Studies of participatory journalism demonstrate that professional journalism can be resistant to change. Journalists and news organizations do wish to encourage audience contribution and digital innovation, but find it difficult to reconcile traditional journalistic values and practices with more participatory ones. In this study, this ‘resistance to change’ is further investigated by interviewing 22 frontrunners in Dutch journalism who are pioneers in audience participation. How do they make sense of ‘participatory journalism’? The possibilities, constraints and dilemmas their discourse constructs are examined through an interpretative repertoire analysis. Frontrunners draw upon six interpretative repertoires: ‘innovation’, ‘craftsmanship’, ‘marketing’, ‘being one’s own boss’, ‘education’, and ‘profitability’. All frontrunners speak the innovation repertoire and at least one of the other repertoires, often in mutual contradiction. This analysis demonstrates the current paradox of how journalism is criticized for its traditional and paternalistic culture of exclusion and at the same time valued and protected as a profession and craft. It is concluded that even ‘innovative’ journalistic frontrunners are subject to this paradox, despite their obvious willingness to realize participatory journalism. By conducting this specific type of analysis, this study demonstrates routine deployments of cultural understandings in journalistic linguistic practices and reveals practical consequences in terms of possibilities and constraints for audience participation and innovation in journalism
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