Skip to main content
Journalism & Democracy

The Axess Programme on European Journalism

Axess Research Fellowship in Comparative European Journalism

This programme has been funded by the Ax:son Johnson Foundation, a major Swedish charitable trust, with the participation of St Antony's College, Oxford and the European Studies Centre, is now in its final stages. Some 60+ in-depth interviews with journalists, and an email survey  of 2200 journalists has been carried out in Sweden, UK, Germany, Italy, Poland and Estonia.

The programme has gathered a large body of data on journalistic working practices and journalistic values across the six  nations selected for the study (the six nations were chosen to represent the three main journalistic cultures of the Western world, as defined by Hallin & Mancini, 2004, plus two Eastern European countries for comparison). Particular attention has been paid to how new technologies and the ongoing technologization of journalism impact on journalism differently in different countries (including the challenge posed by so-called ‘citizen journalism’)

The aims of the programme have been threefold:

1) to comparatively analyse the journalistic cultures of Europe, with a focus on Sweden;

2) to investigate the emergence of a "European" journalism; and

3) to determine whether there is a dominant model of journalism in Europe and if so, its effect on different national cultures.

The programme has addressed these issues in various ways. The purpose of the interviews and the survey was to describe and analyse journalistic culture as expressed in everyday journalistic work across the six nations investigated. The results of the research tend to confirm previous research findings concerning  journalistic cultures in Europe. Swedish and German journalism is more consensus-oriented and has a very strong commitment to public duty, whereas journalism in the UK and Italy is more conflict-oriented, with UK journalists being more committed to an antagonistic role for journalism, while Italian journalists are more committed to a role for the journalist as partisan representative. In many instances Poland and Estonia had less in common with each other (despite their similar post-Communist past) and more in common with other nations. Estonia, for example, seems to have a more Swedish/German-type consensus-oriented journalistic culture, whereas Poland is more similar to the UK and Italy in having a more conflict-oriented journalistic culture. However, against these national differences can be set the homogenizing influence of an ever more competitive media environment, and the advent of technology which primarily aims to increase organizational efficiency and output. Cross-platform production is increasingly the norm across all nations, and national cultures offer little resistance to technological imperatives. Thus, another key finding of the project is that to the extent that there is a culture of ‘European’ journalism and a dominant model that is largely defined in techno-economic terms as  more news, delivered faster and across many platforms. This way of viewing journalism is very powerful and tends to frame journalists’ understanding of their job even more than nationally-specific ideas about the role and function of journalism.

Previous working papers and project publications:

Comparative European Journalism: The State of Current Research (Henrik Örnebring) – reviews existing research on journalism in Europe.The Two Professionalisms of Journalism (Henrik Örnebring) – outlines the main theoretical framework of the programme.

Press Subsidies and Local News: The Swedish Case (Karl Erik Gustafsson, Henrik Örnebring and David Levy) – not specifically linked to the programme but still of interest to the issues examined by the programme, as it focuses on Sweden and on the regulatory framework of journalism.

‘Technology and journalism-as-labour: historical perspectives’, in Journalism: Theory, Practice, Criticism vol 11, issue 1 (January 2010) – takes a historical perspective on the issue of technologization and the role of technology in creating a ‘dominant model’ of journalism.

‘Reassessing journalism as a profession’ (Henrik Örnebring), pp 568-577 in Allan, Stuart (ed) The Routledge Companion to News and Journalism Studies. London: Routledge – outlines the case of the ‘dominant model of journalism’ argument based on the concept of professionalization

‘Introduction: Questioning European Journalism’, pp 2-17 in Journalism Studies 10 (1) (Henrik Örnebring). This is part of a themed issue of Journalism Studies on European Journalism, edited by Henrik Örnebring as part of the Axess Programme, which addresses issues of journalistic cultures in Europe, and the possible emergence of a ‘European’ journalism.

‘The producer as consumer – of what? User-generated tabloid content in The Sun (UK) and Aftonbladet (Sweden)’, pp 771-785 in Journalism Studies 9 (5), October 2008 – presents the results of a small pilot study on the technologization of journalism in two countries.

Over the course of the project, Dr Örnebring has also presented papers and communicated the results of the project at a number of international conferences, e.g. ICA Montréal 2008, ICA Singapore 2010, IAMCR Stockholm 2008, Future of Journalism Cardiff 2009.