Control and the Modern News Worker: Autonomy and Resistance in an Evolving Newsroom 

Abstract

News workers in the U.S. are pressed by digital routines, industry confusion, and their organizations’ loss of journalistic focus. This ethnographic study looked at the ways new workers resist controls that have manifested in recent years. This work is an account of journalists at three newspapers. These newspapers were struggling to find an effective business model and re-define their products as non-medium specific. Social construction theory and the hierarchy of influence informed this study as pressures revealed creative ways news workers show dissatisfaction with their organizations. Excerpts from field notes were used to support assertions. Friction exploded into frustration when routines that supported traditional civic function were disrupted. Organizational directives were explicit but workers found ways to resist by taking advantage of unclear management direction, self direction in an ever shrinking newsroom, showing little support for marketing or philanthropy, building a personal brand online, and undermining organizational plans by following peer blogs. As the newsrooms in this study struggled to find effective business models, their attention was often diverted away from the needs and performance of news workers. The desire to streamline information and have more content handled in the digital realm kept management from addressing poor news worker satisfaction and deficiencies in coverage. Organizations were struggling to understand what they themselves should be asking of news workers. Management was committed to a digital presence and had moved immense resources in that direction, but lost loyalty and confidence from staff as these policies did not prove lucrative.



Author Information
William Schulte, Winthrop University, United States

Paper Information
Conference: MediAsia2013
Stream: Media Studies

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