We know the "news industry", as some still like to call it, is undergoing digital disruption. We also know that journalists are facing up to enormous changes. But how are they coping with ever-shrinking newsrooms?
A group of American academics has been trying to find out and have published a research paper with a lengthy title, "Newswork within a culture of job insecurity: producing news amidst organisational and industry uncertainty."
The study was carried out in the States at Iowa university with Brian Ekdale as the lead author. The co-authors are Melissa Tully, Shawn Harmsen and Jane Singer, who is now at City University London as professor of journalism innovation.
You will have to cope with the clumsy description of journalists as "newsworkers", but shelve your distaste at that. The interesting material concerns the attitudes the researchers discovered among people who survive redundancy. The report, drawing on previous research, begins by stating:
"Workers who remain employed with the downsizing company, the so-called 'survivors', wrestle with grief, guilt, anger and doubt.
Surviving a layoff can be so worrisome that survivors can experience more stress and less autonomy than workers who have lost their jobs and have found new employment."
Unsurprisingly, the "significant undercurrent" among those who are retained is job insecurity. Will they be next to face the axe? Evidently, that fear "has become part of the regular conversation in the newsroom."
But people do face up to the problem differently and the study identifies four types of newsworker:
Hopeful (constructive/active) They perceive greater job security and assist in achieving future goals. Obliging (constructive/passive) They are secure in their job but more likely to accommodate rather than instigate change.
Fearful (destructive/passive) They're insecure in their jobs and feel helpless in the face of industry change. Cynical (destructive/active) These people are insecure in their job and actively challenge change.
The authors give detailed assessments of each category, using responses from their interviewees. The most interesting sections of the report deal with the fearful and cynical news workers.
It emerges that both sets not only dislike change but, rather than grasping the opportunities it offers, see it in negative terms. That negativity expresses itself in an anti-management ethos. And this, of course, tends to place them at greater risk of future redundancy.
In other words, rather than doing all they can to adopt new innovations and practices, which would enhance their chances of staying on because of their value to employers, they place themselves at risk of being let go.
The fearful are covertly critical of management while the cynics tend to be open in their hostility. They show their contempt for their employers and are particularly upset about the hiring of new, younger people with skills they show no enthusiasm to obtain themselves.