An introduction to the project

The data presented here was gathered as part of the international collaborative project “Journalistic Role Performance around the Globe.” This project, led by Professor Claudia Mellado from the Pontifical University of Valparaiso in Chile, brings together research from 18 states, plus the Hong Kong SAR. More details about the project can be found at The aim of the project is, as the website says: “addresses the disconnection between ideals and practice in journalism, analysing how different dimensions of professional roles materialize in the news product.” This site contains the data and further information concerning two separate but linked investigations, one of a sample of 5 papers from the mainland Chinese press and the other of a sample of 3 papers from the Hong Kong SAR press. These investigations were made possible by grants from the HKBU Research Committee (FRG2/13-14/038) and the Hong Kong University Grants Council (GRF HKBU 12406914). The research was conducted by a team led by Professor Colin Sparks and including Professor Huang Yu and Dr Lü Nan from HKBU with Professor Wang Haiyan from Sun Yat-Sen University in Guangzhou.

The project gathered two kinds of data: a content analysis of a representative sample of national news in the 8 selected papers in the years 2012 and 2013, together with a questionnaire administered to the authors of the news stories analysed. The papers studied were chosen to reflect some of the main divisions in the press in both locations. In mainland China, the choices reflect national and provincial level titles, market-oriented and party-oriented papers, and those from the north, the south, the east coast and western interior. The chosen papers were: People’s Daily, China Youth Daily, Xinmin Evening News, Southern Metropolis Daily, Chengdu Economic Daily). In Hong Kong, the titles chosen reflect the political divisions inside the SAR over democratization and the different market orientations present. The titles were: Ming Pao Daily, Ta Kung Pao, Apple Daily.

The purpose of this data is to provide the material for comparing journalists’ professional role conceptions (what they think they do) with their professional role performance (what they actually do). The results of the survey record their role conceptions and the results of the content analysis record their role performance. By analysing this material it is possible to provide empirical evidence as to the relationship between conceptions and performance.

The variables measured were derived from a theoretical classification of journalistic roles advanced by Professor Mellado in a series of articles in scholarly journals 1. The typology includes six categories of roles: the Interventionist; the Loyal Facilitator; the Watchdog; the Civic; the Service; the Infotainment. Besides illuminating these journalistic roles, the data allows for the first large-scale empirical examination of the kinds of journalism practised in mainland China and Hong Kong.

Analysis of the data is, at the time of writing, underway. The overall results of the content analysis have been published in the Asian Journal of Communication ( 10.1080/ 01292986 .2016 .1240818.) and a classification of the journalistic characters of mainland newspapers is forthcoming in Journalism. Further studies of the content include an exploration of the range of variety in the mainland press and a comparison between the mainland and Hong Kong results. Two studies of the questionnaire material are underway: one exploring the range of self-conceptions amongst mainland journalists and the second comparing the journalistic models’ relationships to the titles.

The data set presented here is extensive and the analyses prepared by the research team are far from exhausting the potential insights it can yield. You are invited to explore the data from your own perspectives and, if you find it yields valuable insights, you are free to use them for non-commercial publications, provided that you acknowledge the source of your data.

  1. Mellado, Claudia (2015). Professional Roles in news content: Six dimensions of journalistic role performance. Journalism Studies (16 (4) 596-614
    Hellmueller. L. &Mellado, C. (2015). Professional roles and news construction: a media sociology conceptualization of journalists’ role conception and performance. Communication &Society 28(3) 1- 11
    Hellmueller, L., &Mellado, C. (2015). Journalistic role performance and the network media agenda – A global perspective. In L. Guo, &M. McCombs (Eds.) Network Agenda Setting, Routledge Press.
    Mellado, Claudia &Lagos, Claudia (2014). Professional Roles in News Content: Analyzing Journalistic Performance in the Chilean National Press. International Journal of Communication 8: 2090–2112
    Mellado,Claudia &Van Dalen, Arjen (2014). Between rhetoric and practice. Explaining the gap between role conception and performance in journalism. Journalism Studies 15 (6) 859-878