Call for papers for special issues of Digital Journalism and Journalism Practice

Churnalism revised and revisited: Examining news sources and production in the digital era

Guest Editors: Jane Johnston, University of Queensland and Susan Forde, Griffith University. 

It is now almost a decade since the term ‘churnalism’ moved into mainstream journalism analysis, describing in less than complimentary terms the recycling process of news production. Davies (2008) and others (Lewis et al 2008a, 2008b) argued during that era that news had become a passive process of (re)production, often simply repositioning or repurposing other journalists’ stories, public relations materials and wire service copy. Since then, digital media and software applications have increased the range and character of ‘churnalism’ in ways which were not envisaged in 2008: news aggregators such as Google liberally select and republish the online news of others; publications such as the Huffington Post have refashioned contemporary understandings of what constitutes news; content management practices have seen an increasing overlap between ‘brand journalism’ and corporate communication; blogging and microblogging are purposely used to spread news and capture readers across multiple platforms; and, news-bots now sort and even create news without the need for human contribution.

These changes have occurred within particular political economy frameworks, often typified by hyper-commercial media environments with fewer journalists, doing more – including writing, photographing and microblogging – ultimately under more pressure than ever to create and churn copy across a range of platforms. Widespread adoption of radio news ‘hubbing’ and online-only news delivery, for example, represent economic models of newsgathering and delivery that allow churnalism to flourish while impacting on job numbers, news quality, the capacity to carry out deeper investigative journalism, and fact checking.

The rise of churnalism – defined broadly as the purposeful development and recycling of news across digital platforms – raises ethical, legal, and practice issues that demand close attention and critique. Accordingly, these special issues call for papers which examine the impact of these changing news production processes in the digital era. They seek to investigate the scope and breadth of the practice of ‘churning’ in newsrooms around the world, examining digital news gathering and reporting practices, the role of news agencies, public relations responses to current news practices, the impact of news aggregation in contemporary news reproduction, and how algorithms are used to channel news. These special issues of Digital Journalism and Journalism Practice offer the opportunity to present empirical studies into how news is recycled and channelled and to direct critical analysis about contemporary news practices. They will address questions related to the role of the journalist in digital newsrooms, the way news is produced and contemporary understandings of digital news within different news industries and across national and international contexts.

These special issues request papers from around the world which address one or more of the following key questions:

  • How is churnalism viewed in different national or transnational contexts?
  • What theoretical constructs might best enable us to understand the growth and penetration of news recycling processes?
  • How have altered newsgathering and production processes affected diversity, accuracy and credibility of news and journalists?
  • How have other industries, such as public relations, responded to the rise in churnalism?
  • How has journalism education tackled the rise of churnalism?
  • What alternative models of news gathering and production have emerged in response to churnalism? 
  • What technological developments have impacted on news production and distribution most significantly?
  • What does churnalism mean for democracies and civil society?
  • What are the perceived benefits of churnalism in terms of audience reach and news production?

The special issues invite journalism and broader media and communications scholars to present theoretically, methodologically and empirically driven articles which provide deep insights and clear understandings about fundamental challenges, and potential benefits, that churnalism brings in the era of digital journalism.

Timeline

Deadline for Abstracts: 15 June 2016

Abstracts accepted and full papers invited: 1 July 2016

1st draft papers submitted to Guest Editors: 30 December 2016

Blind peer review undertaken: January-March 2017

GEs send reviewer comments to authors: 1 April 2017

Final papers to GEs: 1 May 2017

Contacts

Jane Johnston, School of Communication and Arts, University of Queensland, Brisbane, 4067 Australia. Email: jane.johnston@uq.edu.au

Susan Forde, Griffith Centre for Social and Cultural Research, Griffith University, Brisbane, 4111, Australia. Email: s.forde@griffith.edu.au

Please address queries to both editors to ensure a quick response.

Read the instructions for authors for Digital Journalism here and for Journalism Practice here.