Working for Glossies. A Case Study on Young Magazine Journalists in Romania

By Surugiu, Romina | Journal of Media Research, September 1, 2012 | Go to article overview

Working for Glossies. A Case Study on Young Magazine Journalists in Romania


Surugiu, Romina, Journal of Media Research


Abstract:

In Romania, in the context of the concentration of media ownership and resources in very few hands, and in the context of a post-communist media lacking a tradition of media regulation and journalistic standards, young journalists face difficulties in magazines desks, as well as in other type of media editorial offices (newspapers, television, radio etc.). The paper (part of a larger postdoctoral research, within POSDRU/89/1.5/S/62259, University of Bucharest) will present an account on the working conditions of young Romanian magazine journalists. The theoretical background of the research explores the critical views on creative labour and decline of journalists' status in the 21st century informational society. We also take into account the critical approach on magazine journalists, considered to be practicing a "smiling profession" (John Hartley, 2000), an extension of the PR and advertising world.

The research is based on 20 semi-structured interviews related to work procedures, wages, professional standards, and professional organizations. The in-depth dialogue with journalists is considered by contemporary researchers to deliver a better understanding of the everyday practices in newsrooms. In addition to the interviews, data from previous research papers on journalists situation in Romania will be also be used (Coman, 2004, Surugiu & Radu, 2009, Vasilendiuc, 2010 inter al).

Young journalists do not usually have a firm work contract: they are paid within the "copyright agreement" framework (they get paid only if they deliver feature stories or news). As the profession has become more technology-ridden, young journalists are expected to be computer proficient, to deliver content for print magazine and its online version, in the same time, for the same amount of money. Nevertheless, the interviews showed that young journalists do not consider important to belong to a professional organization or union, as they share an individualistic approach on work, in spite of their praise for teamwork.

Jobs at magazines have many desirable characteristics: an artistic side, a flexible work program, a certain level of autonomy, editorial independence, recognition. Many people are eager to work in a creative and stimulating environment. However, the research showed that young magazines journalists in Romania work under precarious conditions (long hours - over 60 hours per week, on low wages, and under the continuous pressures from advertising and PR agencies).

Keywords: journalists, magazines, working conditions, qualitative research

Introduction

If you closely look on research work on magazines you may notice two striking aspects. First of all, magazines are overlooked by media academics, on grounds that newspapers, radio and television programs allow a better understanding of the public sphere and of social change in nowadays world. Then, many studies (especially the ones dedicated to women's magazines) are based on textual and content analysis. Others offer historical accounts on magazines, accounts that may be not as culturally significant as they were intended to be.

Journalists as professionals have been subjects for the academic research, since the 50s. However, researchers focused on journalists working for 'serious' media outlets, as newspapers, radio and television networks, and doing investigative or interpretative reporting on political, social or economical aspects. Magazine journalists are still overlooked by academic scholarship, as they produce soft (read: 'trivial') stories on beauty and fashion trends, celebrities, cooking, travelling etc.

The Context

The critical approach on magazine journalists is that they practice a "smiling profession" (in John Hartley's words, quoted in Holmes and Nice, 2012, p. 2), an extension of the PR and advertising world. "Such an orientation towards audience produces a frame of reference for journalists that is said to be characterized by interesting (as opposed to 'important') issues, convenient and practical information, commitment and emotionality (rather than objectivity and rationality) and a mode of address that assumes audiences as consumers. …

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