29.03.2018

Historical continuity as a building block of professional culture of journalism

Epp Lauk, University of Jyväskylä

History  has  demonstrated  that  relatively  stable  political,  economic  and  societal conditions  support  sustainability  and  continuity  of  journalistic  professionalism (Nordenstreng  et  al.  2016;  Lauk  &  Harro-­‐Loit  2016).  By  contrast,  political  crises or  upheavals  interrupt  the  continuous  development  of  journalism  and  bring about  a  more  or  less  complete  negation  or/and  reconsideration  of  earlier  
experiences,  professional  knowledge,  values,  identities  and  loyalties.  This  can happen  in  either  direction  –  positive  or  negative  –  and  certainly  affects  the  future development  of  journalism. 

This  paper  attempts  to  apply  the  concept  of  continuity  and  discontinuity  for analysing  the  effects  of  political  crises  and  upheavals  on  the  development  of journalistic  profession.  The  concept  of  continuity  and  discontinuity  comes  from social  psychology  and  is  linked  to  individual  and  group  identity.  Through belonging  to  a  group  that  has  history  and  collective  memory,  individuals  build  up  the  sense  of  self  (Reicher  2008;  Sahdra  &  Ross  2007).  I  argue  that  the  same applies  to  professional  identity:  professions  have  a  certain  guild  spirit  and  a professional  ideology  (shared  values,  standards,  principles  etc.)  that  connects the  members.  An  important  aspect  of  this  ideology  and  connecting  spirit  is  a common  past  that  is  valued  and  collectively  remembered.  Thus,  historical continuity  provides  an  essential  building  block  for  the  members  of  the  group  to understand  who  they  are  as  individuals  and  professionals.  Historical  events  that undermine  continuity  have  serious  consequences  both  at  personal  and  group levels.  I  use  Estonia  as  an  example  for  demonstrating  how  violent  ruptures  in  a country’s  political  history  bring  about  radical  changes  in  the  country’s  
journalism  culture.  

References:  

  • Lauk,  E.  &  Harro-­Loit,  H.  (2016)  Journalistic  autonomy  as  a  professional  value  and  element  of  journalism  culture:  The  European  perspective.  Journal  of  Communication,  11,  1956-­‐1974.
  • Nordenstreng,  K.,  Björk,  U.J.,  Beyersdorf,  F.,  Hoyer,  S.,  Lauk,  E.  (2016)  A  History  of  the  
    International  Movement  of  Journalists.  Professionalism  Versus  Politics.  Houndmills,  
    Basingstoke:  Palgrave  Macmillan.
  • Reicher,  S.  (2008)  Making  a  past  fit  for  the  future:  The  political  and  ontological  dimensions  of  
    historical  continuity.  In  F.  Sani  (Ed.)  Self  continuity;  individual  and  collective  perspectives.  
    New  York:  Psychology  Press,  145–158.
  • Sahdra,  B.,  Ross,  M.  (2007)  Group  identification  and  historical  memory.  Personality  and  Social  
    Psychology  Bulletin,  33,  384–395.