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Playing the journalist card: Using the self as resource in media production research

Munnik, Michael ORCID: 2013. Playing the journalist card: Using the self as resource in media production research. Presented at: IAMCR 2013, Dublin, 25-29 June 2013.

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Media researchers have established that professional experience in media is an asset in preparing, pitching, and executing ethnographic research in a production environment (Paterson and Zoellner 2010). Writers have shown how it can help with gaining access, establishing credibility, and building empathy with participants. But descriptions of its utility often stop at this point. This paper will extend the application of professional experience to the analysis of data and even to the contribution of that experience as data. I ground this methodological approach in recent anthropological writings from Collins and Gallinat (2010), who consider such application to be imperative for their discipline, much as reflexivity has already been adopted. Existing literature, even in the field of media studies (e.g., Bell 1991), shows glimpses of this approach, and I will critically examine some examples. These demonstrate both advantages, such as the insertion of precise, helpful, and fully realised illustrations to support the writer’s analysis; and the challenges – especially an uncritical reliance on memory and the privileging of personal experience over the reports from study participants. I will then offer two vignettes from a recent pilot study I conducted as part of my investigation of relations between journalists and Muslim sources. One vignette situates my arrival at the newsroom in the context of recent announcements of job cuts; I will detail how my own experience in a similar workplace during cuts helped me to interpret the comments and actions of the journalists in my study. The other describes my interview with a senior editor about developing a diverse base of contacts. Moving beyond asking questions, I also share my experience as a journalist helping a station-wide project to reach communities in our market that were poorly represented in our coverage. This fosters an ethical sense of exchange as opposed to a one-way flow of information. And it introduces my experiences as data for the project, opening them to analysis alongside efforts of the organisation which I am studying. The result is a project that gains diverse material without derailing into autobiography. Media researchers with valuable professional experience can therefore make the most of that asset, being bold enough to include it and cautious enough to account for it analytically in order to present results that are both rigorous and responsible. In this way, anthropological theory continues to contribute to the ethnographic study of media production.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Date Type: Completion
Status: Unpublished
Schools: History, Archaeology and Religion
Subjects: H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
Last Modified: 31 Oct 2022 09:23

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