New article: Differences in Experiences of External Interference among Finnish Journalists

Cordi member Ilmari Hiltunen of Tampere University, COMET research centre, has co-authored a new article titled Differences Based on Individual- and Organizational-level Factors in Experiences of External Interference among Finnish Journalists in Journalism Practice. The article is based on his research that analyses the experiences of external interference and the perceived implications of interference for journalistic work among Finnish journalists. 

Below are some highlights of the findings:

Finnish male and female journalists experience similar amounts of external interference, such as pressure, intimidation and verbal abuse. Of the studied journalists, 59 % of men and 62 % of women had received messages containing verbal abuse and 19 % of men and 15 % of women had been threatened with violence at least once during the three-year observation period (2014–2017). 

While no statistically significant gender differences were observed in the prevalence of external interference, the perceived implications of interference were strongly gendered. Female journalists expressed consistently more negative views, reporting, for example, more mental strain and self-censorship. Female journalists were also less confident that their superiors will support them against external interference than male journalists. Hiltunen explains these findings:

This may be due to the gendered social structures that are reflected as qualitative differences in interference. Based on previous research, the verbal abuse directed towards female journalists is more likely to target their gender and sexuality and the intimidation targeting female journalists more frequently features threats of sexualised violence. In addition, the historically masculine ethos of journalism may raise the threshold for male journalists to recognise and acknowledge effects such as fear and self-censorship.

The study indicates that the occupational position and the media outlet used for reporting are more significant than individual level factors like gender or age when examining the prevalence of external interference. Regarding occupational positions, editors-in-chief generally experience more interference compared to journalists in other positions. Of editors-in-chief, 77 % had been subjected to verbal abuse and 23 % had received threats of violence. When examining differences between media outlets, journalists in national and regional newspapers were most often subjected to external interference, while journalists working in various magazines reported the least amount of interference. Hiltunen notes:

Experiences of external interference are most common among editors-in-chief who have the most control over journalistic content. In addition, journalists working in media with significant regional or national visibility are often subjected to various methods of interference. Compared to occupational position and media outlet, the demographic characteristics of journalists, such as gender or age, seem to have a little effect to prevalence of interference.

The study is based on a survey conducted in March 2017. The research data comprised of survey responses from 875 members of the Union of Journalists in Finland, the Finnish Association of Editors, the Finnish Association of Magazine Editors-in-Chief, and the Finnish Association of Local Paper Editors. The survey examined journalists’ experiences of external interference in four categories: verbal, physical, institutional and economic interference. The research was conducted by Hiltunen with researcher Aleksi Suuronen from Åbo Akademi University. 

The research article Differences Based on Individual- and Organizational-level Factors in Experiences of External Interference among Finnish Journalists was published in Journalism Practice.

The article is open access and available here

More information: 

Researcher Ilmari Hiltunen, ilmari.hiltunen at tuni.fi

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