Doctoral dissertation

Pauliina Penttilä: Repetition in the Field of Journalism: How journalism is being sustained and renewed through journalistic practices

Pauliina Penttilä
The doctoral dissertation of M.Soc. Sc. Pauliina Penttilä examines the professionalism of journalism through ethnographic research. The study focuses on journalistic practices in the everyday life of a newsroom. It proposes a theoretical model of how profession defines its own field through journalistic practices.

Professionalism is seen as a dynamic, constantly changing and altering phenomenon, and the study is particularly interested in how the actors define their own field and struggle over its definitions. To understand the significance of the actors, journalistic practices are examined on a micro level, tracing both the meanings and the power relations incorporated in the actual practices of news making.

The ethnographic research material was gathered in the newsrooms of two Finnish regional newspapers, Hämeen Sanomat and Etelä-Suomen Sanomat. The material was gathered in 2003 and 2004, before the digitalization profoundly changed the Finnish media. Due to the relative stability of this context, the material gives an opportunity to concentrate on persistence rather than rapid changes in how journalism operates. However, it also allows the study to highlight the minor and gradual changes occurring in the everyday work. It also helps refining theoretical ideas and concepts for understanding the relevance of professional actors and their acts in the field of journalism.

The dissertation utilizes and combines three different theories – theory of professionalism, field theory and the theory of performativity. Each of them has its own specific role in the study. Professionalism is the object of which the study aims to gain more profound understanding. The idea of professionalism used in this dissertation is based on the field theory by Pierre Bourdieu, which understands the profession as an epistemic community. The profession is united by its shared doxa which defines the field of journalism. Professionalism aims to maintain and protect the journalistic field, and this task also demands constant redefining of the field. To understand the dynamic of simultaneous maintaining and redefining the doxa of the field, this study utilizes concepts from the theory of performativity by Judith Butler.

These concepts are used as theoretical-methodological tools in the analysis of the research material. Butler’s theory claims that reality is constituted by actors through constant performative repetition. For most part, this repetition is imitative and maintains the prevalent situation. Continuity, however, makes repetition vulnerable and opens possibilities for subversive repetition which may cause changes in the prevailing order.

The main research result of this dissertation is a model of professionalism based on a combination of ethnographic research material and the theoretical framework. In this model, the performative repetition of journalistic practices is divided into three different types – sufficient, ideal and dynamic repetition. Sufficient repetition is what can be called “good enough”: it appropriates the professional norms of journalists with the goals of the media company and the demands of other actors in society.

Professional journalists are constantly concerned with sufficient repetition since it may endanger the execution of professional ideals and the autonomy of the journalistic field. This concern may hence lead to ideal repetition which aims to sustain the ideals of the profession. Above all, ideal repetition defends the boundaries of the journalistic field. However, even if it challenges sufficient repetition, it also sustains the profession’s prevailing doxa. Dynamic repetition, in turn, criticizes the existing doxa and tries to destabilize and renew it by seeking influence and inspiration from other fields of society – fields of economy, technology, politics and arts, for example. By these means dynamic repetition aims to redefine the journalistic field and to maintain it vital in the changing society.

The doctoral dissertation of Master of Social Sciences Pauliina Penttilä in the field of journalism titled
Toisto journalismin kentällä. Etnografiseen aineistoon perustuva mallinnus journalismiprofession kentän sisäisestä dynamiikasta will be publicly examined at 12 o'clock on Friday 18 June, 2021. The venue is Linna building lecture hall K103 at the City centre campus. Docent Heidi Karvinen from the University of Turku will be the opponent while Professor (tenure-trakc) Laura Ahva will act as the custos.

The event can be followed via remote connection, Zoom meeting ID 698 1396 4165.

The dissertation is available online at

Photo: Marjo Tynkkynen



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