We literally give journalism a hundred names

Marília Gehrke
Apr 1 · 3 min read

And it goes beyond time and space

I’m not sure when we started to give journalism a lot of names and meanings, but it definitely overcame a genre question. The field seems to get more complex and attribute a ‘fact’ or ‘opinion’ tag is not enough. I realized there are so many names for journalism in the past three years, when I mostly studied data-driven journalism and news sources. Well, you can see the first question right the way: is it data-driven journalism or just data journalism? It took me some minutes to find out they’re synonyms, but different from other forms like precision journalism, Computer-Assisted Reporting (CAR) and computational journalism. Although they have a lot in common — a scientific approach, using hypothesis -, there are some different features that must be considered.

At the second year as a PhD student, I’m working in a new project and the first step is to trace an interpretative approach in journalism, expecting this is a reliable way to understand the explanatory journalism — or explanatory reporting, here is another name — origin. They’re both connected to a contextualized news production. That means it is not enough to answer the basics, assuming the reader wants to understand the big picture with background information (e.g. a specific case of bribe involving a brazilian politician may be interesting, but it’s just the top of the iceberg; the corruption problem is deeper and requires historical context). When I started digging, I realized there are other names for journalism focused on why — and maybe on how: structured journalism, slow journalism, contextualized journalism, constructive journalism, solution journalism, service journalism, peace journalism and so on.

Have you ever heard of X Journalism? It is a project conducted by a group of researchers that are systematizing the terms we give to journalism (thanks for the tip, Marcelo Fontoura). The results were presented in last February by professor Wiebke Loosen at ECREA Journalism Studies Section Conference in Vienna. The presentation “X Journalism: Exploring journalism’s diverse meanings — through the names we give it” is available here (thanks, Dr. Loosen and team). The names started being collected in 2010 and the idea was revived last year. So far, the researchers found 130 terms. According to particular aspects they refer to, these names were distributed in seven categories:

  1. Technology (drone; augmented journalism)
  2. Motivation and focus (solution; green journalism)
  3. Thematic focus (economic; political journalism)
  4. Audience relationship (citizen; engaged; participatory journalism)
  5. Organizational of newswork/economic model (post-industrial; crowdfunded journalism)
  6. Place/locus (hyperlocal; mobile journalism)
  7. Time (does slow journalism count?)

It is possible to imply, according to Loosen et. al., there are so many names for journalism because the complexity and dynamics of the field. The new forms of journalism also explicit the differences from the already existing ones. It seems the transformations are getting fast and more specific — and the terms are a way to register that. This phenomenon gained momentum some years ago — and it is important to observe how far it goes. The researchers of X Journalism (it is an international network) will continue the project. They’ll be able to reconstruct the strategies behind the use of the terms in academia and in the field of journalism, analyze what types appear or disappear at what time and identify new patterns and categories. It seems a lot — and a necessary work.

It’s hard to tell what comes next and what terms are going to survive. I believe data-driven journalism will last enough to its techniques and tools be used in the daily news production by journalists and newsrooms. It will be popular and known as journalism after all.

Marília Gehrke

Written by

Journalist and PhD student in Communication at Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul, Porto Alegre, Brazil.

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