The Nordic Research Network in Journalism Studies had its fifth gathering on November 2-4, 2011, and this time in Bergen. The conference was a joint venture between the network and our local host, the Norwegian Research Council-funded project “Journalistic Reorientations – The Online Challenge to Journalistic Ontology”, led by Professor Martin Eide. The conference also included a master class for PhD students – a course co-sponsored by the Faculty of the Social Sciences at the University of Bergen. The conference topic was related to two important questions. In what ways is contemporary journalism as a societal institution and professional practice changing? What kinds of reorientations are taking place?
The keynote speakers discussed this from different perspectives and angles. Dan Hallin (professor, University of California, Sand Diego) spoke about “Postmodernism, Neoliberalism and Convergence: The Transformation of Journalism as a Social Institution”, analyzing some of the important changes between “new news” and “old news”. He did not look upon the development as a “decline from the golden age”, but analyzed some of the challenges serious journalism is facing in a commercialised media environment. But another media scholar and keynote speaker was worried. Natalie Fenton (Professor, Goldsmiths University, London) who focussed on British media scandals of the past year, including the investigations of corrupt relations between journalists, politicians and police officers. In response to these events, researchers at Goldsmiths Leverhulme Media Research Centre have initiated a Coordinating Committee for Media Reform. Its main aim is to outline recommendations designed to promote ethical behaviour across the news media and to delimit the power of media moguls.
Both the doctoral student master class and the conference that followed included several other interesting lectures. Rodney Benson (Ass. Professor, NYU Steinhardt) spoke about “Forms of Journalism: How Media Ownership Matters”, a talk based largely on studies of forms of ownership in the US, and how this matters to quality journalism. Other lectures highlighted various aspects of journalistic reorientations. Nina Kvalheim (Research Fellow, University of Bergen) spoke on “Journalistic multimediality and public deliberation”; her colleague Helle Sjøvaag gave a talk on “Journalistic ideology: Professional strategy, institutional authority and boundary maintenance in the Digital News Market”; Anna-Maria Jönsson (lecturer, Södertörn University College) discussed the issue of “User-generated content and the news”, and Mats Ekström (Professor, Gothenburg University) raised the related issue of journalism and the expansion of public participation, focussing more specifically on election campaign interviews.
Twelve PhD students from Norway, Denmark, Sweden and Finland presented papers in the master class, with two of the keynote speakers and senior scholars from the Nordic Research Network acting as respondents.
All in all, the Bergen conference was not only stimulating: it put a number of topical, important issues on the table.