Public journalism and public sphere(s): Three cases from the Finnish press
Public journalism is an everyday research activity in which new forms of journalism are tested. It is originally an American reform movement aimed at getting the press to rethink its commitment to the ideals of democratic participation. This research project aims to frame some of the Finnish public journalism experiments with the evaluative vocabulary they often lack and shed light to further developments of public journalism in Finnish newspapers. The study takes a detailed look at Finnish newsrooms and analyzes how the call for more participatory forms of journalism have been interpreted and translated into experimental practice. What does the ‘civic turn’ in journalism mean for professional ideals of journalists? The work focuses on three Finnish newspapers from different levels of media sphere: citizen-oriented election coverage of Helsingin Sanomat [the leading daily], discussion/dialogue-based journalism in Aamulehti [provincial leader with a national ambition] and the civic reporter of Itä-Häme [sub-provincial leader]. This distribution provides rich data concerning the local-national-global-dimension which is one of the main strands of debate in recent public sphere theories. Methodologically, the study is built of interviews and some inter ventionist, participant observation. While the main part of the data has been gathered by interviewing journalists who have been part of public journalism experiments, some experiences are also collected through participating in the planning and execution of journalistic experiments. The analysis will combine textual analysis of the news stories with interpretation of the interviews and experiences in the newsroom. Looking at the participatory innovations in Finnish journalism enables us to see how the traditional modern normative commitments of Finnish newspaper journalism are modified. In doing this, the study also provides vital information on how the cultural influence of ideas and concepts developed in a different kind of setting are translated into experiments of new kinds of journalism. These negotiations between the `old' and `new' virtues of journalism, between `foreign' and `domestic' traditions, between `marketing' and `participatory practices' provide us a vivid picture of the changes in the Finnish journalistic field and the ways in which one tradition with its habits and commitments receives new influences and learns from them.