Academic journal article Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media

Professionalism among Canadian Radio Announcers: The Impact of Organizational Control and Social Attributes

Academic journal article Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media

Professionalism among Canadian Radio Announcers: The Impact of Organizational Control and Social Attributes

Article excerpt

As part of its social role, radio satisfies a number of listener needs, such as surveillance, adaptation, and integration (Pollard & Johansen, 1996; Wright, 1986). In most instances, fulfillment of these needs is facilitated by the announcer (Pollard, 1995a). Little, however, is known about announcers. The literature is scant; what is locatable tends to be either descriptive (Dexter, 1969; Smith, 1989) or focused on effects (Altheide & Snow, 1979; Booker, 1968; Brand & Scannell, 1991; Brown, 1969; Ganzert, 1992; Montgomery, 1986, 1991; Snow, 1983). Almost no attention is accorded work-related affective orientations such as professionalism, even though the literature implies these concerns are important for understanding the role and social impact of announcing work (Collins, 1982; Hirsch, 1975; Pollard, 1982, 1996; Shields, 1988).

This study begins to fill the gap in the literature. A national random sample of radio announcers working in Canada participated in a mail survey intended to explore, among other things, the influence of social attributes and perceptions of organizational control on announcer professionalism. This is a report of the initial analysis of the relationships among these variables.

Professionalism is a multi-dimensional concept focusing on the societal, not self-serving, consequences of work. It is an indicator of individual emphasis on social responsibility and ethical performance, the welding of thought to action through the application of the highest standards or ideals in the performance of an occupation for the primary benefit of society (Pollard, 1989). Practitioners of any occupation may thus embrace professionalism, which typically involves developing competence through education or experience and ensuring full, ethical application of that competence (Miller, 1988; cf. Millerson, 1964).

The literature suggests that professionalism does make a difference among practitioners of media occupations. Coldwell (1974), for example, studied photojournalists working for newspapers an expert panel rated as superior or inferior in photographic performance; he found professionalism highest among those working for superior newspapers. He concluded that high professionalism was "a significant contributory condition of superior performance" and speculated that "[organizational factors] accounted for the higher aspirations of professionalism" (p. 80).

As is the case among other communicators, radio announcers can exhibit professionalism (Pollard, 1982, 1995a). Their professionalism reflects personal commitment to a normative orientation based in the beliefs that they, not the medium, are the true unit of service and that their assurance of social responsibility--in particular, the primacy of audience needs--is fundamental. Professionalism is thus the defining element of announcer competence beyond mere technical ability (Altheide & Snow, 1979; Dexter, 1969; Snow, 1983; cf. Millerson, 1964) and may well be the defining element of the social, if not the commercial, effectiveness of radio. Announcer professionalism is clearly a product of work-related values (cf. Pollard, 1982-1995) and thus inseparable from and available only through the individual practitioner.

Since professionalism is an attitudinal predisposition, it is open to influence by the extent of organizational dependency of an occupation. Given that work is increasingly carried out in formal organizations such as hospitals and radio stations, the impact of employing organization on professionalism is an important concern. To understand the professionalism of those who perform important social roles, an awareness and understanding of how they perceive their employing organizations, especially its efforts to control work-related activity, is necessary. Actual organizational control, of course, affects professionalism, too, but adequate consideration of its influence is beyond the scope of this study. …

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