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The crisis affecting news organisations, along with their struggle to find a sustainable online business model, have challenged journalists' professional autonomy, as economic and commercial pressures find their way into journalists' daily practice. This research explores the perceived influence of commercial pressures on Spanish newsrooms, paying special attention to how journalists resolve and manage those conflicts within the limits of the media organisation. Through 50 in-depth, semi-structured interviews with Spanish journalists and editors, the findings emphasise the usual, while normalised prevalence of commercial pressures. The study argues that the newspaper crisis has weakened news organisations' independence from advertisers, as big corporations that concentrate most of the market share have very significant structural influence. The article identifies the most common typologies of commercial pressures according to the producing source (internal or external), and addresses their main effects for journalism practice, specifically for journalists' autonomy and newspapers agenda setting. It concludes that in order to decrease advertisers' bargaining power, a more diverse organisational news media landscape needs to be enhanced and therefore, policymakers should accommodate shifts towards subscription and ensure a viable future for entrepreneurial journalism start-ups.
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Journalism Studies
ISSN: 1461-670X (Print) 1469-9699 (Online) Journal homepage:
Commercial Pressures in Spanish Newsrooms
Manuel Goyanes & Marta Rodríguez-Castro
To cite this article: Manuel Goyanes & Marta Rodríguez-Castro (2018): Commercial Pressures in
Spanish Newsrooms, Journalism Studies, DOI: 10.1080/1461670X.2018.1487801
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Published online: 27 Jun 2018.
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Between love, struggle and resistance
Manuel Goyanes and Marta Rodríguez-Castro
The crisis affecting news organisations, along with their struggle to nd a sustainable online
business model, have challenged journalistsprofessional autonomy, as economic and commercial
pressures nd their way into journalistsdaily practice. This research explores the perceived inuence
of commercial pressures on Spanish newsrooms, paying special attention to how journalists resolve
and manage those conicts within the limits of the media organisation. Through 50 in-depth, semi-
structured interviews with Spanish journalists and editors, the ndings emphasise the usual, while
normalised prevalence of commercial pressures. The study argues that the newspaper crisis has
weakened news organisationsindependence from advertisers, as big corporations that concen-
trate most of the market share have very signicant structural inuence. The article identies the
most common typologies of commercial pressures according to the producing source (internal
or external), and addresses their main effects for journalism practice, specically for journalists
autonomy and newspapers agenda setting. It concludes that in order to decrease advertisersbar-
gaining power, a more diverse organisational news media landscape needs to be enhanced and
therefore, policymakers should accommodate shifts towards subscription and ensure a viable
future for entrepreneurial journalism start-ups.
KEYWORDS advertisers; commercial pressures; market-driven journalism; professional auton-
omy; quality; agenda setting; journalism practice
During the past decades, news organisations have struggled to stop the deep nan-
cial bleeding they are experiencing, which is due to the fall in sales in print operations as
well as their general inability to nd a sustainable online business model (Holcomb 2011;
Siles and Boczkowski 2012; Hunter 2015). Many newspapers were forced to shut down
or to implement budget cutbacks, resulting in a reduced number of journalists working
with fewer resources (Ekdale et al. 2015; Goyanes and Rodríguez-Gómez 2018). The crisis
of ofine advertising, along with the online marketsincapability to counterbalance the
losses, have led to tense commercial competition and increasing commercialisation of
news (Campos-Freire 2010). In this context, there is growing concern about the potential
effect of commercial pressures on newspapers and their impact on journalistsautonomy
(McManus 1994; Berkowitz and Limor 2003; Fisher 2015). The prevalence, responses and
mechanism through which these pressures inuence journalism are the focus of this study.
The article examines how journalists respond to commercial pressures in Spain.
Through 50 in-depth interviews with journalists from different national and regional news-
papers, we try to elucidate on how news workers receive, perceive and resolve pressure
Journalism Studies, 2018
© 2018 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group
from newspapersadvertisers.Ourndings reveal the high, but normally accepted, level of
commercial pressures in Spanish newsrooms and describe the morphology of the different
types: external, (1) direct: advertiserjournalists and (2) indirect: advertiser-chain of
command-journalist; and internal, (1) self-censorship and (2) through consultations with
superiors. Our research shows that commercial pressures have a negative impact on jour-
nalistsautonomy/practice and might pose a challenge for setting the agenda under strictly
journalistic or informative standards. This study contributes to a growing body of scholar-
ship on the effects of advertiserspressures (Sjovaag 2013; Fisher 2015), considering the
negotiation of its impact at the organisational level, and its resolution at the level of
Literature Review
In order to analyse how Spanish journalists perceive and manage commercial press-
ures in a landscape of increasing reliance on advertisement revenues, it is important to rst
understand how the commercialisation of journalism affects content decisions. We rst
return to early studies on the commercialisation thesis and then examine the specic
case of Spain. From there, we turn to the different inuences journalism is subjected to,
specically focusing on commercial pressures. Finally, we look at how the mechanics of
commercial pressures work and the main effects they can have on journalistsautonomy.
The Commercialisation of Journalism
According to recent scholarship on the free to feetransition (Goyanes 2014), many
news organisations around the world are adjusting their online business models in order to
respond to digital transformation while remaining protable (Hunter 2015). The increasing
pressure to nd sustainable revenue models online that halt their economic haemorrhage
is leading many organisations to implement paid content strategies and charge readers for
news access and consumption (Holcomb 2011). At the same time, digital advertising reven-
ues are shrinking and the online price is signicantly lower than in print operations (Picard
2004), a fact that directly affects the balance sheets of most media companies. In this
regard, there is scholarly agreement that the traditional economic structure of journalism
is being challenged, affecting the independence and trust in the media (Siles and Bocz-
kowski 2012).
In this context, journalism as a profession, and journalist content as the output of this
craft, is responding to these economic challenges by entering a process of commercialisa-
tion, understood as the shift of priorities where boosting prot becomes more relevant than
the public interest (McManus 2009). In an environment in which economic pressures are
shaping the management (and thus the existence) of the news industry, many observers
suggest that news organisations are being economically pushed to produce homogeneous,
commercialised news, designed to appeal to broad audiences, to entertain, to be cost
effective and to maintain readers whose attention can be sold to advertisers(Picard
2004, 61).
The commercialization thesis(Bolin 2014, 337) asserts that market demands are
shaping the forms of radio and television, increasing the role of entertainment in all
sorts of areas. The process of commodication of a commercialised workplace, along
with the many market pressures that media organisations are currently experiencing, are
increasingly dominating content decisions (McChesney 2003; Hanusch, Hanitzsch, and
Lauerer 2017; Von Rimscha, 2015). One of the most insidious effects of the commercialisa-
tion of news is the prevalence of prot-making over the traditional ethos of journalism
(McManus 2009). As a result, media outlets that base their income on advertising revenues
can prioritise the creation of an advantageous space for advertisers instead of the public
interest for the audience (Baker 2002).
With the increasing dependence of media outlets on advertising revenues (Picard
2004), the inuence that advertisers may wish to exercise on journalistic content also
becomes a more relevant issue. This means that journalists might have to deal with com-
mercial pressures on their work routines, and their strategies to deal with those pressures
might differ according to both professional and organisational criteria. For instance, Nygren
(2012, 79) states that market-driven journalism can be a powerful constraint on internal
autonomy when the wall between the newsroom and marketing department is broken.
The growing inuence of the advertising department can also impact the content that jour-
nalist must work with. The effects of news commercialisation become even more evident in
the case of new digital media, where the limits between journalistic content and advertise-
ment are more blurred than in print media (Howe and Teufel 2014) and where native adver-
tisement redenes the notion of independence (Carlson 2015).
Several research reports have highlighted some of the current risks experienced by
media systems, caused in part by the commercialisation of the news production business.
The results of the 2016 Media Pluralism Monitor MPM2016, a comparative study carried
out at the European level reveal that commercial and owner inuence over editorial
content is a very signicant risk for media pluralism. Twelve out of 30 countries had a
high-risk score for this indicator, while the national context for our research, that of
Spain, was included at the medium risk level. The results of the MPM2016 also show that
when it comes to assessing whether there is a systematic inuence or there are systematic
attempts to inuence editorial decisions and content output, 40% of the countries under
examination had a high-risk score. Practices like the appointment of like-minded editors
or the promotion of a culture of self-censorship to avoid inconvenient content for the com-
mercial interests of the organisations are listed among the most common ones (Centre for
Media Pluralism and Media Freedom 2017).
Commercial Pressures and Their Effects on Journalism
Previous research on the mechanics of journalism pressures has identied the main
typologies and effects on journalistsautonomy. According to Reich and Hanitzsch (2013),
there is rst a divide between the acknowledged pressures that journalist perceives and
those subtler or indirect ones that may impact on their autonomy, without necessarily
matching their perceptions. Hanitzsch et al. (2010) classied perceived inuences into six
categories: political, economic, organisational, procedural, professional and reference
groups. Örnebring et al. (2016) have worked with another dimension, workplace autonomy,
which is related to the aforementioned procedural and professional categories.
Even though commercial pressures could be considered one of the main typologies
affecting journalistsautonomy, Reich and Hanitzsch showed it was not so related to jour-
nalistslevels of perceived professional autonomy (Reich and Hanitzsch 2013). They argue
that advertisement pressures were mediated through the media organisation and its edi-
torial hierarchy, with journalists therefore not feeling directly affected. Another explanation
could be what Örnebring et al. (2016) called the third-person effect, the tendency for jour-
nalists to acknowledge the existence of pressures on their autonomy while denying that
they themselves experience them.
However, some of the main characteristics upon which the commercialisation of the
news industry is consolidating, such as a deregulated labour market, short-term jobs and
the drop in qualications, have led to a decline of journalistscommitment to the pro-
fessions values, including professional autonomy (Örnebring 2010). According to recent
studies (see McChesney 2004; Donsbach 2012), the growing economic pressures of news-
papers have accentuated journalistsconcern about their professional autonomy. This chal-
lenge is particularly worrisome because it affects the decades-long struggle of journalism to
attain consideration as a profession (Örnebring 2013; Meyers and Davidson 2016).
When it comes to breaking down the dimensions of professional autonomy, there is
not a consensus. Considering the origin of the pressures, a distinction can be made
between pressures coming from outsiders, that is, external agents trying to inuence jour-
nalistic content, and by insiders, including both pressures owing through the chain of
command and those established by journalists themselves. According to Reich and
Hanitzsch (2013), professional autonomy can be, on the one hand, political autonomy,
referring to journalistsprotection from external coercive forces coming from the political
context. On the other hand, autonomy also relates to how the decision-making process
should be free from any pressure from the news environment including commercial
factors. This conceptualization is similar to the one defended by Nygren, Dobek-Ostrowska,
and Anikina (2015), who state that professional autonomy consists of two dimensions:
external, when it comes to the relation between the profession as a group and the
powers in society; and internal, related to the position of the journalist within the media
company. Both typologies are very close to the approach that Reich and Hanitzsch
(2013) developed based on the notion of latitude that Weaver et al. had used for their
2007 study on the American journalist in the twenty-rst century (Weaver et al. 2007).
According to these authors, latitude could be understood both as the freedom available
within the operational routines of journalism as well as the extent to which journalists
can inuence and be part of the decisions taken within the editorial hierarchy (Reich and
Hanitzsch 2013).
Autonomy is continuously being negotiated and it may vary according to several
factors. The position of the journalist within the hierarchy of the enterprise has an inuence
on their level of autonomy: the higher the position, the greater the autonomy (Sjovaag
2013), as subverting unofcial newsroom policy tends to be restricted to the most senior
reporters with a professional reputation (Berkowitz and Limor 2003). The type of media
outlet also plays a role in professional autonomy: journalists working in free from commer-
cial and corporate media (e.g. public media) usually experience a higher degree of auton-
omy (Sjovaag 2013). All these factors point to how professional autonomy should always be
considered within the limits of the organisational context.
However, journalists can develop strategies when dealing with both internal and
external pressures, which may be understood from matters regarding professional auton-
omy, such as self-censorship or objections against those pressures, to others inuencing the
agenda-setting processes. According to Borden (2009), journalists either may try to subvert
organisational goals through protests and sabotage while others would apply more diplo-
matic strategies that allow for some balance between organisational goals and ethical
ideals. Another strategy would imply some kind of self-censorship. When journalists wish
to maintain their professional integrity while not upsetting the advertisers, they may opt for
avoiding negative reporting about the product by not writing about it at all Hanusch,
Hanitzsch, and Lauerer 2017). Among the main ways journalists try to avoid these commercial
inuences, the authors highlight the fact that self-censorship is also related to the socialisation
processes that take place within the news company, which would imply that journalists inter-
nalise the values, goals and structures of the organisation, even if they do not agree with them,
in order to avoid open conict and negative consequences (Skovsgaard 2014).
Despite the importance of understanding how commercial pressures are resolved
and how the internal socialisation processes work, there has been little evidence that
sheds light on these matters (Weaver et al. 2007; McManus 2009; Boczkowski 2010). And
while there are several factors that inuence the autonomy of journalists, this study
focuses on one of the streams that Reich and Hanitzsch found to be not signicantly
related to journalistsprofessional autonomy(Reich and Hanitzsch 2013, 147). Thus, the
present study focuses on the prevalence, responses and mechanisms through which com-
mercial pressures inuence journalism within a context of increasing commercialisation of
news. Consequently, we posed the following research questions:
RQ1. What is the prevalence and phenomenology of commercial pressures in Spanish
newsrooms, according to their main sources, agents involved (interactions) and
RQ2. How are commercial pressures solved and how do they affect journalistsdaily prac-
tice and professional autonomy?
We conducted in-depth interviews with 50 Spanish journalists and editors. The
semi-structured interviews were carried out between March and September 2017. We
conducted these types of interviews as this method allowed us to obtain in-depth
knowledge from a personslived experienceand perspective(Johnson and Rowlands
2012, 100). From an analytical point of view, the purpose of semi-structured interviews is
to nd patterns from the thick descriptionsoffered by participants (Hesse-Biber and
Leavy 2006, 119).
Sample and Procedure
We used purposive sampling, specically maximum variety sampling. Following
Patton (2002), participants were chosen in order to reect a large diversity in infor-
mation-rich cases relevant to our research interest: different news organisations, sections
of newspapers and professional autonomy. As a consequence, our interviewees represent
a great heterogeneity in their proles, both in the sections they belong to (politics, inter-
national, sports, culture, etc.), the geographical level covered (national and regional), demo-
graphy (men and women of different ages and experience) and autonomy (respondents
included editors, deputy editors, head of sections, reporters, columnists and reporters on
internships). The condentially of interviewees was guaranteed, so whenever their identi-
ties could be jeopardised, we decided not to include their afliations when reporting
data (seven cases in total).
Thirty of our interviewees belong to the major national newspapers (El País,El Mundo,
ABC,La Razón,El and El Condencial) and 20 to newspapers at a regional level
(La Voz de Galicia,Faro de Vigo,La Vanguardia and El Periódico de Catalunya). The interviews
were transcribed and eventually codied and analysed by the rst author. The nal sample
represented a wide range of demographic data and work proles. To obtain saturation of
ideas, we intentionally sought out both very young journalists and highly experienced jour-
nalists. Fifty-ve per cent of our nal sample were men, while 45% were women. The age of
journalists ranged from 24 to 64, although most were between 30 and 40 years old.
Interview Guide
The interview guide addressed three topic areas. The rst part concerned journalists
perception of commercial pressures in the Spanish media system and in their respective
news organisations. The questions addressed journalistsknowledge and prevalence of
commercial pressures, how these pressures differ depending on the nature and organis-
ational structure of their newspapers and the most inuential actors. The second part con-
cerned the description of the main commercial pressures typologies: the questions
addressed how journalists experience commercial pressures, who the main producing
sources are and the crucial agents involved in those interactions. This second section is
addressed according to two dichotomies of commercial pressures: external/internal and
direct/indirect. The third part focused on how commercial pressures are managed and
solved and how this response affects journalistsautonomy and daily practice according
to their own experience.
Coding and Analysis
All interviews were recorded and transcribed verbatim following transcription rules
proposed by Dresing and Schmieder (2013). We conducted a thematic analysis, which
posits a method for identifying, analysing and reporting patterns (themes) within data
(Braun and Clarke 2006, 79). Braun and Clarke (2006) propose an analytic procedure that
comprises six phases that allow for systematization and transparency of the coding and
analysis process, which we followed. Codes and thematic maps were discussed with two
independent researchers, who then reported on renement of themes, their denition
and naming. The thematic analysis enabled us to identify shared patterns across the state-
ments of various interviewees centred around our three research interests, while maintain-
ing exibility to identify other emerging themes. Next, we will discuss the key ndings.
Level of Commercial Pressures and Main Actors
All our interviewees had experienced commercial pressures at some point in their
professional careers. The form, typology and most of all their effects on professional auton-
omy allow for nuances, according to their testimonials. Evidence gathered points to a
common perspective, summarised in the following quote: There has always been commer-
cial pressures. Achieving the desired effect of these pressures is quite another thing(Jour-
nalist from La Vanguardia). Most of the interviewees also point to a severe limitation on
their journalistic freedom resulting from the lack of nancial solvency in their organisations
stemming from the grave crisis today in journalism. This translates into a greater
When the economic soundness of the company is weak, the advertiser, shareholder or a
bank granting a loan has more power than when its nancial conditions are favourable.
(Journalist from ABC)
At a time when media outlets are facing such a deep crisis of resources, and when there
are so many journalists losing their jobs, we are increasingly vulnerable to commercial
pressures. (Journalist from La Vanguardia)
All our interviewees interpret commercial pressures as an intrinsic element of journal-
ism. Commercial pressures are common in newspapers. It is inherent to journalism. We,
and all the media outlets, have them(Journalist from La Razón.) While most of our inter-
viewees assume that the effects of commercial pressures have a strong impact on pro-
fessional freedom and autonomy, they are also aware, they logically understandand
realisethat news organisations have their own economic interests and, thus, offer some-
thing in exchangeto major advertisers.
I would love to have a 100% free leadership, but it does not exist and all the media outlets,
to a greater or lesser extent, have their interests, as they have owners, and I understand
that they do not invest in newspapers so those newspapers attack their owners and sta-
keholders. (Journalist from ABC)
We work for a private newspaper and thus I understand that there might be something
offered in exchange, such as pampering advertising companies. (Journalist from El Mundo)
I fully understand that ABC does not explicitly exercise critics on a self-interest. (Journalist
from ABC)
All our interviewees from local newspapers acknowledge that the crisis in journalism
and the loss of newspaper readership has triggered a change in the business paradigm: tra-
ditionally, companies with the power to inuence were large holdings. In recent years,
though, given the increasing need for capital, news outlets are increasingly being pressured
by small and medium-sized enterprises.
Things that only used to happen with El Corte Inglés, now happen with anybody. (Journal-
ist from La Voz de Galicia)
Pressures used to come from a very limited group of companies with heavy advertisement
investments in newspapers. Today, any local organisation can exert direct pressure. (Jour-
nalist from Faro de Vigo)
According to testimonials gathered, this paradigm change is more accentuated in
local organisations due to their need to build up and maintain a network of relations
with small and medium-sized companies in their area of inuence.
A newspaper like ours, a local one, requires a network of partners at a local level. Therefore,
we also need to nurture small and medium-sized companies. The crisis, of course, has
increased their bargaining power. (Journalist from Faro de Vigo)
The testimonials gathered do not allow for a differentiation between the level and effects of
commercial pressures according to the nature of the newspaper (traditional printed media
vs. digital natives). As stated earlier, most of our interviewees embrace the perspective
suggested at the beginning of this section. However, the complexity/simplicity of the
organisational structure and the newspapers revenue system are key factors determining
their effects. A journalist from and another from 20Minutos reect upon these
two perspectives as follows:
The good thing about the nancing system is that it does not only depend on
advertisers, but on subscribers as well, who represent around one-third of the total nan-
cing. This therefore allows us to benet from greater autonomy. Losing an advertiser is
painful for any media outlet, but it is milder in our case. This loss does not result in the
project being less feasible. (Journalist from
We are relatively young and solvent as a company. Maintaining our newsroom is not
expensive in comparison with other newspapers. This allows us greater exibility and
therefore greater bargaining power with our advertisers. (Journalist from 20Minutos)
The inuential companies most referred to are big corporations that make large
advertisement investments in Spanish newspapers. The testimonials gathered are in refer-
ence mostly to banks like Santander and BBVA, La Caixa in Catalonia, large telecommunica-
tion companies such as Telefónica, energy companies such as Endesa, Inditex from the
textile sector and, above all, a retailer such as El Corte Inglés. This last company is referred
to by most of our interviewees.
Usually, its the bosses who tell us journalists, verbally, not to write a negative headline
about El Corte Inglés or about certain Catalan bank groups.
We dont speak badly about El Corte Inglés because if a company like that wasnt happy
with us and decided to withdraw its advertisement, well, that would greatly harm us,
not only at a group level, but also at an individual level, because that could translate
into dismissals.
I would never tell one of my journalists hey, do some research, lets see what you nd on
El Corte Inglés. I dont see myself saying that sentence because it doesnt suit neither me
or my group, because of the advertisement coming through.
Typologies of Commercial Pressures
An interpretation of the testimonials from our interviewees enables us to distinguish
between two types of commercial pressures, according to the producing source: external
and internal. Depending on the agents involved, external pressures may be direct (adver-
tiserjournalist) or indirect (advertiser-chain of command-journalist). Internal pressures are
those produced at an individual level (dependent on the journalistsexperience/discretion
but also on the newsroom climate), or at an organisational level (through consultations).
According to our evidence, the most frequent pressures are the internal ones at the indi-
vidual level and the external-indirect ones, while the external-direct ones are more
occasional,exceptionaland specicTable 1.
Typologies of commercial pressures
Source Types and agents involved Implementation Level of decision Process Motivations
External (outsiders) Direct:
advertiser journalist
Conversations Individual (journalist) Post hoc Complaining, criticising,
explaining, correcting
Indirect: advertiser chain
command journalist
Explicitly: conversations and
orders Organisational
Post hoc and
A priori
Implicitly: guidelines,
indications and
Internal (insiders) Ideological / Editorial,
dependent on journalists
and newsroom climate
Self-censorship Individual (journalist)
and collective
A priori Preventing
Ideological / Editorial,
dependent on
Consultations and
A priori Corporative sense
Practical sense
First of all, external-indirect pressures are those produced by advertisers and received
by journalists through the newspapers chain of command with the aim of conditioning
their professional autonomy: explicitly via conversations (Yesterday so-and-so has called
to complain be carefulor César Alierta [former Telefónica CEO] has called and is
seriously annoyed), or implicitly through guidelines,indicationsand recommen-
dationsnot specifying concrete pressure, but referring to the general editorial treatment
of major advertisers. Journalists from ABC,La Vanguardia and El Mundo offer a perfect
example of how these pressures are frequently produced:
It is more likely that pressures are not addressed to journalists, but to their immediate
superiors. What companies usually do, in a subtle and sibylline way, is to pressure the
news organization itself, which in turn exercises pressure on journalists. Lets say that it
is not direct pressure on news workers, but pressure from the news organization in
order for journalists to themselves be conditioned by indications from a superior, from
their own organisation. (Journalist from ABC)
There are indications, coming whether from the editorial direction, the corporate direction
or the business direction, that guide you or tell you we need to try to be a bit more dip-
lomatic, because it can go against our interests. It is true that editorially those lines tend
to be crossed and there is where frictions appear, in the shape of calls from directors,
direct complaints to journalists, etc. (Journalist from ABC)
Commercial pressures tend to be much more indirect, as the company complains to a
superior, and the superior presents the complaint to you. (Journalist from La Vanguardia)
Most of the time pressures do not come to me, the newsmaker, but to superiors, in order
to stop you or give you clear guidelines. (Journalist from El Mundo)
According to our ndings, the impact of external-indirect pressures is managed at an
organisational level, that is, the different hierarchical levels (and not newsmakers them-
selves), are those who know and determine how those pressures may affect the news-
rooms autonomy. A journalist from La Vanguardia and El País explain it as follows:
Editors receive calls and, depending on their criteria, decide whether that call should be
heeded or ignored. (Journalist from La Vanguardia)
It is the management who decides how to approach certain pressures depending on who
the producer is. (Journalist from El País)
The management process tends to be post hoc, with the aim of passing the adver-
tisers complaint on to journalists once the news story is published(Journalist from El
Mundo), although it may be done a priori, that is to say, taking preventive measures
when an advertiser knows you are investigating something(Journalist from ABC). Accord-
ing to the testimonials gathered, the chain of command may transfer those pressures to
journalists through direct conversations and guidelines, although it is also true that
many journalists are completely unaware:
Pressures I know were never delivered to reporters, but there were meetings among busi-
nessmen/women and the newspaper managers. (Journalist from El Mundo)
Businessmen/women always seek out the newspaper leadership. On the basis of my per-
sonal experience, my managers have never transferred that pressure to me. (Journalist
from La Razón)
Pressures on newsrooms are little-noted. (Journalist from El Mundo)
Usually when a decision is taken, I dont know, about the review of certain information or
the attempt to stop it, I do not see it, because those things are discussed and managed
during newsroom meetings with chief editors, and I am not present. In our daily
routine, my interlocutor is my chief editor, who is the one who will eventually deal with
those pressures. (Journalist from El Mundo)
However, hierarchy not transferring pressures does not mean that newsrooms are
not awareand informedof the existence of external-indirect pressures. After all, we
all know what we do and how this works(Journalist from 20Minutos). Thus, the fact that
most of the interviewees are aware,keep up withand knowthat these external press-
ures may occur, leads to these pressures being effective even without being exercised, as
journalists assume,understandand take for grantedthat they are going to be press-
ured and, hence, stop researching or galvanizethe story. Various journalists make refer-
ence to this process:
Many times pressures are effective without these even being exercised by big advertisers,
as the one who knows that is going to be pressured, stops the story before or nuances it.
(Journalist from La Vanguardia)
For obvious reasons, there are some pressures I know they will occur before they actually
do. If certain information affects a shareholder of the publishing group to which I belong,
or a bank with a person on the executive board, you previously know that those pressures
will arise. (Journalist from ABC)
You are aware, and you more or less know who your advertisers are and you dont try to
sell certain issues, because you know that your managers are not going to buy them. (Jour-
nalist from Faro de Vigo)
To refer to this kind of non-accomplished pressures and, thus, ones that are self-
imposed and taken for granted, journalists talk about self-censorship,self-pressure,
self-controland self-regulation, which we conceptualise as internal pressures, depend-
ing on the journalist and the newsroom climate (editorial and ideological). According to our
respondents, it is a standardised process within newsrooms and, therefore, something
common in the profession(Journalist from El Condencial). Unlike external-indirect and
direct pressures (which shall be described below), self-censorship is an a priori process, pre-
ventive and thus exercised before the material is published. Likewise, self-censorship
responds to journalistsindividual criteria, as they themselves limit their own professional
autonomy, according to the newsroom climate,the newspapers interests, the guide-
lines specied or taken for granted, the latent pressureand their own experience in
the newsroom.
There is a latent pressure in which reporters know more or less where the red lines are. The
editorial guidelines are clear, as ABC is a Catholic newspaper, economically liberal and
socially conservative, and it supports Real Madrid. You know the framework within which
you work and thus you must adapt your work to those guidelines. (Journalist from ABC)
Self-control does exist, one knows where the limits are. (Journalist from La Vanguardia)
Many times, we ourselves soften contents as default without the need to receive any
order. (Journalist from El País)
The entire newsroom has companies in its mind, which are advertised in all the media
outlets, and you know that some lines should not be crossed, lines that most likely
have not been pointed out to you, because you just assume them, through your daily
practice, through the media agenda that all newspapers share, I mean, you know before-
hand, there is no need for anyone to tell you. (Journalist from El Mundo)
Most of the respondents complement self-censorship with consultations with man-
agers in case some information generates doubts or is problematic for the newspapers
interest (internal pressures dependent on management). The aim of these consultations
is threefold: a corporative sense by determining or agreeing on the pertinence, tone
and perspective of the content(journalist from El Mundo); in a professional-preventive
sense by informing about the process of news production(journalist from El País); and
lastly, in a highly practical sense, that is to say, to not do the work twice(journalist
from La Voz de Galicia). Individual pressure, hence, is complemented in many cases by a
hierarchical lter. The management process of consultations made to higher-ups is
clearly exemplied by a reporter from El País:
What I do is to show the story to my chief editor. That makes things easier, as I sit with him
and tell him: That is what we have and it will lead to problems.(Journalist from El País)
When I am facing controversial information, what I do is to go straight to my directors
ofce and tell him: look, we have this news story, and then he is the one who decides
if we go ahead depending on the relevance of the information. Personally, I wouldnt
even think about taking the decision of publishing this kind of news without previous con-
sultation with the director. (Journalist from Faro de Vigo)
When this type of problem arises, I try to do what I consider ethical and appropriate, and
before publishing I get the last word from the leading manager. (Journalist from
I think that there are certain advertisers and companies with which you know that regard-
less of the media outlet you are working with, you need to be careful, and those are topics
that obviously you consult on before, you consult with your superiors, and that your
superiors consult with their superiors. (Journalist from La Voz de Galicia)
You are not going to write something that will not come to light. (Journalist from La
Direct external pressures are those exercised by newspapersadvertisers on reporters.
According to our respondents, these kinds of pressures are much less frequent than indirect
ones and require, in the majority of cases, a uent relationship between journalists and
advertisers, in such a way that the organisation contacts the media worker directly .
On many occasions, the fact of having a good relationship with the company concerned
means that they call you directly. (Journalist from El Mundo)
Direct pressures exist, but they depend on the relationship they [advertisers] have with
you. There are organizations which deal more with the reporter, so they try to inuence
you. (Journalist from La Voz de Galicia)
The goal of these types of pressures, most of them post hoc, is analogue to the others,
which means that they call you directly asking you for explanations, complaining, correct-
ing you and criticizing you(journalist from El Mundo). However, according to the testimo-
nials gathered, these direct external pressures are mostly exerted by press ofcers, who try
to defend the interests of advertising companies when faced with controversial
Sometimes you receive a call, maybe you are corrected for information that you have pub-
lished, and then it is your task as a reporter to know whether this information that is being
pointed out is actually giving further information or qualifying something, or it is just
pressure for you not to publish something. (Journalist from 20Minutos)
According to our ndings, there is a wide spectrum of circumstances that trigger the
implementation of commercial pressures. From a theoretical point of view, these reasons
may be more or less serious, but all of them somehow undermine the reputation and
image of advertisers, according to their point of view. Our testimonials encompass their
range: disclosing data that were hidden, comparisons between companies, misunderstand-
ings, real but negative information and journalistic malpractice as well. Below an example
regarding real but negative news is reected:
The only case I experienced was a headline on Nocilla. It was a case in which, I think, certain
European cities had lodged a complaint about Nocilla to the European Commission,
arguing that the quality of the product sold in their cities did not correspond to the
one expected. So, I titled the news story according to this information. After a few
hours, I saw my headline replaced by another. But the news itself, the text, had not
been modied at all. And I asked my chief editor what had happened, and he told me
that someone had called and told him wed better change that headline. I was perplexed.
We had a heated discussion and all I was able to achieve was upsetting my boss.
Effects of Commercial Pressures
According to our ndings, commercial pressures affect journalistic practice. Our tes-
timonials provide several examples of the pressuresmorphology, most of them very similar
in the different newspapers interviewed, thereby suggesting relatively widespread com-
mercial inuence patterns in the Spanish media system. The most frequent effects of com-
mercial pressures refer both to the professional autonomy of journalists and to agenda
setting Table 2.
In terms of professional autonomy, the most important effects refer to the perspec-
tive, extension and rigour/excess of zeal regarding content and, more dangerously, total
censorship (all of them a priori), modication of content and un-publishing (both post hoc).
Regarding perspective, when dealing with content that affects major advertisers directly,
most of our interviewees try not to strengthen the wording,tobe nice,totemper
or to control themselvesin order to, as far as possible, offer valuable insights while not
generating a negative image of advertisers. Various journalists make reference to this
Maybe we might not strengthen the wording too much on someone with a close relation-
ship with someone from the newspaper. (Journalist from ABC)
What we sometimes do is to smooth over the content. (Journalist from Faro de Vigo)
The content is softened or the name of the brand does not explicitly appear. If there was
the case of an extreme pressure, the name of the company might not appear in the head-
line, or the picture of the companys headquarters might not be included. (Journalist from
La Vanguardia)
If we know we are dealing with information that may affect an advertiser, without anyone
telling us anything, we treat it with more affection and care than the rest of information
that does not concern advertisers. (Journalist from 20Minutos)
Limiting the length of the content that affects one of the newspapers advertisers is
also referred to by our respondents:
For instance, if we have information about a bank that has a close relationship with us,
instead of publishing the content in two pages we publish it in one. (Journalist from La
When dealing with problematic issues, if appropriate I may be told to shorten the infor-
mation. (Journalist from La Voz de Galicia)
There are things that, instead of taking up a big space, are published in a reduced version.
(Journalist from Faro de Vigo)
Effects of commercial pressures
Effect Type Explanation
Perspective Avoid offering a negative image of advertisers
Extension Limit the extension of challenging information
Excess of zeal Be more careful about meeting the norms of journalism in
sensitive cases where advertisers might react post hoc.
The pressure actually results in better and more careful
Total censorship Exceptional cases. Prohibit the publication of news about
certain brands
Modication of
Changing contents post hoc
Un-publishing Remove information from the web post hoc
Agenda setting Positive-exposure Excessive positive coverage of advertisers
Our respondents agree that the most striking effect of commercial pressures is the
one regarding the accuracy of the news production process. Specically, our evidence
suggests a polishing or excess of zeal in the news treatment when the focus deals with
major advertisers. The rigour regarding the norms and values of journalism is strengthened,
whilst the affected organisations usually have their say.
If there is information concerning a major advertiser, then the chief editor will ask us to
close up all the loopholes. (Journalist from El Mundo)
When we talk about a company, even an institution that advertises with us, well, there is
double care. We read it carefully. (Journalist from
You must beware of not publishing, rst, anything that had not been checked and, second,
also provide the companys version, in case it is information affecting it negatively. (Jour-
nalist from 20Minutos)
Things are usually published, but rigorously so and verifying all the sources without being
sensationalist in the headlines. (Journalist from La Vanguardia)
Testimonials gathered on total censorship over information affecting negatively an
advertiser point to scarce and exceptional cases. According to our interviewees, when
faced with information that negatively affects one of the advertisers, the newspaper
usually publishes the information (with the aforementioned difculties and clarications).
Negative information, when you have it, is really hard to stop, it is really hard, and even
more so if it is high-prole news. (Journalist from El Mundo)
If it is very important, of course, you have to publish it. (Journalist from Faro de Vigo)
Bad news cannot be hidden, because it is impossible and it goes against your credibility as
a newspaper. (Journalist from El País)
However, we have also gathered testimonials in which the newspaper management
offers clear guidelines on the treatment of negative news about certain advertisers (ideo-
logical/editorial, dependent on management):
A brand is accused of having copied, of having appropriated the work of other designers,
well, the course of action imposed by the direction is not to publish certain things, not to
go against the brand, against certain brands, but to avoid them. There are things that are
overlooked and not published.
Changing contents once they have been published and un-publishing are practices
referred to by our respondents. In those cases, the chain of command (organisational struc-
ture) is in charge of the decision-making. The following examples illustrate this situation:
One time the newspaper modied the news story to support the interests of a bank, while
I had written much more lukewarm information. It reected the banks position, but also
other views, and so I ensured balance, which was the story. But it was modied and some
information I could not verify, because I strongly think that it was not actually true, was
included, but it was included as true for the benet of certain banks. And I found it
We did a news story in which a client protested because of the sizing used by Zara. So I
published it, it was posted in social media, and I automatically received calls [from
superiors]. I was told: Remove that information from social media, from the web and
un-publish it. And more than once we un-published issues that were not commercially
In the event of lack of agreement in an organisation vs. journalist conict regarding
the tone, perspective and veracity/relevance of a negative information of an advertiser, the
withdrawal of the signature is the most common tool for journalists to protect their pro-
fessional autonomy. The following testimonies illustrate how journalists decide to withdraw
their signature when experiencing incidents that challenge their autonomy:
If you [editor] want that story [a story not supported by real facts], do not worry, I will write
it for you and embellish it, but not under my signature. I only sign what I subscribe to.
(Journalist from ABC)
If you dont want to publish it, you dont publish it [true but negative information for an
advertiser], you are the boss [editor] and you are the one making the decision. If you want
me to change the headline or content, then I withdraw my signature, period! That is the
only thing you have left when you work in this craft, to sign or not to sign. (Journalist from
Faro de Vigo)
We eventually change headlines due to these pressures and of course I withdraw my sig-
nature from the interview. That is a journalists weapon, isnt it? Their signature. (Journalist
from La Vanguardia)
Finally, according to our interviewees, commercial pressures regarding the link
between the interests of an advertiser and the agenda-setting (positive exposure) are pro-
duced through nice storiesor positive news(Journalist from Faro de Vigo). The space
allocated for this kind of content (promotional events from the presentation of results to
the launching of products or the development of sponsorship actions) overlaps the journal-
istic criterion itself. Many testimonials exemplify this:
The Mobile World Congress is important for La Vanguardia. It is true that it is an impor-
tant event, but it got a front page presence that was beyond the one received by other
journalistic issues that could have been more relevant. So that forces you to cover
information even beyond journalistic criterion, because there were issues that we
wouldnt have published, or that we wouldnt have covered for so long. (Journalist
from La Vanguardia)
We sometimes get information that has been dened at higher levels that usually would
not be published, and if it is, it is just because it benets some of our advertisers. (Journalist
from 20Minutos)
I think that more than not acting and not producing negative news, it is more a matter of
blowing the positive ones out of proportion, and not only that, but also of giving space to
news that would not have room if it wasnt for some kind of commercial interest. (Journal-
ist from La Voz de Galicia)
There are cases where some information must be published because it is about an adver-
tising company, which in different circumstances you wouldnt cover; and some other
likely newsworthy issue, well, you dont cover it. (Journalist from El País)
There is pressure coming from the advertisement department for us to cover companies
that place a lot of advertisements. (Journalist from La Voz de Galicia)
Discussion and Conclusions
In this study, our aim has been to advance knowledge on the perception, typology
and effects of commercial pressures on journalistsautonomy. Drawing on the literature
on commercial pressures in journalism and carrying out 50 interviews of journalists from
different Spanish newspapers, this study contributes to a more nuanced understanding
of the reception, perception and resolution of pressures from newspapersadvertisers, con-
sidering the negotiation of its impact at the organisational level, and its resolution at the
level of practice.
Our study demonstrates that commercial pressures are normal, naturalised and nor-
malised by Spanish journalists. As many studies in other settings have shown (Fisher
2015; Hanusch, Hanitzsch, and Lauerer 2017; Hunter 2015), and according to our evidence,
pressures from advertisers are frequent in Spanish newsrooms, which suggests they may
constitute the de facto journalistic norm. From a professional point of view, it is reasonable
to think that journalists understand advertisersdemands logically, since they belong to
newspapers with goals, values, structures, stakeholders and economic interests they know
and internalise (Preston 2009, 79). They might disagree or not, as well as possibly try to
adapt to them without internalising an open conict with them (Breed 1955). However,
what advertiserspressures could achieve at the organisational level is that their inuence
(at the level of practice) might prevail over the norms and values of journalism.
The study also casts light on the effects of the newspaper crisis on news organis-
ationsautonomy. The nancial constraints of many newspapers, the need for prots,
and the need to foster commercial loyalty (Campos-Freire 2010), increase the bargaining
power of advertisers and thus their capacity to challenge news organisationsautonomy.
In addition, the economic situation also extends this bargaining power to small and
medium-size companies traditionally neglected in these negotiations. According to our evi-
dence, resisting and managing commercial pressures is increasingly more complex for
news organisations, while more effective for many advertisers. In this context, we argue
that in order to decrease advertisersbargaining power, a more diverse organisational
news media landscape needs to be enhanced. Therefore, policymakers should accommo-
date shifts towards subscription (implementing, for instance, policies of direct and indirect
public aid as were developed by France, Portugal and the Nordic countries) and ensure a
viable future for entrepreneurial journalism start-ups.
Our ndings not only reveal the existence of commercials pressures but also the main
actors, typologies and effects at the level of practice. According to our ndings, there are
certain dominant big stars within the news market (such El Corte Inglés, Banco Santander
and Telefónica among others) which represent the main advertising market share, and
are thus fundamental to almost all news organisations. Therefore, their power to exert
pressure increases in such a way that it becomes systemic: their potential inuence is struc-
tural because without them the market would collapse. Therefore, when faced with
unfavourable information on systemic advertisers, news organisations have more to lose
than to gain and unless they have rigorously tested sources and critical news, its publication
is frequently challenged.
One of the main insights we offer is the description of the typologies of commercial
pressures, which illustrates the different mechanisms advertisers employ to challenge jour-
nalistsautonomy. We have outlined the two most frequent ones and argue that both of
them challenge journalistsindependence and practice: from external pressure (indirect
and direct) to internal pressure (self-censorship and through consultations). The external-
direct pressures are less frequent, which suggest their impact on journalistspractice is
limited and therefore other mechanisms are required to condition them. In this regard,
the external indirect and internal pressures (self-censorship) are the most frequent ones
in Spanish newsrooms, placing news organisations on the one hand, and journalists on
the other, as the principal agents in their management and resolution.
First, the indirect external pressures represent the sibylline tactics of advertisers,
placing news organisations in a serious dilemma: the economic interest or the respect
for the journalism ethos. These tactics challenge news organisations functions, mediating
the relation between advertisersintentions and journalistspractice. These indirect
effectsare generally negotiated at the level of management and solved at the level of
practice through general editorial guidelines or direct orders by managers. Although this
mediation process has a clear intention, its hierarchical management obscures its knowl-
edge and purpose for newsmakers. However, through internal processes of socialisation,
journalists are aware of their existence and potential effects. Therefore, although adverti-
sers try to condition journalistspractice indirectly, newsmakers are able to recognise
who is challenging their craft and where newspapersstand on these issues.
All of these indirect pressures and all the internal processes that are triggered for its
management and resolution, generate an organisational climate that leads journalists to
internalise the goals and values of news organisations with respect to certain issues. We
argue that the main consequence is the generation and reproduction of individual prac-
tices that makes journalists work in accordance with newspapersinterests, although
they might be in disagreement with them. In this context, self-censorship is one of the
main and most likely responses to the many challenges posed by advertisers and to the
increasing workload in journalism: it basically reects journalistsadaptation to meet
news organisations guidelines and thus avoid doing their craft twice.
Finally, our study illustrates the effects of commercial pressures at the level of prac-
tice. Surprisingly, despite the great variability, many participants of different news organis-
ations provide similar responses, which suggest a process of democratisation of certain
techniques to solveadvertisersdemands. In particular, the study highlights those
which affect the professional autonomy of journalists themselves (perspective, extension
and rigorousness of news, total censorship, modication of contents and un-publishing)
and related to the agenda setting (positive-exposure). Both effects have several impli-
cations for journalism practice.
On the one hand, the different effects related to the erosion of journalistspro-
fessional autonomy have different degrees of impact: from little (such as limiting the exten-
sion of the report and excess zeal when reporting negative news of certain companies and
not of others), to medium (friendly news, domestication of reality, playing with titles, main
actors and photographs, half-truths, etc.) to high (such as manipulations, total censorship
and un-publishing). Although we can classify them in terms of the theoretical low or
high effects they might cause, all these responses mean giving love and affectionto
certain advertisers, which generally implies breaking (to a greater or lesser extent), the jour-
nalism ethos. However, at the same time, our study highlights the determination of most
news organisations to publish negative information (if it is important enough) on important
advertisers, regardless of the risk of repercussions. Therefore, we argue that perhaps the
real effect of commercial pressures coming from advertisers able to exercise real inuence
is that they get excessive positive coverage (positive exposure) more than being able to
stop critical information.
In this regard, advertiserspressures related to agenda setting are mainly in relation to
these positive-exposures. With this term, we refer to the disposition of news organisations
to establish part of their agenda (and space) based on advertisersinterests. In other words,
positive-exposure imply the publication of positive or friendly news of advertisers in order
to boostor sellsomething: products, services, image, reputation, etc. However, from a
strictly journalistic criterion, they should not be covered/published: whether because it is
non-relevant or insipid news, whether because it is pseudo-news, that is, content
covered and reported as news, but with characteristics of branded content. As a result, posi-
tive-exposure might challenge both journalist autonomy and the agenda setting of news-
papers when, for instance, covering certain (critical or not) news that temporarily co-exists
with positive-exposures.
In conclusion, this study has shown the mechanics of commercial pressures and the
main typologies of their effects. The processes of socialisation that take place inside the
newsrooms spiral into journalists internalising the goals and values of the organisation
they work for. The structural power that advertisers have on media outlets that rely on
advertising revenues constitutes an increasing challenge for journalist and news organis-
ations. Therefore, we suggest that in order to decrease advertisersbargaining power a
more diverse organisational news media landscape needs to be enhanced. In this way,
the autonomy of journalists and news organisations could be more guaranteed.
No potential conict of interest was reported by the authors.
This work was supported by the Ministerio de Economía y Competitividad, along
with FEDER funds under Grant CSO2015-66543-P; by the International Research Network
on Communication Management (XESCOM), funded by the Consellería de Cultura, Educa-
ción e Ordenación Universitaria, Xunta de Galiciaunder Grant ED341D R2016/019; and by
the Ministerio de Educación, Cultura y Deporte, under Grant FPU16/05234.
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... Even though the importance of professional autonomy in journalism is well documented in the scholarly literature, resistance practices used by journalists when their autonomy is in jeopardy have rarely been studied (as pointed out, e.g., by Barrios & Miller, 2020). Empirical studies mostly focus on the perceived level of journalistic autonomy in various countries (Ahva et al., 2017;Hughes et al., 2017), or, from the opposite angle, on exploring various types and forms of interference in journalistic autonomy (Akhrarkhodjaeva, 2017b;Goyanes & Rodríguez-Castro, 2019) and on the extent of the journalists' experience with this interference (Clark & Grech, 2017;Hiltunen, 2019). However, the question of how journalists actually deal with the pressure and interference is less often addressed, and if so, available studies have focused mostly on external political interference that occurs in flawed democracies and authoritarian or hybrid regimes (Ataman & Çoban, 2019;Barrios & Miller, 2020;Slavtcheva-Petkova, 2019). ...
... Studies that focus on democratic countries mostly examine how journalists deal with commercial interference, either internal or external (see Borden, 2000, for the U.S.; Goyanes & Rodríguez-Castro, 2019, for Spain;Hanusch et al., 2017, for Australia and Germany). Regarding external commercial interference, coping practices include avoiding negative accounts about a product or service (Goyanes & Rodríguez-Castro, 2019;Hanusch et al., 2017); not reporting about a product or service at all (Hanusch et al., 2017); and being more careful about meeting journalistic norms in sensitive cases (Goyanes & Rodríguez-Castro, 2019). Regarding internal commercial pressure, according to Borden (2000), journalists use open protest, sabotage (e.g., making decisions without consulting higher levels of management), principled compromise (i.e., concession in order to accomplish basic journalistic goals), and "trump cards," which suggest that non-compliance with standard journalism would lead to a loss of credibility. ...
... Studies that focus on democratic countries mostly examine how journalists deal with commercial interference, either internal or external (see Borden, 2000, for the U.S.; Goyanes & Rodríguez-Castro, 2019, for Spain;Hanusch et al., 2017, for Australia and Germany). Regarding external commercial interference, coping practices include avoiding negative accounts about a product or service (Goyanes & Rodríguez-Castro, 2019;Hanusch et al., 2017); not reporting about a product or service at all (Hanusch et al., 2017); and being more careful about meeting journalistic norms in sensitive cases (Goyanes & Rodríguez-Castro, 2019). Regarding internal commercial pressure, according to Borden (2000), journalists use open protest, sabotage (e.g., making decisions without consulting higher levels of management), principled compromise (i.e., concession in order to accomplish basic journalistic goals), and "trump cards," which suggest that non-compliance with standard journalism would lead to a loss of credibility. ...
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Autonomy is of paramount importance for journalism, but there is little empirically based knowledge of how journalists cope when it is threatened. Using a case study approach, this contribution examines a newsroom conflict that took place in the public service Radio and Television of Slovakia. It started when the new director general, a person believed to have ties to one of the coalition political parties, was elected by the parliament in 2017, and it culminated in layoffs and resignations of more than 30 reporters and editors in 2018. The case study is based on semi-structured interviews (N = 16) with the journalists who decided to quit in protest of what they called "creeping political pressure," those whose contracts were not prolonged, those who decided to stay at their jobs, and the members of the previous and the new management. Building on the interviews and document analysis, the article inductively develops a classification scheme for resistance practices the journalists used to cope with the perceived interference with their professional autonomy that came from within their media organisation. These practices include having internal discussions, voicing concerns during newsroom meetings, writing an internal letter to the management, meeting with the management, establishing a trade union, requesting mediation, writing an open letter to the viewers and listeners, publicly criticising the management in the media, voluntarily asking to be reassigned to another topic area or position in order to avoid interference, staying at one's job in open opposition to the management, and resigning in protest.
... Estos dos momentos han profundizado la crisis de un campo profesional (Bordieu, 2007(Bordieu, [1980) que cuenta con muy baja confianza de parte de la ciudadanía (Grassau et al., y 2020Robinson, 2019;Hopmann, Shehata y Strömbäck, 2015). Sin embargo, esta crisis no es exclusiva de nuestro país, sino que corresponde a la manifestación de una serie de situaciones y desafíos descritos a nivel global que han tenido como consecuencia la precarización del empleo -y que se vinculan principalmente con la necesidad de adaptar los modelos de negocio tradicionales de los medios de comunicación (Goyanes y Rodríguez-Castro, 2019)-y mantener su competitividad en un entorno en que perdieron su exclusividad como difusores de información (Harlow, 2021) . ...
Technical Report
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Durante los últimos años hemos sido testigos de una serie de despidos masivos en los medios de comunicación de Chile. Solo entre 2017 y 2020 alrededor de 2500 trabajadores fueron desvinculados. Esta situación ha afectado a medios con independencia de su tendencia política. Las reducciones de personal, fin de ediciones impresas y cierres de medios, se volvieron aún más drásticas después del estallido social de octubre de 2019 y de la pandemia de COVID-19. Estos dos momentos han profundizado la crisis de un campo profesional que cuenta con muy baja confianza de parte de la ciudadanía (Grassau et al., 2019 y 2020; Robinson, 2019; Hopmann, Shehata y Strömbäck, 2015). Sin embargo, esta crisis no es exclusiva de nuestro país, sino que corresponde a la manifestación de una serie de situaciones y desafíos descritos a nivel global que han tenido como consecuencia la precarización del empleo –y que se vinculan principalmente con la necesidad de adaptar los modelos de negocio tradicionales de los medios de comunicación (Goyanes y Rodríguez-Castro, 2019)– y mantener su competitividad en un entorno en que perdieron su exclusividad como difusores de información (Harlow, 2021). En ese sentido, este estudio aborda una dimensión poco explorada en Chile que se extiende más allá de las condiciones estructurales que afectan a la industria. Los periodistas son los protagonistas de esta crisis: son los principales afectados, son los agentes de cambio y son los actores a cargo de asegurar el pluralismo informativo en la entrega noticiosa a la sociedad chilena. Si la crisis de los medios la sufren los profesionales que laboran en ellos para reportear y dar a conocer hechos de interés público, conocer directamente la forma como ellos la experimentan resulta clave para entender las posibilidades reales que tienen los medios de garantizar una cobertura noticiosa pluralista guiada por estándares profesionales y éticos. Por dicha razón, esta propuesta se inscribe en una perspectiva cualitativa -que posibilita escuchar a los sujetos de manera directa y en profundidad (Jensen y Jankowski, 1993; Taylor y Bogdan, 1987)- con el objetivo de explorar cómo las nuevas características del campo impactan en el ejercicio del periodismo, en la independencia y en el pluralismo informativo que los medios deberían ofrecer. Con ese objetivo en mente, en este documento se entregan los principales resultados de 41 entrevistas en profundidad a periodistas hombres y mujeres de las distintas regiones de Chile, que trabaja(ba)n en distintos soportes mediales. En la presentación se privilegia la voz de estos profesionales, con el fin de que los lectores reconozcan en las propias palabras de los entrevistados la forma en que perciben la precarización laboral, las amenazas del entorno y sus consecuencias.
... As stated by Czarniawska (2012), the increasing marketization and speed of news news production are the major consequences of this new work environment. On this backdrop, extant research describe journalism as a craft where there is no right to switch off (Goyanes and Rodríguez-Castro, 2019;Deuze, 2007;García-Avilés et al., 2004;Thomsen, 2014), and where boundaries between leisure and work become fuzzy (Robinson, 2011;Steensen, 2009). ...
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The practice and structural conditions of the journalism craft provide fertile grounds for facilitating the emergence of conflicts in the newsroom. However, extant research on journalism studies have largely neglected the boundary conditions for their emergence and the individual and organizational mechanisms displayed to unravel them. Based on in-depth interviews with 40 Spanish journalists, we conceptualize newsrooms’ conflicts as the dark side of journalism and examine the structural and individual factors that nurtures their appearance. We also clarify the main strategies for conflict management, arguing that conflict resolution is typically based on informal mediation strategies, rather than institutionalized plans directly implemented by news organizations.
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The evolution from a public space such as the one defined throughout the twentieth century –characterised by unidirectionality and political and media intermediation– towards a digital scenario –with multiple actors and multi-directional messages– has not resolved the problems that existed beforehand, and has also generated others. This public space crisis has been aggravated by the fragmentation of audiences, often absorbed into their own echo chamber, and by the dispersion and jumble of voices that are an impediment to any possibility of unravelling the terms of public debate. Faced with enormous challenges such as disinformation, the conventional media, who have traditionally held the responsibility of providing quality information, address these issues from a position of extreme vulnerability, due to the disintegration of the former economic model and social credibility. In a context of uncertainty, crisis, and fragmented public spheres, and there being no alternatives that can guarantee distinct dialogue, the initiation of a social debate that prioritises quality of information is essential.
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Studies about media self-censorship typically focus on its mechanism in traditional newsroom settings. But how media self-censorship may evolve in online journalism has remained largely unexplored. Using Hong Kong as a case, I examine the digital evolution of media self-censorship in a unique non-democratic context. Drawing on interviews with online journalists, my findings reveal that digital transformation has provided new valences for media self-censorship. With the financial hardship of legacy media in the digital age, Hong Kong online journalists are more directly exposed to external threats such as advertisement boycotts orchestrated by the state, and hence increasingly reluctant to offend external powerholders out of the fear of political and financial retaliation. Moreover, as online journalists adopt business-driven norms that favor the generation of clicks, political or policy news are further marginalized. These stories are often deemed boring, non-engaging to online audiences, and are not “sensationalizable” due to political risks, especially when compared to soft news types like crimes and lifestyles stories. Adapting to these changes, news managers are increasingly used to avoiding professional editorial debates that results are unpredictable but using “objective” web metrics as persuasive devices to discourage the production of sensitive news. Lastly, the dissemination of sensitive news is curbed in the social media gatekeeping process. These findings suggest that an authoritarian state can effectively influence online news production by controlling the capital that drives digital transformation, thereby limiting the liberating potential of the media in the digital age.
Media control comprises multifaceted and amorphous phenomena, combining a variety of forms, tools, and practices. Today media control takes place in a sphere where national politics meet global technology, resulting in practices that bear features of both the (global) platforms and the affordances of national politics. At the intersection of these fields, we try to understand current practices of media control and the ways in which it may be resisted. This thematic issue is an endeavour to bring together conceptual, methodological, and empirical contributions to revise the scholarly discussion on media control. First, authors of this thematic issue re-assemble the notion of media control itself, as not being holistic and discrete (control vs freedom) but by considering it from a more critical perspective as having various modes and regimes. Second, this thematic issue brings a “micro” perspective into understanding and theorising media control. In comparison to structural and institutional perspectives on control, this perspective focuses on the agency of various actors (objects and subjects of media pressure) and their practices, motivations, and the resources with which they exert or resist control. Featuring cases from a broad range of countries with political systems ranging from democracy to electoral authoritarian regime, this issue also draws attention to the question of how media control relates to regime type.
Profound upheavals and the search for a viable business model have led the news industry to explore new sources of revenue. The mainstream Spanish media have set up special units to produce branded content, advertising that is integrated into editorial content. This article presents a multi-faceted approach to this practice in Spain, including interviews with branded content lab managers, a survey of journalists (N = 170), and content analysis of articles (N = 331) published by the six main legacy and digital native media companies in June and July of 2019. Results show inadequate disclosure, which makes it difficult for readers to distinguish between branded and editorial content. The journalists surveyed associate native advertising with the risk of losing credibility. This study reveals that the financial sector is the most active in supporting branded content productions, followed by energy and infrastructure, distribution and food industry, and phone companies. This research also unveils advertiser interest in connecting brand image to environment and sustainability values, together with a macro-issue encompassing well-being, sports, and health. This is consistent with the fact that the strongest role performance observed has been for service information, especially regarding tips for the economy, followed by those of the civic and infotainment categories.
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This article reports the findings of a comparative study of the financial news produced by companies, financial analysts, financial newspapers and news agencies about the same news events, including data before and after the financial crisis. We ground this study in second-level agenda-setting, according to which news producers select substantive and evaluative attributes for the issues they cover. Using computer-assisted text analysis, we conduct pairwise comparisons of the evaluative tone of corporate quarterly earnings press releases and the corresponding analyst reports and news stories. Our overall hypothesis is that these actors produce news about the same events with an evaluative tone that furthers their own goals as well as the goals of those actors they are dependent on, which we find partial support for. We find a positivity bias in corporate earnings press releases and analyst reports, while financial journalists eliminate the corporate positivity bias, but do not add more negativity. The results also indicate differences in the tone of financial news before and after the financial crisis. Although all actors produce news in the period after the financial crisis that is less positive and less negative than before the crisis, the balance of positive and negative tone as well as relative differences among the actors suggest that news writing by financial journalists at financial newspapers and news agencies is more negative in tone after the financial crisis, thus providing also empirical support of their independence.
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Contemporary journalists face a multitude of external pressures and threats, ranging from political and commercial interference to online harassment and increasing anti-press hostility. This empirical article examines how the hybridization of the media environment is reflected in journalists’ experiences of external interference. The article also explores the factors in journalists’ working environment that support their ability to maintain their external autonomy against interference. The article is based on an applied thematic analysis of 31 semi-structured interviews with Finnish journalists supplemented by 4 background interviews with organizational stakeholders. Four major developments were identified in the analysis: (1) a proliferation of publicity control, (2) an increasingly contested public sphere, (3) societal and political polarization, and (4) the personalization of journalism. The autonomy of journalism was supported by a combination of (1) journalistic professionalism, (2) internal confidence within journalistic organizations, and (3) communication and support measures. The findings suggest that the hybridization of the media environment has intensified the external interference and pressure journalists encounter in their work. These, in turn, increase the workload and mental strain related to journalistic work, having the potential to cause fatigue, chilling effects, and self-censorship in the long run.
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In this article, we investigate the effects of uncertainty on job expectations in a news organization (El Mundo) facing fierce financial turmoil and several redundancy plans. Drawing on in-depth material (27 interviews and non-participant observation), we show how the declining news and media landscape is hampering the configuration of good employment prospects. In order to manage this harsh reality, we argue that journalists draw upon emotional resources (specifically what we conceptualize as presentism, a form of limiting and defusing concern for prospects by focusing on the present) and social ones (in particular, support from their colleagues). By implementing these responses, journalists can navigate the turbulent waters of uncertainty and be focused on the development of their craft. Our findings address how the negation of future employment expectations, associated with the uncertain media environment, makes journalists naturalize their current professional conditions and, therefore, assume that their professional future should maintain the status quo (continuous orientation). That makes them reflect on the privilege of plying their trade in a prestigious newspaper and getting paid to do so despite the severe crisis in the industry (relativistic orientation).
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Professionalism is a concept that centers on specialization of labor and control of occupational practice. It has traditionally been used to describe and define individuals who are affiliated with an occupational community that has managed to secure a certain measure of autonomy and jurisdiction over an area of expertise and has a claim to a public service ethos. In this review essay, we consider the changing professional status of journalism. Whether or not journalism is "truly" a profession, it is clear that a discourse of journalistic professionalism plays a crucial role in legitimizing the journalistic occupation. Consequently, this essay explores different approaches towards the professionalization of journalism and positions this discussion within two interrelated contexts: first, it investigates the ramifications of the current crisis in western news media on journalistic professionalism. Next, the essay probes the professional standing of journalism in view of the development of new digital technologies that are re-shaping essential aspects of journalistic work. We conclude that journalism has lost some of its cohesion and fragmented into tribes of professionalism practiced by a diverse set of actors.
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This article uses the happy-productive worker thesis as starting point to assess the chances that a media system is performing well. Personality traits, work conditions and job satisfaction levels of individuals from different media occupations in Switzerland (N=259) were collected using standardized instruments from personnel psychology. Media workers more distanced from actual media production are more satisfied with their jobs than the working population, while those closer to production are less satisfied. A regression analysis identifies autonomy as most important driver of job satisfaction, suggesting that non-financial aspects of media performance could be enhanced by granting creative media workers more freedom.
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Degree of autonomy is one of the key dimensions of professionalization in journalism. However, the strive for autonomy looks different in different media systems, where pressure on autonomy can come from both political and commercial powers, outside and within the media. Media development also changes the conditions for professional autonomy for journalists, in both a positive and a negative sense. In the comparative research project “Journalism in change”, the journalistic cultures in Russia, Poland and Sweden are studied. In a survey involving 1500 journalists from the three countries, journalists report on their perceived autonomy in their daily work and in relation to different actors inside and outside the media. The survey covers how the work has been changed by media developments, and how these changes have affected journalists’perceived autonomy. The results show similarities in the strive for autonomy, but also clear differences in how autonomy is perceived by journalists in the three countries.
This article examines how journalists perceive workplace autonomy in five European countries, based on an email survey (N = 2238) conducted in the United Kingdom, Germany, Italy, Sweden and Estonia. The article argues that the workplace level functions as a link between the macro level of external pressures and the micro level of perceived influences on news work. Using principal component analysis we explore the dimensionality of workplace autonomy based on a set of 20 survey questions. Regression analysis is then used on the dimensions found in order to determine what affects perception of autonomy in the different dimensions. The most salient explanatory variables are found on the country and organisational levels, whereas the variables age, experience, gender, managerial role and medium have no or limited effects. The results show the organisational and country levels being integrated and that national journalistic culture is the most salient factor explaining perception of autonomy.
This article explores how commercialism has diminished the importance of public service. Market concerns now determine operation and content in the newspaper industry.
The interpersonal dynamics of in-depth interviewing The contributors to this volume describe many different types of interviewing. Each type has its distinct style, methods, advantages, and limitations. Each uses and builds on our commonsense knowledge about talking to others. Each type of interviewing uses our common cultural wisdom about people, places, manner, and contexts. Each is no better than the person using it. This chapter examines in-depth interviewing. In-depth interviews tend to be of relatively long duration. They commonly involve one-on-one, face-to-face interaction between an interviewer and an informant and seek to build the kind of intimacy that is common for mutual self-disclosure. They tend to involve a greater expression of the interviewer's self than do some other types of interviews, as well as a personal commitment on the part of participants that spans several or many interview segments. In-depth interviewing offers great advantages, but it also entails some risks ...
An authoritative and detailed illustration of the state of journalistic practice in the United States today, The American Journalist in the 21st Century sheds light on the demographic and educational backgrounds, working conditions, and professional and ethical values of print, broadcast, and Internet journalists at the beginning of the 21st century. Providing results from telephone surveys of nearly 1,500 U.S. journalists working in a variety of media outlets, this volume updates the findings published in the earlier report, The American Journalist in the 1990s, and reflects the continued evolution of journalistic practice and professionalism. The scope of material included here is extensive and inclusive, representing numerous facets of journalistic practice and professionalism, and featuring separate analyses for women, minority, and online journalists. Many findings are set in context and compared with previous major studies of U.S. journalists conducted in the 1970s, 80s, and 90s. Serving as a detailed snapshot of current journalistic practice, The American Journalist in the 21st Century offers an intriguing and enlightening profile of professional journalists today, and it will be of great interest and value to working journalists, journalism educators, media managers, journalism students, and others seeking insights into the current state of the journalism profession. © 2007 by Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc. All rights reserved.
Making the News provides a cross-national perspective on key features of journalism and news-making cultures and the changing media landscape in contemporary Europe. Focusing on the key trends, practices and issues in contemporary journalism and news cultures, Paschal Preston maps the major contours of change as well as the broader industrial, organizational, institutional and cultural factors shaping journalism practices over the past two decades. Moving beyond the tendency to focus on journalism trends and newsmaking practices within a single country, Making the News draws on unique, cross-national research examining current journalism practices and related newsmaking cultures in eleven West, Central and East European countries, including in-depth interviews with almost 100 senior journalists and subsequent workshop discussions with other interest groups. Making the News links reviews and discussions of the existing literature to original research engaging with the views and experiences of journalists working at the 'coal face' of contemporary newsmaking practices, to provide an original study and useful student text.