Rational reflections: An illustrative examination of news Web sites in two countries as workers reach towards digitally mediated changes

Phil M. MacGregor

Abstract


This research examines the practices and beliefs of journalists at three news Web sites as they integrate new communication technologies in the workplace. The results of interviews with journalists at Abendblatt (Germany), the Northern Echo in the U.K., and MSN.co.uk (U.K. Web site), suggest that existing institutional cultures can sometimes affect the way Web 2.0 technologies are used and understood by occupational journalists. Market perceptions influenced specific Web attitudes and practices at both newspapers. Thus Abendblatt.de and the Northern Echo have retreated from immediacy online in order to protect their print sales, whereas net–native MSN.co.uk has developed a rapid–response style of journalism that is seemingly enabled by its digital–only presentation. The research also indicates that institutional influence on practices can be unpredictable. The English newspaper sought a mostly local Web audience whereas the German site focused nationally, mirroring the net–native MSN.co.uk. The English newspaper spurned Web analytics while the other two sites used them avidly. The strong effects of Google on editorial gatekeeping and Web optimization reported by Abendblatt.de and Msn.co.uk journalists were not reflected in the English newspaper. For the theoretical discussion, Weber’s versions of rationality are used to distinguish the journalists’ approaches to innovation and technological practice. The research suggests means–end ‘practical’ rationality that concentrates on short–term advantage is shown at all three sites to be on the ascendant at the expense of more principle–based ‘substantive’ rationality.


Keywords


Journalism; new media; Rationality; innovation

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5210/fm.v18i9.4621



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