A journalistic chasm? normative perceptions and participatory and gatekeeping roles of organizational and entrepreneurial health journalists
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An emerging body of media scholarship has examined the changing norms and routines of professional journalists, suggesting they are slowly adapting their practice to meet changes in audience expectations brought on by the widespread adoption of social media. Much of this scholarship has focused on traditional news producers, giving attention to journalists and other news producers who work in newsrooms. However slowly, journalists are beginning to welcome more audience participation in the process of news creation, hinting at a more reciprocal form of journalism and a loosening of traditional gatekeeping practices. In an effort to advance the theoretically conceptual research of the moment, this study considers how the perceived journalistic norms and participatory and gatekeeping roles of an emerging journalistic actor may be aligning with and/or deviating from more traditional journalists. The work of entrepreneurial journalists, or those who are not affiliated with or tied to a single news organization but instead freelance their work, is helping to fill major content gaps left by staff cutbacks that came on the heels of news media’s economic downturn. Most notably, specialized areas of journalism such as health reporting are increasingly calling upon entrepreneurial journalists to work aside more traditional journalists. Against the backdrop of health journalism, this study advances by employing semi-structured interviews with traditional journalists, entrepreneurial journalists, and their editors, analyzing recent changes in their journalistic norms and participatory and gatekeeping roles. The findings suggest an ideological split between organizational and entrepreneurial journalists and indicate that organizational journalists and editors alike may be relying on entrepreneurial journalists as innovators. For their part, entrepreneurial journalists may demonstrating an extension of participatory journalism—reciprocal journalism—that could enhance network connectivity and community building for journalists, news organizations, and other mass media practitioners. Though traditionally perceived as outsiders, these journalists may be serving as intrapreneurials, informing innovation in journalism and beyond. The impact of this and other observations on mass communication theory and practice are explored.
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