Determining the significance and prominence of the gap between journalistic ideals and practice is the focus of the second wave of the Journalistic Role Performance (JRP) project, a cooperative effort involving 37 countries from the Global North and South. This potential gap is being measured by examining journalists’ attitudes (through surveys) and their professional practice (through content analysis), to identify the ways in which different journalistic roles are present in the news content of television, radio, print, and online media, and the influence that different media systems might have on the performance of these roles across platforms.
For analysis, journalistic roles are divided into six dimensions. The first is the interventionist role, where a journalist self-inserts into the narrative by taking a side or promoting an action. The second and third roles consider power relations — the watchdog’s role includes critiquing the government, while the loyal facilitator supports government narratives. The last three roles examine the relationship a journalist has with its audience: in the service role, journalists cover anything from consumer tips to food and health recommendations; in the infotainment role, reporters create content that is designed to entertain, and does not always inform; and finally, in the civic role, coverage centres on the perspectives and rights of citizens.
In Canada, there are 12 sites of study from English and French media: The Globe and Mail, Toronto Star, National Post, La Presse, CBC.ca, HuffPost Canada, CBC Radio’s World Report, Radio Canada’s l’heure du monde, CTV National News, CBC’s The National, Global National, and TVA Nouvelles.
Over the past decade much attention has been paid to theorizing the different concepts that come into play when we analyze journalistic role performance. For example, how do these roles manifest in both news decisions and news outcomes that reach the public? In this respect, journalistic role performance studies offer us with more diverse perspectives on the practice of journalism around the world, particularly in countries where evaluative elements are less articulated in practice. A recently released book, Beyond Journalistic Norms, edited by leading researcher Claudia Mellado, highlights findings from the first wave and differences between “normative visions and actual practices.” To learn more about how the research was performed in Canada check out the methodology section.
Meet the Team
Dr. Nicole Blanchett is the principal investigator of JRP Canada and an associate professor in Toronto Metropolitan University’s School of Journalism, where her teaching focuses on multiplatform and digital production. Along with journalistic roles, her research explores the impact of the use of audience data in newsrooms, and the changing boundaries and definitions of journalism. She is a member of the editorial board for Facts and Frictions and contributor to J-Source. She previously worked as a news writer and producer for Citytv in Toronto.
Colette Brin is a professor and director of the Center for Media Studies at Laval University. She has a Bachelor of Information and Communication and a PhD in Political Science. Colette has worked in print media for the regional weekly La Liberté, television as a journalist with Radio-Canada and five years with CBC. Her research focuses on the transformations of journalistic practices, the diversity of contents and the convergence of newsrooms.
Karen Owen is a broadcasting professor at Mount Royal University. She spent 26 years at CTV Calgary as a reporter/anchor, producer & web editor. She joined the faculty as a full-time Assistant Professor in July, 2016. Karen enjoys the challenge of teaching communication skills in a digital age.
Lisa Taylor is an Associate Professor at Toronto Metropolitan University’s School of Journalism. She is a former lawyer and Canadian Broadcasting Corporation journalist who teaches journalism law and ethics to undergraduate and graduate students. Lisa’s research interests include state impediments to journalists’ freedom of expression and access to information. She is the co-editor of The Unfulfilled Promise of Press Freedom in Canada (University of Toronto Press, 2017), a Senior Fellow with TMU’s Centre for Free Expression and a member of the Canadian Association of Journalists’ ethics advisory committee. She also leads the Canadian Worlds of Journalism study team.
Heather Rollwagen is Associate Professor of Sociology at Toronto Metropolitan University. Her research program investigates issues related to housing and urban livability in Canadian cities, using both quantitative and qualitative approaches. In addition, she regularly contributes methodological expertise to research projects outside her areas of study, such as the JRP project. She teaches courses in statistics, research methods, introductory sociology and urban sociology, as well as graduate courses in research methodology.
Cheryl Vallender is a professor at Sheridan College and a Contract Lecturer with the Toronto Metropolitan University’s School of Journalism. Her focus is on emerging news technology, digital storytelling tools and she has a passion for data journalism and data visualizations. She has a combined English and International Development degree from Guelph University, a postgraduate diploma in Journalism from Sheridan College and a Masters in Education from Brock University.
Anna-Maria Moubayed is a student at Toronto Metropolitan’s School of Journalism. As a writer at The Eyeopener, CanCulture, and Noteworthy she is interested in reporting about arts, culture, and politics. Aside from her work in journalism, she is a violinist, having performed in many orchestras and competitions.
Kayla Thompson is a student at Toronto Metropolitan’s School of Journalism. With a professional background in social media marketing, she enjoys innovating new means of consuming journalism and media online. Alongside her academic and media pursuits, she is a professional dancer specializing in various cultural dance forms.
Research Assistant Alumni
Abeer Khan is a fourth-year journalism student at TMU and Features Editor at The Eyeopener, the school’s independent student newspaper. Her reporting interests are in arts, culture, human rights and criminal justice reporting.
Meryem Sairi is a PhD student in Public Communication at Université Laval. She conducted the survey among Francophone journalists for JRP.
Mijanou Bourque Bouliane
Mijanou Bourque Bouliane holds a Masters of Public Health. She worked as a French coder for JRP.
Norah Kim is a fourth-year journalism student, Media Editor at The Eyeopener and a Web Developer at CineFAM, a film festival whose mandate is to promote WOC filmmakers.
Swidda Rassy is a master of journalism candidate at Toronto Metropolitan University She worked as an English coder for JRP.
Natasha Budhai is a student at Toronto Metropolitans’ School of Journalism. Her reporting interests include advocacy, activism, and humanitarian journalism, arts, culture, broadcast and documentary. She hopes to change the world for the better with her writing.