research, an innovative method in journalism research.

Why did Witschge choose this approach? “Research should not distance itself from society and only observe it critically. If we really want to know how journalism is evolving at the moment, we have to take part and perform qualitative research in action. Doing entrepreneurial journalism whilst reflecting on it provides new insights as well as new relationships between the researchers and the researched. We collect rich stories on the process as it is on going. As such it is fundamentally different from asking people to tell the story after the fact. Whether the business ‘succeeded’ or ‘failed’, in hindsight we produce a neat, linear and coherent story. We tend to forget the periods of uncertainty or choices that led us nowhere. Through this auto-ethnographic research, combined with results from ethnography and interviews with other entrepreneurial journalists, we aim to gain in-depth insight into what is happening in journalism today.”

Knowledge in co-creation

Knowledge utilisation, or better yet, knowledge circulation, is central in Entrepreneurship at Work. The researchers collaborate with professionals in journalism in an aim to circulate knowledge existing in the field to academia and vice-versa. Five activities are planned, starting with session that aims to inventories the issues that journalists struggle with, followed by workshops and an e-book with portraits of entrepreneurs from the creative sector.

Witschge: “Knowledge circulation should be central in a project like this, and I draw on my network in the field: as a member of the board of trustees of the Dutch broadcasting organisation the VPRO, as the chair of the journalistic crowd-funding foundation Crowdpress and as a participant or speaker at professional or public events I gain a lot of insight into the experiences, knowledge and questions and see the process of co-creation develop naturally. Journalists and others involved in the field are important research partners, who have the same interest; understanding and shaping the present and future states of journalism. Entrepreneurship has been presented as the panacea of journalism: starting journalists all bear the burden of having to become journalism hero and save its future. It is important that through research a more nuanced picture evolves which shows the everyday practices, showing both the opportunities and the costs of entrepreneurship of the people who are doing it.. Talking to both young and senior journalists it is clear that they are very willing to help break the myth and gain a better understanding.”

Humanities in a sustainable society

This research project is relevant to society in various ways. Entrepreneurial journalism impacts our democracy, as journalists play an important critical part in monitoring politics and power. Moreover entrepreneurship is more and more present in many cultural sectors, for example among artists. “We have to be honest about the impact of this focus on entrepreneurship on these professionals and branches, but also on our society as a whole. There I see the potential of the Humanities: through focusing not on the economics of it, but rather on the human aspects we can reflect on what kind of work practices will be sustainable in an ever evolving society.”

*The Rosalind Franklin Fellowship program is the University of Groningen's prestigious program for very talented female researchers.

Last modified:13 March 2019 07.01 a.m.
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