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dr. F. Harbers

Universitair docent
dr. F. Harbers

- Postdoc in VIDI project 'Entrepreneurship at Work' (2016-2018)


Combining practice-based research with more conventional methods, this Vidi-project provides a comprehensive understanding of the practices in the various stages of the journalistic process. The central aim is to theorise emerging shared understandings, everyday work activities, and material contexts of entrepreneurial journalists to understand how these challenge traditional conceptualisations of journalism. Ultimately, it concludes whether these new practices form a sustainable alternative of informing society, enhancing the diversity of information available to democratic publics.

Detailed project description

Clariah Research Pilot (Co-applicant) 2017-2018

Titel: Remediation in Sports News (ReSpoNs)


This project studies how sports journalism in newspapers has changed in response to the rise of television between 1959 and 1989. By means of AVResearcherXL it explores how remediation between these two media can be operationalized, empirically investigated over time and visualized. It will thus:

  • contribute to our understanding of processes of remediation between television     and print journalism, which are often hypothesized or taken for granted, but           rarely studied empirically;
  • test the functionalities of AVResearcherXL to systematically compare the                   development of newspaper and television content;
  • develop new functionalities for AVResearcherXL that will allow for better search     and visualization, and will enhance the feasibility of a systematic comparative         analysis of newspapers and television coverage.

Starting from a focused topic and limited dataset, this project provides novel insights in processes of remediation, also beyond sports journalism, which have hardly been studied yet because datasets were not digitized and linked.

- eScience ADAH (Co-applicant) 2017-2018

Title: News Genres: Advancing Media History by Transparent Automatic Genre Classication (NEWSGAC)


This project studies how genres in newspapers and television news can be detected automatically using machine learning in a transparent manner. This will enable us to capture the often hypothesized but, due to the highly time consuming nature of manual content analysis, largely understudied shift from opinion-based to fact-centred reporting. Moreover, we will open the black box of machine learning by comparing, predicting and visualizing the effects of applying various algorithms on heterogeneous data with varying quality and genre features that shift over time. This will enable scholars to do large-scale analyses of historic texts and other media types as well as critically evaluate the methodological effects of various machine learning approaches.

This project brings together expertise of journalism history scholars (RUG), specialists in data modelling, integration and analysis (CWI), digital collection experts (KB & NISV) and e-science engineers (eScience Center). It will first use a big manually annotated dataset (VIDI-project PI) to develop a transparent and reproducible approach to train an automatic classifier. Building upon this, the project will generate three outcomes:

  1. A study that revises our current understanding of the interrelated development of genre conventions in print and television journalism based upon large-scale automated content analysis via machine learning;
  2. Metrics and guidelines for evaluating the bias and error of the different preprocessing and machine learning approaches and of-the-shelf software packages;
  3. A dashboard that integrates, compares and visualises different algorithms and underlying machine learning approaches which can be integrated in the CLARIAH media suite.

- Researcher-in-Residence Koninklijke Bibliotheek (juli-december 2016)


Discerning Journalistic Styles. Exploring Automated Analysis of Journalism’s Modes of Expression (Acronym: DJS)


The ‘age of abundance’ of historical newspaper material poses new challenges to historical research. Historical approaches to selecting and analyzing newspapers, rooted in the assumption of a scarcity of available material, had to be replaced with social scientific methods (Nicholson 2013; Broersma 2009). Yet, these manual quantitative methods are still highly time consuming and can only cover a small part of the available material (Harbers 2014). Automated analysis could potentially alleviate this issue. However, although they have a great appeal to researchers (Allen, Waldstein & Zhu 2008; Grimmer & Stewart 2013), such research is mostly done in information science and linguistics. It seldom has a press historical perspective (Broersma 2009; Arbesman 2013). Moreover, the emphasis has mostly been on topical modeling (Lee & Myaeng 2002), whereas attention for automatic classification of style and genre is scarce. More attention is beneficial for a range of research fields, as it gains insight in the mode of expression of the newspapers and sheds light on the discursive context (Handford 2010).

The DJS-project aims to 1) connect existing metadata from a large-scale manual content analysis of three Dutch newspapers, to the corresponding digitized articles in Delpher to subsequently 2) explore the possibilities of automating the analysis of the historical development (1880s-1930s) of journalistic style through (supervised/validated) machine learning, focusing on the classification of genre as an indicator of style (Grimmer & Stewart 2013; Ikonomakis, Kotsiantis & Tampakas 2005). It follows up on the NWO funded research project into the historical development of journalistic styles (1880-2005) (VIDI project Broersma, 2008-2013). Furthermore, DJS also functions as a pilot for a larger research proposal into automatic classification of newspapers styles, which I intend to write with Prof. Broersma.

The VIDI research entails a manual quantitative content analysis of 9 newspapers in 3 countries (NL, GB, FR). This has resulted in a database with coded metadata about 105000 articles (ca. 33000 Dutch articles) in 6 sample years (2 constructed weeks for each of the 9 dailies in 1885, 1905, 1925, 1965, 1985, 2005). The articles were coded for a range of manifest and latent variables (size, sourcing, topic, genre, author, images) to map the nuances of a general shift from a reflective reporting style to an event-centered style (Harbers 2014).

Research question:

1)    How can existing metadata about newspaper articles be connected to corresponding digitized newspaper material in Delpher

2)    How can a set of predefined genre classification (based on manually coded data) be automated fruitfully from a press historical perspective? 

- Proefschrift 'Between Personal Experience and Detached Information. The development of reporting and the reportage in Great Britain, the Netherlands and France, 1880-2005' (2008-2014)

Dit proefschrift onderzoekt de ontwikkeling van de reportage als een tekstueel genre in relatie tot de opkomst van de verslaggeving als een nieuwe vorm van journalistiek in de Britse, Nederlandse en Franse dagbladjournalistiek tussen 1880 en 2005. De focus van de dissertatie ligt op de analyse van de tekstuele output van de journalistiek tussen 1880 en 2005. Een kernuitgangspunt van deze studie is dat deze tekstuele conventies inzicht bieden in de manier waarop de journalistiek haar eigen praktijk beschouwd, vormgeeft en presenteert. 

Door het comparatieve karakter van dit onderzoek komen de verschillen in de journalistieke ontwikkeling van de drie landen duidelijk naar voren. Daarmee gaat dit proefschrift in tegen het ‘standaardverhaal’ van de geschiedenis van de journalistiek, dat de suggestie wekt dat de journalistiek in Europa vanaf de tweede helft van de 19e eeuw met hier en daar enige vertraging door het objectiviteitsregime als professionele standaard gedomineerd wordt. Daarbij wordt de objectieve journalistieke praktijk ook impliciet als de enige juiste neergezet. 

Deze dissertatie wijst echter op de normatieve en teleologische aard van dit beeld en toont dat een genuanceerde analyse van de journalistiek teksten veeleer wijst op een geleidelijke, complexe en veelvormige ontwikkeling van de journalistiek in de verschillende landen vanaf het laatste kwart van de 19e eeuw. Die diversiteit is het resultaat van de specifieke culturele, institutionele en commerciële contexten waarbinnen de competitie tussen de verschillende opvattingen over de juiste journalistieke praktijk zich afspeelde.

Klik hier voor een uitgebreide samenvatting van de dissertatie

- Expert workshop (2011) & edited volume (2016):  

 'Witnessing the 60s: a decade of change in journalism and literature'

This expert workshop aims to gain insight in the entwined quest of both journalists and literary writers to come to terms with the far-reaching changes that took place roughly between 1960 and 1970. The sixties is shorthand for a ubiquitous social, political and cultural upheaval in the Western world with its culmination point in 1968. The changes were so encompassing and impressive that many considered traditional ways of making sense of the world no longer sufficient; accepted cultural forms suddenly seemed to lose their capacity to interpret reality.

These developments had a strong impact on journalistic and literary practice. Both journalists and literary writers experimented with new forms, thereby stretching the limits of their domains. Several influential journalists turned to literature, which resulted in a form of reporting still famous under the caption ‘New journalism’. Concurrently, certain authors felt they could not ignore the sweeping developments in society, and – finding their usual forms inadequate – turned to journalistic forms of reportage and documentary to satisfy their sociopolitical engagement. Although these journalists and literary authors had similar goals, and were experimenting along the same lines, there was nothing like a clear-cut movement at this time. Writers and journalists alike were discovering by trial-and-error ways to represent the rapidly changing world around them.

Despite the attention that has already been devoted to this period, the intersections between literature and journalism have not been studied extensively. The sociopolitical and cultural changes that occurred in the 1960s have mainly been examined from the perspectives of sociology or political science, and focus primarily on institutional change. Whenever literary journalism in the 1960s is the object of research, scholars devote their attention, for the most part, on the American situation. Compounding this situation is the fact that the changing conventions in journalism and literature are too seldom scrutinized from an interdisciplinary perspective. The workshop, ‘Witnessing the 60s’, aims to address this shortcoming. We wish to study the entwined journalistic and literary quest for adequate forms to represent reality from a comparative and interdisciplinary perspective, and we invite scholars in the fields of literature, history, and journalism to present their reflections and analyses. We want to consider how the struggle to represent the changing world of the 1960s constituted new norms, and saw journalists and authors alike employ various innovative routines and textual formats.

Laatst gewijzigd:08 oktober 2018 08:41

Contact information

Oude Kijk in 't Jatstraat 26
9712 EK Groningen
The Netherlands

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