Reuniting with the research family

I’m in the airport – Arlanda, Stockholm. I’m on my way home from the last seminar of the Nordic Research Network in Journalism Studies, which has existed for almost four years and consists of journalism researchers from the Nordic and Baltic countries. The network is headed by Professor Sigurd Allern and is funded by Nordforsk, whose grant is, however, expiring.

The network has arranged seven seminars of which I’d already participated in three, and they have always been of very high value for me. I always learn a lot, often get inspiration for ways to improve and tweak my own research, and have more than once gotten a little intimidated by just how smart some of my colleagues are. This fourth seminar was no exception. The presentations in Stockholm were generally of a high quality, but I’ll highlight only the ones that made the most impression on me and that stand the clearest for me now as I’m waiting for my plane, writing this blog post:

  • Nina Kvalheim (Bergen University) presented interesting new data on what characterizes the content of one news website before and after its introduction of a paywall.
  • Helle Sjøvaag (Bergen University) addressed the issue of journalistic autonomy. I cannot recapitulate her exact point here, but her presentation certainly provided food for thought.
  • Magnus Danielson (Stockholm University) addressed the element of shame in a Swedish journalistic television program. His point was that the shaming of “the bad guys” both serves as a journalistic tool and has a certain guilty-pleasure appeal to the audiences.
  • Jens Barland (Gjøvik University College) outlined why and how corporate media may get to think of journalism as a means to attract eyeballs to their other online services (e.g., micro-banking) rather than an end in itself.

I presented a paper with the title ”Types of reader participation in the production of online news”, which is an English version of one of the articles from my dissertation, News on the Web: instantaneity, multimodality, interactivity, and hypertextuality on Danish news websites. I’ll let others judge whether the presentation was successful and just mention that I got some really useful feedback from appointed opponent Christian Christensen.

Stockholm trees

In some way, I come full circle with this seminar, which took place only a couple of weeks after the defense of my dissertation. The very first international seminar I attended as a researcher, only three months into my PhD project, was one arranged by this network, namely the Oslo seminar in April, 2010. This seminar was also were I first presented a paper for an academic audience and had to face and deal with the critique from peers in front of that kind of audience; I must admit, that was quite a nerve-wrecking experience for me as a new member of the academic society (at least until I got to actually present – of course it went okay once I got started). And as a matter of fact, my papers in Oslo, 2010, and Stockholm, 2013, actually also drew upon some of the same empirical material. I wouldn’t go as far as saying I had a feeling of déjà-vu, but there are certainly parallels at play here.

This seminar, however, was the last one within the Nordic Research Network of Journalism Studies.

One of the most valuable assets of the research network has been that many other scholars in the beginning of their academic careers have participated in it. So, I’ve met a lot of interesting people who not only work with related research interests but also deal with the same issues of professional insecurity and the challenges of dissertation writing. I guess it’s always nice to know you’re not the only one with that kind of uncertainties, and sometimes people in the same position as yourself are better to talk to about that than senior researchers with permanent employment who may not quite remember what it was like.

Among the other participants in the research network, I’ve made some very good friends and established a large number of important professional connections. There is a very large number of persons who I hope to see again soon and cooperate with.

For me, the Nordic Research Network in Journalism Studies and the members of it have constituted one recurring and important point of orientation throughout my PhD work. In addition to the Oslo seminar and, of course, this final Stockholm seminar, I’ve participated in the seminars in Copenhagen (2010) and Bergen (2011). Especially the last two seminars have reminded me of some kind of family reunion – you meet some people who you really like but who you don’t talk to quite as often as you’d like to. And as you know most of the people in advance, you don’t have to put a lot of resources into getting to know new people but can focus on what’s important.

A lot of other good things could be said about the Nordic Research Network in Journalism Studies. But now, my plane is ready for departure, and it’s time to go.