Precariousness, an obstacle to journalistic quality: a case studyLa precariedad, obstáculo para la calidad periodística: estudio de caso doxa.comunicación | nº 35, pp. 113-125 | 113July-December of 2022ISSN: 1696-019X / e-ISSN: 2386-3978How to cite this article: Gutiérrez-Cuesta, J. J.; Vink Larruskain, N. and Cantalapiedra González, M. J. (2022). Precariousness, an obstacle to journalistic quality: a case study. Doxa Comunicación, 35, pp. 113-125.https://doi.org/10.31921/doxacom.n35a1588Juan José Gutiérrez-Cuesta. PhD in Social Communication from the University of the Basque Country (UPV/EHU). Degree in Information Sciences from the University of the Basque Country and a degree in Spanish Language and Literature from the UNED. A journalist with over two decades of experience works for the EFE Agency who has collaborated with local print and digital media. He is a member of Bitartez, a Consolidated Research Group, with a Type A rating Basque University System group of excellence. His main research lines are working routines, journalists’ work and professional conditions, and the precariousness of journalism and its eects on social practices and journalistic quality.University of the Basque Country, Spainjuanjose.gutierrez@ehu.eusORCID: 0000-0002-3288-4993Naiara Vink Larruskain. PhD in Social Communication from the UPV/EHU and postgraduate in Multimedia Communication from the same university. For ten years, she has worked as a journalist on dierent radio and television channels and for communication groups such as Vocento, EiTB, and Atresmedia. She has been in charge of communication in a social organisation linked to the eld of migration, Harresiak Apurtuz, for the last seven years. She is a member of Bitartez, a Consolidated Research Group, with a Type A rating Basque University System group of excellence. Her research areas are women’s leadership, women’s access to the labour market in communication companies, and gender discomfort and its impact on professional development. Harresiak Apurtuz, SpainCoordination of NGOs in the Basque Country supporting immigrantskomunikazioa@harresiakapurtuz.orgORCID: 0000-0002-8470-3357María José Cantalapiedra González. She is a senior lecturer in the Journalism department in the Social Sciences and Communication Faculty at the UPV/EHU, and accredited as a professor. She has three six-year research fellowships and one transfer fellowship. She has 396 citations on Google Scholar and an h index of 11. Journalists’ working and professional conditions have been a line of research since her doctoral thesis. Director of Bitartez, a Consolidated Research Group of the Basque University System, with a Type A rating of excellence. PI in 11 Competitive Research Projects and collaborator in 6 more. Promoter and co-founder of the spin-o LABAK. Currently co-directs the Congress on research and transfer in communication.University of the Basque Country, Spainmariajose.cantalapiedra@ehu.eusORCID: 0000-0003-4961-2326

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114 | nº 35, pp. 113-125 | July-December of 2022Precariousness, an obstacle to journalistic quality: a case studyISSN: 1696-019X / e-ISSN: 2386-3978doxa.comunicación1. Introductione subsequent precariousness of working conditions of communication professionals, denounced by trade unions and academics, which was brought about by the 2008 economic crisis and the COVID-19 pandemic, was not reported in the news. Although both crises have contributed to the deterioration of employment in the sector, journalists’ precarious working and professional conditions have been constant in the journalistic panorama for decades (Gutiérrez, Ruiz and Cantalapiedra, 2016) and are now a common feature of Spanish journalism. Trade unions have repeatedly denounced the worsening of newsroom workers’ and journalists’ working and professional conditions, who are not part of media sta because they do not have employment contracts and work as freelancers, through the Federation of Journalists’ Unions (FeSP). On International Workers Day and World Press Freedom Day, May 1 and 3, respectively, the FeSP called on the Spanish government to urgently adopt measures to tackle the precariousness that had worsened due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic (FeSP, 2021). is request did not dier much from the same entity’s made a year earlier, during the rst onslaught of the pandemic, when it asked the government for urgent measures to guarantee decent working conditions for journalists, especially freelancers and working journalists (FeSP, 2020).e precariousness pervading Spanish journalism is a problem that goes beyond journalists’ particular situation since it aects professional routines, as has been stated in dierent academic works, and ultimately aects the quality of the information that the media communicates to society. However, this precariousness is nuanced depending on the particular collective. us, Abstract:is paper focuses on the collaborators of the Biscayan press’ employment and professional situation, journalists who work exclusively or almost exclusively for a single media as freelance workers. is paper shows how precariousness is an obstacle to achieving the necessary journalistic quality that the media should oer. ese professionals are at a disadvantage compared to hired journalists who are covered by the corresponding collective agreement. e collaborators’ precarious working conditions aect their professional routines and, ultimately, the quality of the daily texts published in the newspapers. We use quantitative data from a survey and a qualitative analysis through in-depth interviews with collaborators and former collaborators to address this problem and show the working and professional situation of the journalists who make up this group.Keywords: Journalism; precariousness: quality: journalistic routines; freelance journalist.Resumen:Este trabajo se detiene en la situación laboral y profesional de los cola-boradores de la prensa vizcaína, periodistas que trabajan en exclusiva, o casi en exclusiva, para un único medio como trabajadores autónomos. El propósito del mismo es mostrar cómo la precariedad constituye un obstáculo para alcanzar la necesaria calidad periodística que deben ofrecer los medios de comunicación. Estos profesionales se encuentran en una situación de desventaja respecto a los periodistas contratados que están amparados por el correspondiente convenio colectivo. Las preca-rias condiciones laborales de los colaboradores afectan a sus rutinas pro-fesionales y, en último término, a la calidad de los textos que se publican cada día en los periódicos. Para abordar esta problemática y mostrar la situación laboral y profesional en la que los periodistas que conforman ese colectivo ejercen el ocio se recurre a datos cuantitativos, procedentes de una encuesta, y, especialmente, a un análisis cualitativo, por medio de entrevistas en profundidad a colaboradores y ex colaboradores.Palabras clave:Periodismo; precariedad; calidad; rutinas periodísticas; periodista au-tónomo.Received: 30/12/2021 - Accepted: 28/02/2022 - Early access: 21/03/2022- Published: 01/07/2022Recibido: 30/12/2021 - Aceptado: 28/02/2022 - En edición: 21/03/2022 - Publicado: 01/07/2022
doxa.comunicación | nº 35, pp. 113-125 | July-December of 2022Juan José Gutiérrez-Cuesta, Naiara Vink Larruskain and María José Cantalapiedra GonzálezISSN: 1696-019X / e-ISSN: 2386-3978115those professionals who do not have an employment contract with the media for which they work, such as freelance journalists and contributors, have more precarious working and professional conditions than media’s directly employed journalists and therefore do not have the optimal conditions necessary for quality work.is precariousness has been consolidated and has become a systemic element in journalism (Varela, 2017), leading to a deterioration in the quality of information that the media provides to society. Professionals’ poor working situations condition the information, negatively impacting the nal quality of the news product and journalists’ ethics (Suárez, Romero and Almansa, 2009). Journalists have noted a gradual worsening of the sector’s professional, working, and economic conditions, closely linked. A change in one of them aects the rest and, therefore, the quality of the information (Soengas, Rodríguez, and Abuín, 2014).e profession has suered from poor remuneration for journalistic work, unemployment, and precariousness since the profound 2008 nancial crisis and the COVID-19 pandemic that has been dragging on since 2020 (APM, 2020); it has also been impacted by the inequality between men and women (Cáceres and Parratt, 2021).e nancial crisis (Túñez and Martínez, 2014) or the unfavourable economic period for the media (Viota and Parratt, 2021) have been reected in the quality of news because issues such as journalists’ long working hours, salaries, and working conditions, together with the speed with which news needs to be published in the online version of newspapers, “cause a lower respect for ethics and professional deontology” and mean that there is not always enough time to reect on what is published (Maciá-Barber and Herrera-Damas, 2010: 97). Farias and Gómez (2011) agree, highlighting the reduction in sta journalists and the lack of time for checking and verifying information. e lack of adequate working and professional conditions aects journalists’ work, as working in a context of precariousness, both for professionals and journalism as a whole, makes it challenging to write quality news and results in a lack of neutrality and banality in the process of searching, selecting and preparing news, leading to “poor, trivial and sensationalist” journalism (Ufarte, 2012: 4). is precariousness transforms the journalist into an obedient professional (Figueras-Maz, Mauri-Ríos, Alsius-Lavera, and Salgado-De-Dios, 2012), more concerned about working conditions and, fundamentally, salaries than producing a rigorous, ethical, independent, quality work that should be demanded of journalism in a democratic society. e professionals themselves are aware that precariousness aects the quality of their work and acknowledge that the models of news quality have deteriorated (Gómez-Mompart, Gutiérrez-Lozano, and Palau-Sampio, 2015).However, journalists’ concern about precariousness in the sector and its repercussions on news quality diers as they become less concerned as their salaries increase. Freelance journalists are among the professionals who value this issue most (Figueras-Maz et al., 2012). is study focuses on the Biscayan press contributors, who are among this group of freelance journalists most concerned about precariousness. ey are professionals who work under the Special Regime for Self-employed Workers (RETA) for a single media outlet; most work remotely daily and follow orders or instructions from their newspaper’s editor. e contributors are part of the growing unconventional press work. eir employment status does not conform to the traditional employment relationship between an employer and an employee as they are economically dependent freelancers or false self-employed (ILO, 2016). Although they are not strictly speaking freelance journalists, they face the same diculties
116 | nº 35, pp. 113-125 | July-December of 2022Precariousness, an obstacle to journalistic quality: a case studyISSN: 1696-019X / e-ISSN: 2386-3978doxa.comunicaciónsince their work is characterised by low income, instability, and the uncertainty of work and employment status (Marín-Sanchiz, Carvajal, and González-Esteban, 2021).In recent years, the number of journalists who make up the atypical media workforce has grown in Europe (Edstrom and Ladendorf, 2012; Mathisen, 2017; Hayes and Silke, 2018) and Spain. e number of professionals who work in the journalistic eld as freelancers without an employment contract and, therefore, without the protection of a collective bargaining agreement accounts for almost a third of the total (APM, 2020). us, the increase in atypical media work (Gollmitzer, 2014) means that more journalists do not have regulated working hours, income, rest periods, or the social and welfare benets included in collective bargaining agreements. Moreover, the tension between the freedom and autonomy to tackle the work and the vulnerability and precariousness in which it is performed in the case of freelance journalists (Mathisen, 2017) does not exist in the case of contributors. ese professionals are subordinated to the newspaper’s demands, which establishes the fees for their work- by news item or a xed monthly fee- and tells them how much to write and what about. Contributors do not have the freedom and autonomy that freelancers have. Instead, they work in vulnerable and precarious conditions.2. Objective and methodologyis research aims to examine the relationship between journalists’ working and professional conditions and the journalistic quality of their work. We have taken the contributors of the Biscayan press as our subjects of study to achieve this objective based on two hypotheses. On the one hand, contributors have working and professional conditions inferior to media’s directly employed journalists, protected by a collective bargaining agreement (H1). On the other hand, according to the freelancers themselves, the precariousness they withstand inuences their work routines and ultimately the journalistic quality of the information they produce for the media that contracts their services (H2). We maintain that precariousness is an obstacle to achieving the necessary journalistic quality. In this case, the contributors from the newspapers published in Bizkaia are the professionals who best illustrate this relationship between working under precarious conditions and diculty in achieving optimum quality work. Moreover, it can be seen that similar phenomena occurring in other contexts are taking place in Biscayan newspapers. We opted to combine quantitative and qualitative methodologies as both allow us to obtain more signicant and more profound knowledge of the phenomena. In this case, we examined the impact of employees’ professional and employment insecurity on the quality of the information. is is because the measurable data obtained through quantitative techniques are included, thanks to qualitative research “interpretative richness, contextualisation of the environment or surroundings, details and unique experiences” (Hernández, Fernández, and Baptista, 2006: 28). Furthermore, qualitative methodology implies an “openness to the approach of the researched” to achieve the “understanding of the other” (Canales, 2006: 19-20) and “allows for basic understanding and knowledge in the area of social sciences” (Taylor and Bogdam, 1987: 285).e quantitative analysis has been carried out using the data from work carried out by the Bitaretz Research Group from the University of the Basque Country (UPV/EHU) within the framework of the project CSO2014-56196-R for the design of a corporate communication tool for systematising dierent entities’ ow of information. Working journalists were surveyed