Entrepreneuring with Words: Reflections on Doing Auto-Ethnography in Journalism Studies

Brouwers, A., 7-Feb-2017, p. 78. 2 p.

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstractAcademic

In this paper we reflect on the challenges and opportunities that arise when applying the auto-ethnographic method in the field of journalism studies. In a time when established legacy news media face significant challenges –crises in funding models, declining audiences, and fierce competition– many new forms as well as definitions of journalism emerge. To capture changing practices and conceptualisations of journalism, we adopt a practice theory approach, highlighting that we need a bottom-up perspective on the emerging culture of journalistic work. Doing enactment research (Steyaert & Landström 2009) by setting up two entrepreneurial projects, we aim to gain insight in understandings, daily activities, emotions and material contexts of journalists at different stages of their entrepreneurial endeavours. One PhD-project aims at making podcasts more innovative as a genre in journalism in the Netherlands. The second PhD-project traces the boundaries of journalism by employing artistic methods to create journalistic interventions in physical spaces. Here, we reflect on the methodological concerns as well as opportunities that the autoethnographic method presents, specifically focusing on issues of quality and reflexivity in qualitative inquiry.Whether perceived as relatively established (in fields like sociology, anthropology and educational studies), marginal (in organisation studies) or unconventional (in journalism studies), the autoethnographic method remains debated. There are those who praise the opportunities of writing about the self (c.f. Ellis and Bochner 2011), but there are also more critical stances towards the autoethnographic process (c.f. Learmonth and Humphreys 2011). Our research can add to existing discussions in multiple ways. By focusing on the contested definition of journalism, where the authority of journalists is questioned, their social relevance renegotiated and their output genres broadened, we can first of all affirm the affordances of doing an autoethnographic investigation. The deep reflexive process of autoethnography can access the tacit knowledge which would otherwise remain obscured. In our case we are able to follow the coming to life of (professional) identities as they are ongoingly created, leading to rich and unique stories that can counter simplistic, hegemonic myths of what entrepreneurialism and journalism is and should bring.However, besides the many affordances, the method does not come without challenges. We will address, next to the above-mentioned opportunities, two specific challenges with regard to writing auto-ethnography sincerely and critically: i) How to capture in words that which cannot easily be captured in words (referring both to embodied knowledge, ‘hunches’, ‘premonitions’, and ‘felt windows of opportunities’ that guide both journalists and entrepreneurs in their activities) ; ii) How to find a coherent and authentic voice to describe and analyse an ongoing practice (referring to the unique opportunity that enactment research provides to capture the entrepreneurial process as it is going on, rather than as a cohesive story that is told in hindsight). Ultimately, we aim to reflect on the standards that we pose to ourselves as well as those that we are subjected to by others in the research process.
Ellis, C., Adams, T. E., & Bochner, A. P. (2011). Autoethnography: An Overview. Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 12(1), 1-40 [paragraphs].
Learmonth, M., & Humphreys, M. (2011). Autoethnography and academic identity: glimpsing business school doppelgangers. Organization, 19(1), 99-117.
Steyaert, C., & Landström, H. (2009). Enacting entrepreneurship research in a pioneering, provocative and participative way: on the work of Bengt Johannisson. Small Business Economics, 36(2), 123–134.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages2
Publication statusPublished - 7-Feb-2017
EventEuropean Congress of Qualitative Inquiry 2017 - KU Leuven, Leuven, Belgium
Duration: 7-Feb-201710-Feb-2017


ConferenceEuropean Congress of Qualitative Inquiry 2017
Internet address


European Congress of Qualitative Inquiry 2017


Leuven, Belgium

Event: Conference

ID: 56250811