Brian Ekdale

Associate Professor, Journalism & Mass Communication, University of Iowa

Academic, Blog, Publications

New Article: Innovation Clusters & Newsroom Change

The second article from my collaborative newsroom study with Jane SingerMelissa Tully, and Shawn Harmsen has just been published by Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly. Whereas the first piece looked at job insecurity and newswork, this article uses diffusion of innovations theory to examine the various changes happening in American newsrooms. In Diffusion of Innovations, Roger’s notes that innovations rarely appear one at a time; instead, they typically overlap with each other or are introduced as packages. While most diffusion studies isolate and track a single innovation, we used Roger’s concept of “innovation clusters” to parse out three interdependent yet distinct changes taking place at the newsroom that was the focus of our case study. This cluster of innovations includes changes in technology use, changes in audience relationships, and changes in professional culture. Using survey and interview data, we conclude (spoiler alert):

Although our findings demonstrate that many respondents are broadly accepting of all three types of innovation, responses to changes in professional culture are generally more tepid than responses to changing community relationships and the adoption of new technologies. Overall, reaction to change hinges greatly on issues of relative advantage, compatibility, and complexity. Changes that newsworkers see as beneficial to the news product and consistent with their understanding of journalism are viewed favorably, while journalists are resistant to adopt changes that they believe challenge journalistic autonomy and judgment, hurt the quality of the news product, and/or have been communicated poorly by the company’s leadership. (p. 18)

The article, “Making Change: Diffusion of Technological, Relational, and Cultural Innovation in the Newsroom,” will be out in print later this year, but it is currently available through JMCQ’s OnlineFirst. The abstract is below:

Diffusion of innovations theory typically has been applied to the spread of a particular technology or practice rather than the interplay of a cluster of innovations. This case study of a news company undergoing significant change seeks to offer a deeper understanding of multi-faceted industry upheaval by considering the diffusion of three interdependent yet distinct changes. Findings suggest technological change faces the fewest hurdles, as journalists recognize the need to adapt their practices to newer capabilities. Changes to audience relationships face greater resistance, while responses to changes to the professional culture of journalism remain the most tepid.

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