Disciplined and Employable for News Production: Swiss Journalists, Off-the-Job Training and Journalism Practice
thesisposted on 23.02.2012, 13:48 by Hugo A. Bigi
This thesis explores the impact of journalism training on journalists' experiences of their occupation and its implications for the news industry in the present volatile economic environment. It examines to what extent training empowers current journalists to adapt to the fast changing news world in order to guarantee the improvement of journalistic quality and to further serve a vital democratic function in our society. Using the example of Switzerland, this study focuses on the industry-oriented model of off-the-job training operated by MAZ, The Swiss School of Journalism. In total, 30 one-on-one in-depth interviews with trainee journalists attending the two-year Certificate Course in Journalism were conducted and thematically analysed by means of a specific matrix-based method for ordering and synthesising the data. The findings show that journalists who have experienced off-the-job training act more self-consciously in journalism practice as a result of regular information exchange and networking with co-trainees and lecturers, provided that the practical value of classroom expertise matches the editorial principles in force in their newsrooms. Off-the-job training increases journalists' employability regarding their personal, analytical, narrative and technical competencies and provides the bedrock for developing self-interested behaviour. Journalists trained within an industry-driven system seem more likely to predominantly think and act in an industry-minded manner, which eventually supports their employability and enables the news industry to reproduce itself. On a larger scale, the findings exemplify that the latest generation of news manufacturers no longer seeks control over occupational jurisdiction in the first instance, but strives for the improvement of employability instead. This study argues that 24/7 news production supported by a closely tied model of training is hardly able to recalibrate journalism's traditional, but dwindling, mission to above all serve a democratic function in our society. Claiming that the supervision of journalism is too important to be left to the journalism industry, it calls for measures to be taken from a broader social and political scope.