A study of changes among Swedish journalists

(Published 2013-09-30)
What changes have taken place among Swedish journalists over the past 25 years? And what do journalists think about the development in the media sector and their own professional role? These are some of the questions that the Swedish Journalist surveys focus on. The long series is internationally unique; a similar series is only available in the U.S.

Since the 1980s, the Swedish media landscape has been changed in a fundamental way. The state’s broadcast media monopoly has been abolished, commercial radio and TV, the Internet and a number of new media have emerged, and the work methods have changed, largely as a result of new technologies becoming available. To examine what effects these changes have had for the journalistic profession, the Department of Journalism, Media and Communication at the University of Gothenburg started the surveys. The first study was conducted in 1989, and in 2011, number six was conducted.

The results of the studies reveal several important changes during the period in question. One of the scientists who worked with the material is Ulrika Andersson, post doctor at the Department of Journalism, Media and Communication.

– If you look at my research area, one can say that the degree of audience adaptation among journalists has increased. In recent years, the journalists state that they are much more likely to listen to the audience and adapt to them, she says.

According to Ulrika Andersson, the increase in audience adaptation is part of the commercialization and market adjustment that has occurred among media. Especially the editorial leaders (editors in chief) are nowadays much more aware that the economy plays a big part.

– These are general findings; they apply to both private media and public service for example. At the same time, one can see that the ideal of the investigating reporter has also been strengthened. Maybe that’s some kind of response to the market, says Andersson.

Survey to members of the Swedish Union of Journalists

The survey “Swedish Journalist” is based on self-completed questionnaires sent to a random sample of members of the Swedish Union of Journalists. The latest study (2011) consisted of a sample of 2,500 journalists (not students or retired) and the response rate was 60 percent. Previous surveys have been conducted in 1989, 1994, 1995, 1999 and 2005. The next study in the series is planned for 2015. All studies until 2005 are accessible through SND, and during this autumn the most recent survey from 2011 will also be made available.
Responsible for the surveys is Professor Kent Asp at the Department of Journalism, Media and Communication, University of Gothenburg. The main purpose of the survey series is to “shed light on journalists’ perception of themselves, their professional role, work situation and press ethical rules”. Over the years, questions have been raised in such areas as labour, environment and ethics; media concentration and diversity; politics and society; and media habits. Among the background variables you find biological sex, age, education, political ideology, employment conditions and type of workplace.