International Journal of Communication 14(2020), 2294–2315 1932–8036/20200005
Copyright © 2020 (Manuel Goyanes and Márton Demeter). Licensed under the Creative Commons
Attribution Non-commercial No Derivatives (by-nc-nd). Available at http://ijoc.org.
Effects of Media Companies’ Organizational Nature and Journalists
Autonomy and Position on Internal and External Influences:
Evidence From Spain
Carlos III University, Madrid, Spain
National University of Public Service, Hungary
Internal and external influences are crucial to understanding how news organizations
work. Their impact at the organizational level and their resolution at the level of practice
permeate journalism discourses on autonomy and ethics. Drawing on Bourdieu’s field
theory, this article examines how organizational and individual-level factors predict the
likelihood of suffering internal editorial influences and external political and commercial
ones. Based on a secondary analysis of Spanish data from the World of Journalism project,
we first find that journalists working at public news organizations are more prone to suffer
internal editorial influences than journalists working at private/commercial ones. Second,
we find a negative association between journalists’ autonomy and both types of influence,
but a positive relationship between temporary news-workers and internal editorial
influences. Finally, we find a cleaved moderation effect of journalists’ position on the
relationship between age and internal editorial influences, and a contributory moderation
of gender on the relationship between autonomy and both types of influences.
Keywords: journalist autonomy, news organizations, organizational nature, internal
editorial influence, external political influence, external commercial influence
During the last decade, news organizations have experienced a deep financial crisis, triggered by
a myriad of factors that have challenged their vital role as the Fourth Estate (Siles & Boczkowski, 2012).
Propelled by changes in readers’ news consumption patterns (Molyneux, 2018), the emergence of new
competitors both inside and outside the news industry (Picard, 2014), and, especially, the inability to
monetize digital content, most news organizations are increasingly relying on fewer human resources (Deuze
& Witschge, 2018), implementing downsizing operations (Goyanes & Rodríguez-Gómez, 2018), and
increasingly hiring freelancersMany news-workers have been dismissed or “pushed” into retirement, while
new professionals are being hired under less favorable labor conditions and mostly temporary contracts
(Salamon, 2020). All these challenges affect the quality of news organizations’ output and increase their
Manuel Goyanes: Manuel.email@example.com
Márton Demeter: Demeter.Marton@uni-nke.hu
Date submitted: 2019-10-24
International Journal of Communication 14(2020) Media Companies’ Organizational Nature 2295
vulnerability to internal and external influences (Goyanes & Rodríguez-Castro, 2019). The organizational
and individual-level antecedents of this phenomenon are the focus of the study.
While most studies on the journalism crisis concentrate on Western societies, and especially on the
U.S., there is growing pressure to provide empirical evidence beyond this geography. Communication
scholars from different geopolitical locations agree that economic crises and technological developments
have affected journalistic practices to a great extent (Davis, 2007; Gasher et al., 2016; Hanitzsch et al.,
2010). Our study contributes to a better understanding of the organizational- and individual-level factors
that affect journalists’ perceptions of the impact of internal and external influences in Spanish newsrooms.
Specifically, the study examines how the organizational nature of news organizations and journalists’
autonomy and position affect both internal editorial influences and external political and commercial ones.
Based on a secondary analysis of Spanish data from the World of Journalism project and drawing on
Bourdieu’s field theory, we aim to design an empirical model that explains the configuration and main
characteristics that shape journalistic influences in Spain.
Our findings first reveal that journalists working for private/commercial news organizations are less
likely to suffer internal editorial influences than than those working for public news organizations, while
higher levels of journalistic autonomy are revealed as a negative predictor of both internal editorial
influences and external political and commercial ones. Second, we show that journalists with temporary
positions are more prone to suffer internal editorial influence—a variable that acts as a cleaved divergent
moderator over the relationship between journalists’ age and internal editorial influence, in such a way that
the strongest positive association between age and internal editorial influence is found in the case of those
journalists who work on temporary contracts. Finally, we show that female journalists, with respect to male
counterparts, are less likely to suffer both internal and external influence when their autonomy is high.
The Field of Forces on Journalism: Theoretical Framework
Media scholars might be familiar with different approaches that conceptualize journalism practice
though spatial metaphors that consider it a discipline that must balance between political and economic
powers. Typical examples include Jürgen Habermas’s conception of the public sphere or Manuel Castells’
understanding of the media sphere (Benson & Neveu, 2005). Still, it was the Bourdieusian conception of the
field that, to an ever-increasing degree, started to flourish in journalism studies as an appropriate theoretical
framework with which to make sense of journalism in practice. According to the original Bourdieusian idea,
the field is
the space of the relations of force between the different kinds of capital or, more precisely,
between the agents who possess a sufficient amount of one of the different kinds of capital
to be in a position to dominate the corresponding field. (Bourdieu, 1988, p. 34)
The field of forces (the original, le champ, is sometimes translated as field of power or simply
force field) is constituted, maintained, and continuously shaped by the agents of the field, whose power
positions determine the extent to which they can contribute to the field of forces. In other words, the
2296 Manuel Goyanes and Márton Demeter International Journal of Communication 14(2020)
field of forces itself could be conceived as the projection of the power positions of the participating agents
The Bourdieusian field theory has been applied to many subfields of communication studies in
general (Demeter, 2018; Rothenberger, Auer, & Pratt, 2017), and journalism in particular (Benson &
Neveu, 2005). A social field (Bourdieu, 1998) is constructed by dynamic internal and external forces. In
the case of journalism, they are typically economic forces (or economic capital) on the one hand, and
political forces (or political capital) on the other. These Bourdieusian concepts could be related to
Murdock’s conceptualization of different types of control: allocative control and operational control
(Murdock, 1982). Allocative control refers to media owners having the power to determine the goals and
scope of the media corporations and define the ways they manage their resources. On the other hand,
operational control works on the institutional level by making decisions on the effective use of resources
provided by the agents of the allocative control, that is, media owners (Murdock, 1982). In Bourdieusian
terms, allocative control relates to external influence (media owners), while operational control usually
relates to internal (editorial) influence.
The main capital of journalists (and thus the unique capital of the journalistic field) consists of their
legitimacy and autonomy (Vos, Eichholz, & Karaliova, 2019), meaning that they should maintain a balance
between the state (political forces) and the market (economic power), while keeping an appropriate distance
from both (Bourdieu, 2005; Shoemaker & Vos, 2009). Bourdieu himself positioned the journalistic field in
relation to the political field and the social science field (Bourdieu, 2005). He considered these three fields
to be relatively independent, but still strongly interrelated. The agents of the field “react to these relations
of forces, to these structures; they construct them, perceive them, form an idea of them, represent them
to themselves, and so on” (Bourdieu, 2005, p. 30).
Bourdieu (2005) stresses that one of the main characteristics of the journalistic field is, however,
its relatively weak autonomy—or, in other words, a high degree of heteronomy (as contrasted, for
example, with the field of mathematics, in which neither political nor commercial capital has a direct
interest). Notwithstanding, it does have some level of autonomy. Accordingly, “to understand what
happens in journalism, it is not sufficient to know who finances the publications, who the advertisers are,
who pays for the advertising, where the subsidies came from, and so on” (Bourdieu, 2005, p. 33). For a
better understanding of what happens in a given field, one needs to be familiar with the ruling habitus of
the agents in different power positions: “Any explanation of attitudes, discourses, behavior etc., must
draw on an analysis of both structural position (within the field, the field’s position vis-à-vis other fields,
etc.) and the particular historical trajectory whereby an agent arrived at that position (habitus)” (Benson
& Neveu, 2005, p. 3).
Journalism Between the Market and the State
According to Bourdieu, the field is structured by the two kinds of power (Champagne, 2005), or, in
Bourdieu’s terminology, two distinctive types of capital, the economic and the cultural; the economic is the
most powerful. In the case of the journalistic field, economic capital comes in the form of advertising
revenues, circulation, or the ratings of the audience, while cultural capital consists of many kinds of
International Journal of Communication 14(2020) Media Companies’ Organizational Nature 2297
journalistic practices. In journalism, the field is structured in terms of the opposition between internal and
external forces, derived from economic and cultural capital, while the field-constructing, autonomous power
represents some unique, special capital that expresses professional excellence. The unique capital of
journalism comes in the form of special skills needed for participation in the field. Journalists today need to
be multiskilled (Deuze, 2007), which means at least three sets of skills. First, journalists need to be proficient
in a wide variety of production techniques and media forms; second, they require skills associated with
entrepreneurship (Ryan, 2009); and, finally, they must have new skills as well, such as self-branding and
marketing (Usher, 2014).
Turning to the two external forces shaping the journalistic field, the most extensively investigated
phenomenon is arguably the problem of commercialization. Criticism of commercialization is as old as
making a profit by selling news (McManus, 2009)—a practice that has more than 150 years of history. Neo-
Marxist theoreticians and cultural studies scholars also condemn commercial media for class domination and
hegemony by promoting the culture and ideology of the elites (Gramsci, 1971; Habermas, 1989). McManus
(2009) defined commercialization as “any action intended to boost profit that interferes with a journalist’s
or news organization’s best effort to maximize public understanding of those issues and events that shape
the community they claim to serve” (p. 219). The risks and harm that commercialization has perpetrated
on the classical journalistic profession have been extensively discussed (Goyanes & Rodríguez-Castro, 2019;
Holcomb, 2011). The main effect is, allegedly, that the profession continually moves toward entertainment
instead of serving public interests (Hanusch, Hanitzsch, & Lauerer 2017), a tendency that undermines the
classical ethos of journalism as a profession (McManus, 2009).
However, a number of scholars argue that journalists do not necessarily feel the pressure of the
market themselves, because these are mediated through journal editors (Reich & Hanitzsch, 2013). Thus,
power relations in the field of journalism benefit from intermediary agents—in the form of editors—who
mediate between journalists and external forces such as the market and the state. Thus, editors negotiate
between different groups such as the audience, the organization, the journalists (and journalism as a
profession), and society (Duffy, 2019). Part of the role of editors is the supervision of journalists (Duffy,
2019), quality control (Singer, 2010), and gatekeeping (Shoemaker & Vos, 2009) as they select, pass
through, and also legitimize news.
The other external force that shapes the quasiautonomous field of journalism is the state, or, in
other words, political power. Political and commercial influences are frequently conceived as binary
oppositions that counteract each other. As Sjovaag (2019) puts it, the market could be considered, on the
one hand, as a deliberating force that frees journalism from the grip of the state; on the other hand, it could
be seen as a force that corrupts journalism through commercial pressure, in which case it needs the help of
the state. The positive effect of the market could be that it liberates the media from taxation and state
censorship (Curran, 2012), while it could endanger the media by pushing it toward consumerism,
advertising, and lowest common denominator contentThus, the all-time challenge of the press is to secure
its borders against these two forces—the market and the state—and to maintain and reinforce its autonomy
to ensure the legitimacy in the third sphere of influence: civil society (Sjovaag, 2019). As we have seen,
the spheres of journalism and politics are tightly interwoven, where political parties seek to expand their
own interests. As Maurer and Beiler (2018) put it,
2298 Manuel Goyanes and Márton Demeter International Journal of Communication 14(2020)
while there is a journalistic drive to increase the sphere for reporting on newsworthy
matters from the general public’s perspective, there is also a drive from political actors to
control journalism, which mostly means avoiding publicity about negative issues while
trying to convey favorable information. (p. 2026)
Thus, Larsson (2002) refers to this relationship as a “tactical game,” but still a routinized
interaction. While journalists tactically want to gather information on politicians straight from the horse’s
mouth, politicians are interested in presenting and maintaining a good public image of themselves; to this
end, they have to cooperate with journalists (Mancini, 1993). Bourdieu (2005) himself expresses this
bipolarity between politics and markets in a spatial example in which journalistic identities could be defined
by their positions on an imagined line with two endpoints: The endpoint on the left represents the state,
and the endpoint on the right represents the market. The more distance journalists keep from one endpoint,
the closer will they be to the other.
Internal and External Pressure on Journalists’ News Selection in Spain
In general, most of the analysis on the field of Spanish journalism has dealt with specific features,
such as the roles of journalists (Túñez & Martínez, 2014), the defining characteristics of the profession
(Humanes, 2003), the ways in which the profession was historically transformed over the course of the last
century (Martín-Sabarís & Amurrio-Vélez, 2003), or the impact that different workplace attitudes and
conditions have had on news production (Túñez & Martínez, 2014). Spain is usually considered a relatively
young democracy, but according to Llorens (2010), some parts of democratic development could be found
even in Franco’s dictatorship. A free-market economy was tolerated and even fostered later, and while the
content and ownership of media outlets were strictly controlled by the authorities, they weren’t nationalized.
After Franco’s death, the principles of state control and commercialization changed, but it still has not
reached Western European standards (Llorens, 2010); in addition, as Iosifidis (2007) suggests, Spanish
media promoted, from the beginning, government interests and not public ones.
Spanish media has long been considered an example of the Mediterranean media model (Hallin &
Mancini, 2004), in which political pressures and political parallelism are more common than in the North
Atlantic model. Recent research has found that this can be seen on at least two levels. First, on the whole,
the opinions of the actual political parties are overrepresented in the media, and second, there is a long-
time tradition of partisan journalism in which left-wing media outlets give voices to left-wing politicians,
while their right-wing counterparts display mainly right-wing politicians. As a result, the media scene lacks
independent or balanced platforms (Kaiser and Königslöw, 2019).
According to Mateo, Bergés, and Garnatxe (2010), journalists in Spain are hugely dependent on
information from official sources. Moreover, “communication policies in Spain are characterized by
fragmented legislation, sometimes improvised according to the political-economic situation of the moment,
and easily changeable” (Mateo et al., 2010, p. 269). The same authors also stressed that the dependency
of media outlets on political pressures can be perceived at the regional level, too, given that there are certain
correlations between regional ruling parties and the results of the tenders for local media licenses.
International Journal of Communication 14(2020) Media Companies’ Organizational Nature 2299
Another important feature of the Spanish media culture is its historical aversion to any censorship-
like regulation. As a consequence, there are not any cross-media ownership rules, while horizontal
centralization of media outlets is regulated. For example, the law allows only one television license for a
given owner (Llorens, 2010). According to Llorens, it results in a situation that shows “a healthy media
landscape: no media monopoly in sight, no excessive fragmentation, and a relatively high number of
medium-size media groups competing against each other” (p. 856). Spanish journalism culture is an
extraordinarily interesting field to study because the economic crisis in 2008 and the media industry crisis
have had an extremely marked effect on the country (Conde, Herrero-Jiménez, & Montero, 2018). The effect
of the crisis was serious; many newspapers and media outlets had to shut down, which has resulted in a
field where fewer agents (journalists) have to work with fewer resources, including less economic capital.
This weakening economic and political independence has caused both job insecurity and a decline in news
quality (Gómez-Mompart, Gutiérrez Lozano, & Palau Sampio, 2015). According to recent market research
from the Media Pluralism Monitor (2016), commercial and owner influence over editorial content presents a
very significant risk to media pluralism, including in Spain, which is at the medium risk level of the 30
countries under study. These organizational and internal/external influences are especially robust in public
media companies (Humanes, Montero-Sánchez, Molina-de-Dios, & López-Berini, 2013), following the
Mediterranean or polarized pluralist model (Hallin & Mancini, 2004).
There is a long research history of the phenomenon of owner influence in the news industries
(Bantz, 1985; Chada & Wells, 2016; Shoemaker & Reese, 1991; Sivek, 2010), starting with Breed’s (1955)
classic work in which the author suggests that the owner has the nominal right to determine both the
journal’s general policy and the staff’s activity. It means that the publisher sets news policy, and this should
be followed by the editors and journalists. According to Breed, the publisher has, even in a form of a veto,
much say in policy decisions, such as whether to feature or dismiss a story, which party to support, and so
forth. Bunce’s (2019) recent work concentrates on the conflict of the profit motivations of owners and the
journalistic values of their journalists. The author suggests that the economic crises definitely deepened
these conflicts. In Bourdieu’s terms, the journalists themselves interiorize different aspects of these conflicts
because they possess and collect both economic (in the form of salaries) and cultural (their journalistic
experiences, education, and reputation) capital (Bunce, 2019). The same author also emphasizes that most
studies on this issue concentrated on domestic newsrooms in the UK and the U.S. Thus, our study
contributes to the still-needed literature on journalistic conflicts beyond the Anglo-American world.
Spanish media scholars have illuminated the general phenomenology of influences on public media
services (Gómez-Montano, 2013) and agree that there is permanent control over news content (Soengas &
Rodríguez-Vázquez, 2015), especially institutional and political control, although the level of these influences
and their effects at the level of practice (manipulation and/or censorship) vary according to the
instrumentalization of public services by political parties and governments. In short, there is a general
consensus on the orientation of most regional and national governments to control (with different degrees
of interventionism) public media companies, thereby calling into question the independence of such services
and their value in informing citizens about current events and politics.
Private news organizations have also been affected by the economic crisis, but the effects of the
latter have largely been seen in the form of organizational transformations, job loss, and the precarization
2300 Manuel Goyanes and Márton Demeter International Journal of Communication 14(2020)
of journalists’ work (Goyanes & Rodríguez-Castro, 2019). Commercial and political pressures have always
existed in both private and public media companies, but their level, naturalization, and resolution in
practice have arguably increased in recent years. However, there is a traditional history of the connection
between public media companies and political statements that significantly affects the output of such
services (Soengas & Rodríguez-Vázquez, 2015). Meanwhile, commercial/private news organizations
follow a clear editorial line, thus precluding journalists from perceiving many potential internal and
external influences as challenging.
In addition, Spanish public media companies are generally characterized by strong government
intervention and a huge influence of political parties, both in the corporate governance and in the
appointment of likeminded editors and section managers (Goyanes & Rodríguez-Gómez, 2018). Based on
these previous theorizations, we may presume that public organizations, compared with private ones, are
more prone to suffer both internal editorial influences and external political and commercial ones. In
addition, we can assume that the more professional (autonomous) a news organization is, the more
independent it will be in terms of external capital such as political and commercial powers. This relative
autonomy might be expressed in practice as the journalists’ relations with journal editors as intermediary
agents between the market/politics and the journalists. Thus, our first two hypotheses presume that:
H1: Journalists working for private/commercial news organizations are less likely to suffer (a) internal
editorial influence and (b) external political and commercial influences than their colleagues
working at public service media.
H2: Journalists who report higher levels of autonomy to select news stories and decide which aspects
of these stories should be emphasized will have lower levels of (a) internal editorial influence and
(b) external political and commercial influences.
Positional Aspects on the Field: Stability and Gender
According to Bourdieu, agents of a given field could be described by their positions in that field,
which are primarily determined by their accumulated capital. However, other important factors could
affect their behavior in the field. We will investigate two such factors: the safety and gender dimension
of the agents. Heteronomy—in other words, the absence of autonomy—goes hand in hand with many
types of pressure: pressure from advertisers, pressure from the audience though ratings, political
pressure, and so on.
But all these forces are intensified by the temporary positions and precarious employment of
journalists who are, according to Bourdieu (2005), “linked to the existence of widespread underemployment
within the intellectual professions” (p. 43). In a situation in which supply significantly exceeds demand, the
labor market is to a great extent defenseless against pressures from both economic and political agents,
and these pressures are much more serious in the case of temporary employees with short-term contracts.
In Bourdieu’s (2005) words, “precarity of employment is a loss of liberty, through which censorship and the
effect of economic constraints can more easily be expressed” (p. 43).
International Journal of Communication 14(2020) Media Companies’ Organizational Nature 2301
Such precarity is also evident in freelance journalism. In fact, freelance journalism, which had once
been imagined as a romantic world without bosses, shiftwork, and office politics (McKercher, 2014), turned
out to be less pleasing than imagined. Freelancers earn significantly lower wages than workers in
newsrooms; for example, in Canada, freelance journalists’ standard of living dropped more than 60% in a
single generation. And although independent journalists often demonstrate that being a freelancer also
signifies their strategies to resist organizational demands (Salamon, 2020), freelancers also compete with
each other, they struggle with unequal social relations (Cohen, 2016), and they are pressured to produce
salable media content (Cohen, 2016; McKercher, 2014).
As Örnebring (2010) argues, temporary positions and an increasingly deregulated labor market
result in a moral decline in which traditional commitment and classical values such as autonomy play less
of a role. Recent academic discussions on the commercialization of the field indicates that growing economic
pressures would lead to serious concerns regarding the autonomy of journalism as a social field that could
seriously endanger journalism’s status as a profession (Meyers & Davidson, 2016). In the case of precarious
workers on temporary contracts, we could assume that both external and internal pressures would
undermine autonomy to a much greater degree than in the case of journalists with fixed contracts. Thus,
our subsequent hypothesis suggests that:
H3: Journalists with a temporary position are more likely to suffer (a) internal editorial influences and
(b) external political and commercial influences than journalists with a permanent position.
Previous studies on journalistic influences state that journalists’ autonomy is dependent on both
journalists’ age and position (Weaver & Wilhoit, 1996). Findings reveal that the type of contract journalists
have and their experience in the field are mutual forces that explain the level of potential influences. As age
increases, the level of influences will decrease, just as they do when a journalist holds a permanent position.
However, when journalists hold a temporary position and their age increases, the degree of outside influence
might increase as well because of the precarious position of news-workers and age constraints. Therefore,
journalists with temporary contracts and journalists with fixed ones will be further distanced from one
another in terms of both internal editorial influences and external political and commercial ones, as there is
movement from younger to older journalists. We predict that the type of contract a journalist has (temporary
versus permanent) is a cleaved divergent moderator of the relationship between age and both internal and
external influences (Holbert & Park, 2019). In a more formal hypothesis:
H4: Journalist position (permanent versus temporary) is a cleaved moderator such that the strongest
positive (a) age-internal editorial influence and (b) age-external political and commercial influence
association will be found among those who work on a temporary contract.
Journalism had long been considered a masculine discipline; especially in the first half of the 20th
century, as women continued to demand jobs in the media, their mostly male editors, colleagues, and
sources refused to take them seriously (Steiner, 2009). Nowadays, however, at least officially, gender does
not count as a decisive feature in newsrooms. As Steiner puts it, national surveys show that “gender is not
a reliable predictor of differences in professional practices. Men and women conceive the role of news and
evaluate the ethics of reporting methods in similar ways; they show similar (declining) levels of job
2302 Manuel Goyanes and Márton Demeter International Journal of Communication 14(2020)
satisfaction” (Steiner, 2009, p. 120). However, other scholars state that men and women still socialize
differently in the workplace, since they might have different identities, values, and priorities (Rogers &
Thorson, 2003). Steiner (2009) emphasizes the importance of a “feminist journalism” (p. 127) in which
collaboration and noncompetitive strategies are valued over their traditionally more masculine counterparts.
Thus, through its different values and even different professional strategies, gender might be meaningful
when addressing the question of how perceived autonomy is related to internal/external influences in
different gender positions.
Feminist literature on the media industry has illustrated a number of imbalances in the journalism
profession. Arguably, the most important states that while women move into the journalistic workforce in
increasing numbers, they are not distributed equally across all areas of work. It means that higher-power
positions (television news force, writing services or television news directors) are typically occupied by men,
while there are twice as many female freelancers and precariat media workers as men (McKercher, 2014).
McKercher also stresses that feminization is often accompanied by lower wages and the declining social
status of the profession. Moreover, as other media scholars observed, unfairly underpaid or even unpaid
freelancer contracts affect women workers disproportionally more than their male colleagues (Cohen, 2016;
Salamon, 2020). As suggested, gender may play a crucial role in explaining journalism practices and in
accounting for the potential perception of internal and external influences. However, because of a limited
development of a formal theory (Robinson, 2005; Steiner, 2009) that links the role of gender and journalists’
autonomy in news organizations, we explore the following research question:
RQ1: What is the nature of the moderation that stems from the effects of gender in the relationship
between journalistic autonomy and (a) internal editorial influences and (b) external political and
Methods and Measurements
Data for this study are based on the World of Journalism project. In this case, the sample is from
Spain (N = 390), where 160 participants were female (42%) and 230 (58%) were male. The size of the
population of Spanish journalists was estimated at 18,000 news-workers. The sampling methods were
twofold: (1) a stratified proportionally random sampling for newsrooms and (2) a convenience sample for
journalists within newsrooms. The interview method was face-to-face and by mail/e-mail, reaching a
response rate of 82.3%. The period of field research was from July 2013 to April 2015. This study had two
complementary objectives: to understand the factors that predict journalists’ perceptions on (1) editorial
influences (inside media companies), and (2) external political and commercial influences. Therefore, our
models include both internal editorial influences and external political and commercial influences as
dependent variables. Accordingly, the World of Journalism project includes a series of measures of these
constructs, considered as key variables. The main measurements are as follows.
Internal editorial influences: To measure perceptions on internal editorial influences, respondents
were asked to rate how much influence each of the following items had on their work on a 5-point Likert
scale ranging from 1 = not influential to 5 = very influential (four-item averaged scale; Cronbach’s α =
International Journal of Communication 14(2020) Media Companies’ Organizational Nature 2303
0.84; M = 3.40; SD = 1.00): “your editorial supervisors and higher editors,” “the managers of your news
organization,” “the owners of your news organization” and “editorial policy.”
External political and commercial influences: This variable was measured by asking respondents
how much influence each of the following items had on their work on a 5-point Likert scale ranging from 1
= not influential to 5 = very influential (four-item averaged scale; Cronbach’s α = 0.83; M = 2.22; SD =
0.92): “government officials,” “politicians,” “pressure groups” and “business people.”
Journalistic autonomy: To measure journalists’ autonomy, respondents were asked to rate “How
much freedom do you personally have in selecting news stories you work on?” and “How much freedom do
you personally have in deciding which aspects of a story should be emphasized?” on a on a 5-point Likert
scale ranging from 1 = no freedom at all to 5 = complete freedom (two-item averaged scale; Cronbach’s α
= 0.76; M = 4.03; SD = 0.77).
News organization ownership: This variable measures if a news organization is 1 =
private/commercial (N = 332) or 2 = a public service (N = 52).
Journalist contract: This variable measures if journalists have a 1 = permanent position (N = 314)
or a temporary contract (N = 36).
To control for potential confounds, our statistical models also include a variety of variables that
may explain relationships between the variables of interest. The first set of controls includes
sociodemographic information: age (M = 39.23; SD = 9.16), gender (male = 230; female = 160), and
education (no university/college degree = 13; university/college degree = 377). We then introduced union
membership to control for the potential effect that this variable might have on internal and external
influences (member = 229; nonmember = 160). Media unions are considered successful social agents in
helping shift the balance of power from companies and managers to the workers (Cohen, 2016; McKercher,
2014). According to Marjoribanks (2000), a complex model of the media environment should deal with
power balances among trade unions, workers, management, and the state. Salamon illustrates the balancing
powers of unions through the Tasini v. New York Times (1993) and the Robertson v. Thomson Corp (1996)
cases (both cases are cited in Salamon, 2020); in these cases, with the support of trade unions, freelancer
contributors won million-dollar settlements that consequently forced media companies to use written
contracts that freelancer contributors would sign over their copyrights to the media companies (Salamon,
Considering our hypotheses and research questions, we conducted two regression (and correlation,
see Table 1) analyses: one with internal influences as a dependent variable and a second one with external
political and commercial influences. In both models, the independent variables were introduced in different
blocks. The first block of variables comprised a set of demographics, the second included organizational
2304 Manuel Goyanes and Márton Demeter International Journal of Communication 14(2020)
antecedents (union membership), the third block comprised our variables of interest (news organization
ownership, journalistic autonomy, and journalist position), and the fourth and final one included the
interaction terms (Journalistic Autonomy × Gender and Age × Journalist Position). Finally, to plot the
interaction effect, we used the PROCESS macro in SPSS (Darlington & Hayes, 2016).
Table 1. Means, Standard Deviations, and Zero Order Correlations.
The first hypothesis (H1) proposed that journalists working for public news organizations are more
likely to suffer (a) internal editorial influences and (b) external political and commercial influences than
those working for private news organizations. Table 2 shows that, consistent with H1a, private/commercial
news organizations are negatively associated with internal influences (β = −.181, p < .01). However, the
same variable is not statistically significant for external political and commercial influences. Therefore, H1a
is supported, while H1b is not. Younger journalists (β(internal) = −.144, p < .05; β(external) = −.146, p < .01),
those who do not hold a university degree (β(internal) = .107, p < .05; β(external) = .117, p < .05), and those
who are not affiliated with a union (in this case, just for external political and commercial influences; β =
.106, p < .05) are more likely to be affected by internal and external influences.
H2 predicted that the autonomy of journalists would be negatively associated with (a) internal
editorial influences and (b) external political and commercial influences. Consistent with H2a and H2b,
journalists’ autonomy is directly related to internal and external influences, and the relationship is negative
and statistically significant (β(internal) = −0.363, p < 0.01; β(external) = −0.274, p < 0.01). Therefore, H2a and
H2b were fully supported. Our third hypothesis (H3) stated that journalists with a temporary position are
more likely to suffer (a) internal editorial influences and (b) external political and commercial influences
than journalists with a permanent position. Results of the regression analysis revealed a positive association
between journalists’ positions and internal editorial influences (β = 0.364, p < 0.05), but not with external
political and commercial ones. Journalists with a temporary position are thus more prone to suffer internal
editorial influences than those with a permanent position, but this relationship is not statistically significant
for external political and commercial influences. Therefore, H3a was supported, whereas H3b was not.
International Journal of Communication 14(2020) Media Companies’ Organizational Nature 2305
Table 2. Hierarchical Regression Analysis Predicting
Internal and External Influences on Journalists.
External Political & Commercial
Block 1: Demographics
Block 2: Antecedents
Block 3: Variables of interest
Block 4: Interaction terms
Age * Position
Autonomy * Gender
Total R2 (%)
Note. Sample size = 390. Cell entries are final-entry OLS standardized coefficients. *p < 0.05. **p <
Results of the interaction term between age and position revealed a cleaved moderation effect on
internal editorial influences (β = .051, p < .05), but not with external political and commercial ones. When
age increases and journalists hold a temporary contract, they are more prone to receive internal influences,
while this relationship is negative for a permanent journalist. In other words, the strongest positive
association between age and internal editorial influence is found among those journalists who work on a
temporary contract (Figure 1). Therefore, H4a was supported, whereas H4b was not.
2306 Manuel Goyanes and Márton Demeter International Journal of Communication 14(2020)
Figure 1. Interaction term of journalists’ position on the relationship
between age and internal influences.
Finally, our research question explored a potential interaction effect of autonomy and gender on
(a) internal editorial influences and (b) external political and commercial influences. The regression analysis
revealed a negative, statistically significant interaction effect on both types of influences (β(internal) = −.315,
p < .01; β(external) = −.309, p < .05). Overall, the relationships between autonomy and both internal and
external influences are negative regardless of gender, but the effect seems to be stronger for females in
both cases when their autonomy is high (see Figure 2). In other words, female journalists are less likely
than male journalists to suffer both internal and external influences when their autonomy is high. Therefore,
the nature of the interaction is contributory, transverse negative (see Figure 3 for the conceptual model).
International Journal of Communication 14(2020) Media Companies’ Organizational Nature 2307
Figure 2. Interaction terms of gender and autonomy on (a) internal editorial influences
and (b) external political and commercial influences.
Figure 3. Conceptual model predicting internal and external influences.
2308 Manuel Goyanes and Márton Demeter International Journal of Communication 14(2020)
Discussion and Conclusions
The financial and economic crises that the Spanish news industry has undergone have significantly
eroded journalists’ labor conditions and the overall quality of news content (Gómez-Mompart et al., 2015).
This situation, typical in most Western democracies, has also challenged the traditional ethos of journalists,
guided by canonical values of news objectivity, autonomy, and accuracy. The response of most news
organizations to this economic turbulence has been a growing commoditization of the news business
(Goyanes, 2014), leading to an increasing deterioration in the autonomy of journalists and thus their
capacity to deal with internal and external pressure. This study provides further evidence to understand the
main organizational and individual-level antecedents of such influences. Drawing on Bourdieu’s field theory
and based on a secondary analysis of Spanish data from the World of Journalism project, this study presents
five insightful contributions related to this line of inquiry.
First, we show the key role of media ownership in shaping the level of news influences in Spain.
Specifically, our results indicate that journalists working in public media companies are more prone to suffer
internal editorial influences than journalists working on private/commercial ones. The Spanish case may be
paradigmatic of the Mediterranean or pluralistic polarized media system, with the long-standing connection
between political power and public services (Soengas & Rodríguez-Vázquez, 2015). In this regard, political
interventionism in public media companies is well documented in most Spanish public media companies
(Gómez-Montano, 2013), although its level may vary according to different historic stages and societal
situations. These political influences are, however, not directly executed by individuals holding political
responsibilities; our results indicate that this association is not statistically significant. Therefore, external
political and commercial influences are not organizationally dependent, that is, there is no difference
between public and private/commercial media companies. However, we cannot rule out the possibility that
political influences may be prevalent in public media companies via internal editorial influence achieved by
appointing political commissioners and like-minded managers. In fact, research on Spanish public service
broadcasting agrees on the key role of the political pole in shaping the agenda and news content of media
services through internal influences based on the political control of editors, heads of sections, and the
appointment of political commissioners (Humanes et al., 2013). Therefore, although our results only indicate
a significant association between public media companies and internal editorial influences, we cannot rule
out the possibility that these internal influences are de facto external and political.
Second, our results show the crucial role of journalists’ autonomy in predicting both internal
editorial influences and external political and commercial ones. As can be expected, journalists with a lack
of autonomy are more prone to suffer both types of influence. Hence, a potential antidote to pressures from
inside and outside news organizations is to empower journalists with one of the traditional values associated
with their profession: autonomy. However, both the commercialization of the news business and the growing
precarization of news-workers’ labor conditions undermine the traditional determination of journalists to
build trust and confidence in their work by having a robust shell of individual autonomy that guards against
outside influence. Our findings thus offer a clear, practical implication for news organizations: For journalists
to properly perform their role as watchdogs, building autonomy is crucial in fostering trust with audiences
and increasing the overall quality of news content. In a context of journalism erosion, one in which traditional
values of the craft are challenged by economic and financial imperatives, internal and external influences
International Journal of Communication 14(2020) Media Companies’ Organizational Nature 2309
may increase. Fostering autonomy may be a crucial antidote to these pressures, with news organizations
playing a fundamental role in empowering news-workers with the indispensable freedom and independence
to select and manage news content, guided by standard values of the profession.
Third, similar to journalists’ autonomy, the temporary or permanent nature of journalists’ contracts
is a key predictor of internal editorial influence, such that journalists holding a temporary position are more
prone to suffer internal editorial influence. However, this relationship is not significant when it comes to
explaining external political and commercial influences. Therefore, the temporary or permanent nature of a
journalist’s position inside a news organization is only significant in terms of explaining the internal pressures
effected by the owners or managers of media companies. These results show the challenging situation of
temporary journalists when dealing with inside influences: As temporary workers, they may feel that in
order to secure their jobs, they need to accept the direct orders, pressures, and influences of their superiors
when it comes to defining the approach and perspective of the news pieces they produce. The effects of
journalists’ positions on internal editorial influences are even stronger in a context in which thousands of
news-workers have been laid off and hundreds of news organizations shut down (Conde et al., 2018). These
figures send a clear message to many journalists, arguably increasing the level of internal influences as a
result. If journalists perceive that their position may be in jeopardy because of real or perceived factors
deriving from the state of the news industry, they may be more prone to accept internal influences that
undermine their autonomy and challenge the independence of the news content produced.
Solving internal influences stemming from the temporary position of journalists could be as easy
as turning these temporary contracts into permanent ones. However, the financial constraints of most
Spanish news organizations preclude such internal promotions, given the subsequent challenges that might
cause, as the present study demonstrates. However, beyond financial constraints, news organizations’
reluctance to consolidate temporary workers and turn them into permanent staff may hinder other more
controversial dispositions, such as control management and limitation of individual autonomy. Spanish news
organizations are correctly performing their function as the Fourth Estate, generally updating citizens on
meaningful public events and politics and holding authorities accountable for their actions. However, recent
legislation in relation to the status of workers may support critical determinations of news organizations in
relation to the stabilization of temporary workers and the overemphasis on trainees and freelancers.
Fourth, we empirically show the cleaved divergent moderation effect of journalists’ position on the
relationship between age and internal editorial influences. The interaction term shows how the distance
between temporary and permanent journalists increases as age increases. Therefore, both journalists’ age
and position play a significant role in explaining the internal editorial influences suffered by news-workers.
Older journalists holding a temporary position are more prone to perceive and suffer internal influences,
while older journalists holding a permanent position are less likely to do so. In other words, the relationship
between age and internal influences is significant and positive when journalists hold a temporary contract,
whereas this relation is negative when journalist holds a permanent one. Older journalists with a permanent
contract have the experience and serenity to react calmly to potential internal influences. Contrarily, older
journalists with a temporary contract might feel that they need to secure their job, given a context in which
layoffs are widespread, and finding a new position in the business is not an easy task, especially for those
who are older.
2310 Manuel Goyanes and Márton Demeter International Journal of Communication 14(2020)
Fifth, and finally, our results emphasize the role of gender in explaining the relationship between
both internal and external influences and journalists’ autonomy. Specifically, the interaction term
suggests that gender is a contributory, transverse negative moderator (Holbert & Park, 2019) in such a
way that when autonomy is low, female journalists are more prone than male journalists to suffer both
internal and external influences. However, when their autonomy is high, female journalists are less likely
to suffer both types of influences, and this relationship is negative in all cases. Now we can conclude that
Bourdieu’s suggestions regarding the field of forces in journalism could be both confirmed and specified
by our study. The complex dynamics among different types of capital—political capital (political force),
economic capital (the force of the market), and the autonomous journalistic capital (legitimacy and
skills)—have been observed through our analysis on different levels, but it was autonomy that could be
considered a type of capital of central importance. This finding is consonant with the field theoretical
approach to autonomous fields in societal reality that suggest that in order to be considered an
autonomous field or, in other words, a profession, the subfield should have a unique type of capital. When
the role and worth of this unique capital on the given field—journalism, in our case—decline, autonomy
will immediately suffer serious corruption.
Our analysis shows that autonomy could be threatened by both economic and political forces that
lead to corrupted journalistic autonomy and the devaluation of journalistic capital such as legitimacy,
impartiality, and other professional standards. However, autonomy could be threatened by inner forces as
well. The first example is when editors, who are mediators among external forces (through both economic
and political capital) and the autonomous field of journalism, threaten the autonomy of journalists. The force
of this effect moves along with the journalists’ position (i.e., the scale of their accumulated capital) on the
field. Thus, as our results show, journalists with more (and especially more diverse) capital are less likely
to be threatened by both inner and external forces than their less capitalized peers. Typical examples of
vulnerable journalists with a low level of accumulated capital (and thus with corrupted autonomy) are
journalists with temporary contracts. Moreover, cumulative disadvantages occur when these precariously
situated employees suffer other detrimental positional states because of external forces—typically the labor
market, in which both women and older people are more vulnerable than their male and younger peers.
Thus, when we calculate the vulnerability of agents on the field of journalism, we have to calculate with a
complex field of external and internal forces indeed— when advantages as well as disadvantages could be
cumulated and could thus seriously threaten not only the profession itself, but the agents participating on
the field as well.
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