Library Header Image
LSE Theses Online London School of Economics web site

The digital newsroom: social media and journalistic practice in The Guardian

Papanagnou, Vaios (2020) The digital newsroom: social media and journalistic practice in The Guardian. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

[img] Text - Submitted Version
Download (1MB)
Identification Number: 10.21953/lse.00004227


This thesis explores the influence of social media on institutional journalism. In particular, it addresses the question of how journalists understand their practices, identities, and relationships as social media dominate their routines and activities in networked newsrooms. A large body of literature understands the introduction of social media in newsrooms as generating change and hybridity in the practice of journalism, while on the counter side, other research emphasises the elements of continuity that persist as relations of power and control are replicated in journalistic institutions. I demonstrate that this theoretical and empirical binary cannot productively capture and explain the interrelated processes of journalistic change and continuity, especially with respect to how journalists themselves reflexively negotiate the new contradictions of their profession. In order to transcend the aforementioned limitation, I develop an eclectic argument which highlights elements of both change and continuity. Theoretically, this approach is grounded in a Discourse Theory framework (Chouliaraki and Fairclough 1999) within which journalism emerges as a symbolic practice constituted through the discourse of its practitioners. Drawing additionally on pragmatic sociology (Boltanski 2011), I understand journalists as reflexive practitioners who discursively attribute value to various orders of worth in order to justify their professional practice, evaluate their own identities, and qualify their relations with others. Taking the British news organisation The Guardian as my case study, my analysis of ten newsroom interviews demonstrates how journalists develop these series of justifications, evaluations, and qualifications in order to define their journalistic practice, identify themselves as professionals and relate to others – mainly news audiences turned news producers. My analysis of these interviews demonstrates the discursive process by which journalists amalgamate elements of change and continuity in their talk. Specifically, my findings confirm a shift in the ways that journalists justify their practice, which is today associated with a new valorisation of networking. This networking logic is further responsible both for the ways in which individual journalists evaluate themselves as social media-driven professionals and, at the same time, for the ways in which they qualify their connections with increasingly diverse audiences in terms of participatory journalism. This shift towards networking, however, does not necessarily undermine long-standing journalistic values. As I find, the journalists continue to justify their practices in terms of institutional norms, instrumentalising social media in their preexisting routines and occasionally cooperating with online users in order to corroborate the journalistic truth. It is ultimately their institutional identities that they re-invent through social media, and it is according to their institutional expertise that they evaluate themselves as professionals. And, whilst they do use social media in order to sustain their relations with sources, peers, and audiences, it is this grounding on their institutional standpoint that makes it possible for them to criticise these media as hostile and unreliable platforms regulated by opaque algorithms and profit-oriented principles. In conclusion, my analysis and discussion enable me to advance a critical understanding of change and continuity in social media driven professional journalism; one that is grounded on a major discursive contradiction, namely that journalists embrace both the networking logic of social media and the critique of its civic shortcomings, in order to represent journalism as an institution of reformed and civic-minded networked action.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2020 Vaios Papanagnou
Library of Congress subject classification: H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
T Technology > T Technology (General)
Sets: Departments > Media and Communications
Supervisor: Chouliaraki, Lilie

Actions (login required)

Record administration - authorised staff only Record administration - authorised staff only


Downloads per month over past year

View more statistics