DFG project "Pioneer Journalism: The re-figuration of journalism’s organizational foundations"

An investigation of ‘pioneer journalism’ as a principal force in the re-figuration of journalism and its organizational foundations.


Principal investigator: Prof. Dr. Andreas Hepp (ZeMKI, Universität Bremen), Prof. Dr. Wiebke Loosen (Hans-Bredow-Institute Hamburg)

Participating institutions: ZeMKI, Uni Bremen, Hans-Bredow-Institute Hamburg

Funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG)

Duration: 2019-2022

The goal of this project is to investigate ‘pioneer journalism’ as a principal force in the re-figuration of journalism and its organizational foundations. We understand pioneer journalism to encompass new forms of journalism that are dedicated to re-defining the field. This includes journalism from established media organizations and startups alike, journalism supported by accelerators, or journalism pursued by individual pioneers. Pioneer journalism aims to establish new figurations for the production and distribution of journalism. Media and digital technologies play a crucial role in this re-figuration. As our preliminary research demonstrates, there exists a loose network across all of the above, a network that has the potential to form the basis of a journalistic pioneer community.

With this in mind, the main research question is: What role does pioneer journalism play in the re-figuration of journalism’s organizational foundations? From this starting point, we plan to investigate German pioneer journalism across five analytical layers: first, through the use of a content analysis of self-descriptions, we will deliver a map of individual actors, startups, accelerators, and established organizations that play an important role in the pioneer journalism space and provide an overview of their perceptions of the field. Second, we will conduct a media ethnography at established news organizations to investigate the ways in which they are currently establishing new journalistic figurations. Third, we will investigate, again through a media ethnography, the establishment of new organizational figurations initiated by startups, accelerators and individual pioneers. Fourth, by way of a qualitative network and Twitter analysis, we will investigate the network of pioneer journalists, a network that has the potential to create a pioneer community across established media organizations, startups, accelerators, and individual journalists. Finally, we will integrate each of these analytical layers into an overall analysis of the re-figuration of journalism’s organizational foundations with the aim of typifying the patterns of its current transformation.


This project is part of a project cluster consisting of three individual research projects, each of which is investigating the current state of re-figuration of public communication from a different perspective. They all pursue an overarching research question of the consequences deep mediatization has for the re-figuration of public communication. The above described Project A investigates German journalism. Project B is concerned with journalism and its relationship to its audience and Project C will be looking at changes in the media repertoires of individuals and how they connect to the wider public.

Selected publications

  • Couldry, N./Hepp, A. (2017): The mediated construction of reality. Cambridge: Polity Press.
  • Hepp, A. & Loosen, W. (2019) Pioneer journalism: Conceptualizing the role of pioneer journalists and pioneer communities in the organizational re-figuration of journalism. Journalism, Online first, 1-19.
  • Heise, N./Loosen, W./Reimer, J./Schmidt, J.-H. (2014): Including the audience. In: Journalism Studies, 15(4), 411–430.
  • Hepp, A. (2016): Pioneer communities. In: Media, Culture & Society, 38(6), 918–933.
  • Kramp, L./Weichert, S. (2017): Der Millennial-Code. [The Millennial Code.]. Leipzig: Vistas.
  • Loosen, W. (2015): The notion of the ‘blurring boundaries’. In: Digital Journalism, 3(1), 68–84.
  • Loosen, W./Scholl, A. (2017): Journalismus im Zeitalter algorithmischer Wirklichkeitskonstruktion [Journalism in the age of algorithmic construction of reality]. In: Medien & Kommunikationswissenschaft, 65(2), 348–366.
  • Schmidt, J.-H./Loosen, W. (2015): Both sides of the story. In: Digital Journalism, 3(2), 259–278.
  • Loosen, W./Reimer, J./De Silva-Schmidt, F. (2017): Data-driven reporting: an on-going (r)evolution? In: Journalism, online first, doi:10.1177/1464884917735691.