The combination of technological, organizational, and societal change constitutes a highly dynamic and complex research setting for Digital Journalism Studies, calling for process-oriented and inclusive research perspectives. At the same time, journalistic organizations have to generate sustainable innovativeness and creativity to remain relevant in these times of change. Action research offers a framework for research collaborations between scholars and practitioners, generating holistic and solution-oriented outcomes of value for science and practice. With the clear intention to induce change, action research starts with the reflection on practice with a view to improving it. This article argues for more action research in Digital Journalism Studies, elaborating on the opportunities for science and practice. A current action research project in Switzerland is introduced and evaluated to give an impression of this research culture. The remaining challenges derived from experiences in this project are also discussed.

KEYWORDS    Action Research; Innovation; Digital Journalism; Participatory; Practice; Relevance Gap; Research Methods

AUTHORS: Stephanie Grubenmann, Miriam Meckel

The internet, and particularly social media, have brought far-reaching change to journalism by calling into question how journalists’ traditional roles are perceived. We introduce social identity theory (Tajfel and Turner 1986) ― specifically the concept of professional identity ― as a complementary approach to study journalistic role conceptions from a dynamic perspective. Building on existing findings in both research streams (professional identity and journalistic role conceptions), we undertook a qualitative study to explore the interplay between journalists’ role perceptions, core values of journalism, and ongoing change in the industry. Our analysis of 26 interviews conducted in a Swiss newsroom provided an affirmative answer to the question whether journalists’ professional identity serves as a resource that helps them cope with uncertainty. By identifying different identity negotiation mechanisms we illustrate journalists’ sensemaking of developments in their work environment. We show that journalists who rely on an elitist, traditional role concept construct online journalism as a threat to quality journalism and journalists’ personal status. Another group of journalists with more service-oriented and solutions-oriented role concepts strives to improve newspaper’s online journalism. These journalists engage in creating new, adapted role scripts and value definitions.

KEYWORDS    Change; convergence; journalistic role conception; role scripts; online journalism; profession; professional identity; values