At the crossroads of crisis : newspaper journalists' struggle to redefine themselves and their work as their organization and the profession change



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Newspaper journalists today find themselves at the nexus of a changing media landscape. Their professional principles and job roles are being challenged by changes in the technology they are expected to use, changes in the economic model that has supported the industry since this nation was founded, and changes in public attitudes and perceptions of newspaper journalism. This study examines these changes through the lens of social identity theory, examining how technological and economic changes have affected newspaper journalists’ perceptions about the ways in which they are able to perform their jobs and their perceptions about threats to the status of their profession, and how those beliefs affect their identification with their newspaper organizations and the profession. The primary methodological approach used was a national Web-based survey of journalists working at newspapers with circulations of more than 10,000. To supplement the survey findings, in-depth interviews were conducted with survey participants who volunteered to be interviewed. The findings included that journalists who have negative perceptions about changes in the newspaper industry will be more likely to have negative feelings about the impact of those changes on their jobs, and that journalists with negative feelings about those changes on their jobs will be more likely to have lower organizational identification. Professional identification was found to partially mediate this relationship, in large part because it has a considerable overlap with journalists’ organizational identification. This study also found that journalists who have negative perceptions about changes in the industry will be more likely to perceive the status of the profession has been threatened, and that journalists who perceive those status threats will be more likely to have lower professional identification. Additionally, journalists’ job type and the circulation size of their newspaper affected some of these relationships, such as the link between negative feelings about technological and economic changes and lower organizational identification. The implications of this study’s findings for the newspaper profession and those who study it are discussed in the last chapter.