transfer 27(4) » Journalismus

Express yourself – but which self?

The influences and performances of various social roles on journalists’ personal Instagram accounts

Social media platforms represent a drastically different environment for journalists to perform journalistic roles. Especially Instagram, which is originally designed for private roles, challenges journalistic practices and boundaries. Yet, despite the non-journalistic affordances of Instagram and the location of journalists’ personal profiles outside the organizational context, most research assumes that those profiles are determined by journalistic identities. Only limited research investigates whether journalists consider their personal accounts to be journalistic accounts, too.

Therefore, through qualitative in-depth interviews with eight German journalists, I analyzed to what extent journalists believe in constructing a journalistic identity on their Instagram profiles and to what extent their profile is shaped by other roles. Results indicated that all participants constructed a journalistic identity, which however is not necessarily their focus. That implies that other additional roles influence the participants’ performance and their alignment with journalistic norms. An aspect that needs to be discussed as it is uncertain if users can distinguish if such profiles are a journalistic product, which might affect the public trust in journalism. Additionally, the interviews provide information on contextual factors that influence their performances such as Instagram’s impact on job opportunities, general boundaries in the online sphere, representative functions, and platform perception.