When going digital is inevitable: a multidimensional view of newspaper managers’ responses to newswork change
Thesis DisciplineMedia and Communication
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameDoctor of Philosophy
This is an empirical inquiry about managing newswork change in newspaper organisations. It addresses a basic issue for the sustainability of newspapers: How do newspaper managers deal with newswork changes at a time of uncertainty and complexity? Media management focuses predominantly on the business and audience aspects of the newspaper's operation, with less attention to the professional and social aspects of managing newswork. Media management is not an established academic field, despite its growing popularity and progress in the past two decades. In the scholarship, there is a tendency to apply multidisciplinary knowledge to understand media change. However, many scholars simply 'import' organisational and management theory without questioning the relevance of the theory to their research on newswork.
Drawing upon case studies at three newspaper organisations, this research examines three characteristics distinctive of newspaper organisations — the newspaper as a business with dual goals, news organising as institutionalised and professionalised processes, and newswork as a time machine, so as to explicate the contexts, content and processes of managing newswork during strategic change. It develops Pettigrew's theoretical framework of understanding organisational change by incorporating the sensemaking and sensegiving perspectives, and offers a new perspective on the managing of newswork during strategic change.
The results show that there is a recurring story in the three cases — namely change is emergent, and people’s views on change impact the strategic performance of newspaper organisations. Specifically, newspaper organisation is an emergent environment in which managing and doing newswork are parts of the same strategic processes, and that, therefore, they cannot be treated and studied as separate managerial entities. Applying the sensemaking and related process perspectives, the managing of newswork is understood as a social process of enactment in which both managers and journalists make and give meanings to their practices and in turn make the strategic change — which is emergent, incremental, and idiosyncratic in nature — meaningful and sustainable.
This thesis concludes that during the strategic change, sensemaking about newswork has positive impacts on strategic performances only when the social goal of newswork is addressed simultaneously with the business goal, the past experiences and lessons gained by strategy doers on the frontline are valued and backed up by strategy makers, and when managers give the time and space which allow quality journalism to be achieved. These findings and the novel research design employed contribute to journalism, organisational change, and media management fields of research.