Joint development of journalistic competences and organizational capabilities - a practice based performative perspective

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The purpose of this paper is to contribute to a better understanding of the ways skillful performance is achieved in current media organizations challenged by continuous technological changes, new forms of competition and changing consumer preferences. More specifically, the interest is to investigate the relation between the micro-level learning of journalistic competences and the macro-level enactment of organizational capabilities. Building on the conceptualization of competences as performative accomplishments instead of predetermined entities, and drawing on the practice-theoretical approach to competences, the paper seeks to shed light on practices that simultaneously enhance continuous development of individual, journalistic competences and boost ongoing enactment of organizational capabilities. Hitherto existent research on expertise, competence and capability has tended to conceptualize these features as entities characterized by specific attributes and has failed to focus on them as enactments of skillful performance (Danneels, 2010; Sandberg & Targama, 2007; Tsoukas & Vladimirou, 2001). However, recent, emerging research streams have adopted a more process-oriented research approach and have begun to address the above mentioned shortcoming by conceptualizing expertise, competence and capability not as entities but as performative accomplishments. The performative, relational and practice-based approach to competences (Sandberg & Pinnington 2009; Tsoukas & Vladimirou 2001; Wenger 2000), considers competence to be a practical accomplishment both learned and enacted in specific work tasks (Gherardi 2000). Hence, learning can be seen to take place through participation in a professional practice, through which the journalists acquire knowledge-in-action and constitute, maintain and develop the uniqueness of the magazine in diverse platforms. The term practice refers to a coherent pattern of purposive organizational activity, guided by particular collective structures of knowing, reasoning, and understanding that transcend the individual (Reckwitz, 2002: 249-250). The empirical analysis is based on a case study in a Nordic fashion and lifestyle –magazine, directed to readers younger than 35 years of age that are interested in the latest trends, well-being, lifestyle and contemporary societal phenomena. The primary data consists of two rounds of personal interviews with the entire editorial team of the magazine (18 interviews, duration between 60 and 90 minutes, 198 pages of transcribed material). Based on the analysis three practices could be identified that seemed to enhance the interlinked development of individual, journalistic competences and the ongoing enactment of organizational capabilities: (i) recruitment practices, (ii) meeting practices and (iii) workplace development practices. Instead of searching for a specific set of knowledge, skills and personal traits, the recruitment practices were based on choosing, not the most qualified, but the most suitable candidate for each open vacancy. The editor-in-chief looked for passion and emphasized her ‘gut feeling’ in how well the candidate would match the spirit of the magazine and the rest of the editorial team. Also the journalist underlined the importance of ‘chemistry’. The magazine recruited ‘newbies’ and counted on their fast learning and development. Instead of following a strict agenda with a predefined target, the meeting practices were characterized by informal brainstorming, building on each others’ ideas, and celebrations of work achievements. The meeting practices consisted of ‘retreat days’ usually organized off site, lasting an entire day, and shorter, more operational weekly meetings. The interviewees told that at best the joint brainstorming felt almost ‘magical’. Instead of focusing on strict work processes or rules, the practices of developing the workplace climate were based on making the employees feel at home so that the journalists would support each other, crack jokes and even see each other outside of work and would have fun. These workplace development practices were believed to produce a people-oriented climate and a strong sense of belonging to the organization. The paper contributes to the literature on media management by identifying and shedding light on organizational practices that enhanced the relation between development of journalistic competences and continuous enactment of the magazine’s organizational capabilities, and hence seemed to contribute to the skillful performance of the publication.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationEMMA, Annual conference in Porto, Lisbon 2016
PublisherEuropean Media Management Education Association (EMMA)
Publication statusPublished - 2016
MoE publication typeD3 Professional conference proceedings
EventEuropean Media Management Association Conference - University of Porto, Porto, Portugal
Duration: 2 Jun 20164 Jun 2016


ConferenceEuropean Media Management Association Conference
Abbreviated titleEMMA


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