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02 November 2020
Reconsidering Innovation: Situating and Evaluating Change in Journalism
Innovation in journalism – that is, the development and integration of new applications, actors, and organizational and production practices – has often been foregrounded as key to the sustainability of the news industry over time. In theory, discussion of innovation in journalism is an important part of defining the current and future direction of journalism, but in practice this discussion of innovation has mostly been limited to the technological. Indeed, even a cursory overview of the academic literature about innovation in journalism reveals a focus on either the technological innovations unfolding within the news industry, or the news industry’s struggle to embrace them. This includes everything from the potential of computational and data-driven journalism (Parasie & Dagiral, 2013), to the use of drones (Culver, 2014), virtual reality (Jones, 2017), automation (Lewis et al., 2019) and analytics (Nelson & Tandoc, 2019) in news production. While some have tied their hopes for journalism’s redemption to the profession’s adoption of such new technologies (Newman, 2018; Anderson et al, 2014), within the journalism studies discipline, those who have studied the impacts of innovation, covering everything from individual practices to wider organizational structures, have found reason to remain skeptical (Schmitz Weiss & Domingo, 2010, Steensen, 2011). Perhaps this is because for every theoretical celebration of innovation in journalism resulting in expanded potential for news investigation and engagement, there are as many material failures, including folding start-ups, job losses, and increasingly overworked journalists leaving the profession (Bossio and Holton, 2019). What this suggests is that there needs to be a better conceptual framework for understanding innovation in journalism; one that does not veer from the techno-myopic to the often journalist-centered ‘social shaping of technology' perspectives.
This special issue thus considers how to both conceptualize and situate innovation within an increasingly complex news environment, and how to analyze its impact on interconnected modes of production and distribution of news. We seek to situate innovation as a dynamic process of development that is influenced by varied technical, organizational, social and cultural contexts. As the news industry grapples with economic devastation resulting from the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, as well as an overdue “reckoning” surrounding longstanding professional values like objectivity in light of the ongoing Black Lives Matter protests (Callison & Young, 2020), it has become even more necessary that conceptualizations of “innovation” be expanded from its previous focus on technology so that it more comprehensively captures ongoing attempts to improve journalism – as well as their consequences for both the profession and the public.
This special issue seeks to expand understandings of "innovation" so that its focus is not solely technological, but instead also comprises any new methods or approaches that intended to improve the status quo within journalism. The result will contribute a more productive approach to conceptualizing innovation in journalism; one that goes beyond the distinct professionalization boundaries that have often limited understanding of change in news production and consumption (Deuze & Witschge, 2017). By examining a range of practices in a number of social and cultural contexts, this special issue will expand our understanding of the role of journalism and the actors, stakeholders and organizations impacted both within the profession and at its borders.
We seek submissions that are theoretically and methodologically rigorous, and that address new methods, conceptualizations and practices of “innovation” within journalism. These topics may include, but are not limited to:
- Similarities and differences between newsroom actors, audiences the larger news industry in conceptualizing newsroom innovation;
- The impact of specific social or cultural contexts on understanding and initiating innovation in journalism;
- Industry assumptions underlying the innovations that are prioritized for investment and the measures drawn on to evaluate the outcome of these innovations;
- What organizational successes and failures within journalistic innovation reveal about their overarching goals and values and how they are interpreted by journalism professionals;
- The influence and the agency of audiences in developing or reshaping innovations in journalism.
- Critical, meta-perspectives of Journalism Studies as a form of innovation within the field.
- The discourse of innovation within various societal levels and contexts (e.g., professional conferences, trade presses, journalism education)
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If you are interested in participating in this special issue, you will need to submit a full paper for consideration.
Article submissions should be between 6000 and 9000 words, inclusive of the abstract, tables, references, figure captions, endnotes. Please include an unstructured abstract of 200 words and between 6 and 8 keywords.
Expected publication 2021
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