External Interference in a Hybrid Media Environment
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Contemporary journalists face a multitude of external pressures and threats, ranging from political and commercial interference to online harassment and increasing anti-press hostility. This empirical article examines how the hybridization of the media environment is reflected in journalists’ experiences of external interference. The article also explores the factors in journalists’ working environment that support their ability to maintain their external autonomy against interference. The article is based on an applied thematic analysis of 31 semi-structured interviews with Finnish journalists supplemented by 4 background interviews with organizational stakeholders. Four major developments were identified in the analysis: (1) a proliferation of publicity control, (2) an increasingly contested public sphere, (3) societal and political polarization, and (4) the personalization of journalism. The autonomy of journalism was supported by a combination of (1) journalistic professionalism, (2) internal confidence within journalistic organizations, and (3) communication and support measures. The findings suggest that the hybridization of the media environment has intensified the external interference and pressure journalists encounter in their work. These, in turn, increase the workload and mental strain related to journalistic work, having the potential to cause fatigue, chilling effects, and self-censorship in the long run.
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