Textual & Visual Media

Revista de la Sociedad española de periodistica

Spanish journalistic society journal

Published online - "The role of a visualist: Transforming stories in a newsroom"

Sumario

4. Methodology

There are three identifiable stages in the research process: 1) Ethnographic observations and situated interviews in the newsroom; 2) Iterations and categorization of the data; 3) Analysis after the observations. The analysis is based on existing research as mentioned above, as well as a case study of a Finnish newsroom. Rather than speculating, empirical evidence from newsrooms seems to be more relevant to the current situation and actual developments in newsrooms (Erdal, 2011; Paterson, 2011).

Within social science research, multimodality and ethnographic knowing has been mainly given consideration within the stream of research known as social semiotics and the phenomenology of perception (see e.g. Pink, 2011; Ingold, 2000). I believe this anthropological approach is especially interesting to discuss in relation to visual transmediations process precisely because it is founded on different empirical research materials. In addition, Norris (2009) and Wertsch (1991) argued that visualists as social actors perform web news visualization by mediated actions with or through cultural tools. The multimodality in web news visualization allows us to study visualization from different modes and even leads us to investigate visualist’s role according to different modal configuration (Figure 1). Therefore, a mix of methods involving categorization, interviews and observations was used to obtain feedback during the iterative development on the web news visualization process. The aim is to understand how these visualists’ specifications are divided and how deep their work is involved in terms of the functions and appropriateness in the specific newsroom.

The article is grounded in a combination of qualitative methods for gathering and analyzing data, using ethnographic research tools. The field observation in HS Design Department consisted of a total of two weeks in April 2015. During this period, there started a reconfiguration in design department, which influenced visual journalists from both the print and digital production teams. Throughout this period of transition, I was present at a number of desks and attended editorial meetings. In addition, I have witnessed visual journalists involved are actively reconfiguring their positions in the newsroom and renegotiating their practices in web news visualization.

In the research process, different observation strategies were here construed to functional, living and embodied specification in HS Design Department (Table 1). The reason of multiple strategies comes from the multi-faceted endeavors from design practitioners, and the complexity of their work. During and after the fieldwork, I carried out 20 semi-structured qualitative interviews with information designers, data journalists, layouters, photographers and reporters. The selection of informants covers several sections in HS newsroom, rather than an exclusive focus on the design department. I aimed at interviewing informants from different specialized sections (Graphic, Data, Monthly supplement, Saturday, Sunday and Photography).

The fieldwork in newsroom is pragmatic as a grounded theory in the article for two reasons: 1) to understand visualization as design practice that may support communication within newsrooms; 2) to investigate how visual journalists’ mediated actions are realized in visualization of news web sites. At the time I was present in Desgin Department in HS newsroom, creation process was recorded for later analysis, especially the moment when co-involvement happened between desks. My main concern is to gain insights in visualist’s way of looking at the communication and the synergy of practitioner, tool and material (Ingold, 2011). During the co-involvement process, I learn empathically about visual journalists’ mediated process in practice (Pink, 2009) from a corpus of research materials for analysis, such as design guidelines, photos, recordings and videos. In the view taken up here, there appears to be the first tentative category, whereby the specification divisions lie in the empirical observations in visual journalists’ work.

To distinguish different divisions of visual journalists I wanted the respondents to be able to communicate as naturally as possible and feel comfortable with being observed. Therefore I acted as an outsider in the context of their work and observed their professional identity and ability to manipulate work (Grosz, 1995). By their specification with different duties, the categories relied primarily on what emerged from the observation strategies, which depend on their work production and work characteristics. Accordingly, my qualitative methods for each specification are adjusted due to the visual journalists’ involvement in the design department.

 

Table 1. A mix of methods by visual journalists’ specification in HS Design Department, which were obtained from different qualitative methods to collect practice-led data.

 

Specification

Qualitative methods

Collecting practice-led data

Graphic designer

-   Scoping review of literature

-   Grouping professionals

-   Interviews with in-house graphic design professionals in HS newsroom

-   Observation/record/video/photo

Layouter

-   Grouping professionals

-   Interviews with in-house graphic design professionals in HS newsroom

-   Observation/record/video/photo

Photographer

-   Interviews with in-house graphic design professionals in HS newsroom

-   Observation/record/video/photo

Programmer

-   Interviews with in-house graphic design professionals in HS newsroom

-   Observation/record/video/photo

 

Despite visualists’ diverse nature, I presume it suitable to investigate their role in the context through different strategies and methods. The case study can teach us something about more common newsroom cultural issues particularly in Finnish newsrooms. The findings will be useful to further illustrate how organizational contextual factors shape or affect the web news visualization process in other compact Finnish newsrooms.

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