Three questions for … Eric Karstens


Eric Karsten and his colleagues interviewed 221 journalists and organisation’s spokespeople in Germany, Hungary, Italy, Poland, Romania, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and Great Britain.

As part of the Horizon 2020 project "Role of European Mobility and its Impacts in Narratives, Debates and EU Reforms (REMINDER)", Eric Karsten and his colleagues interviewed journalists and organisation’s spokespeople in Germany, Hungary, Italy, Poland, Romania, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and the UK. The answers to the semi-structured interviews and questionnaires are available in the AUSSDA Dataverse. We talked with Eric Karstens about it.

What is your study about?

Our study is part of a larger European research project on mobility in the European Union. The project investigates mobility and migration according to economic, political, and sociological criteria, as well as media science criteria. We asked journalists and institutional communicators in nine EU member states how they deal with the topic in their daily work. To use a term that is currently much discussed: We wanted to find out which framing journalists and their interlocutors use in authorities, politics, and NGOs. Mind, from their subjective perspective; our colleagues from the University of Vienna deal with the actual reporting. But of course journalists and press officers do not work in a vacuum. That is why we asked some more general questions about their situation. How satisfied are they with their working conditions and environment? How free are they to choose what they want to report on? Who or what influences their choice of topics and words? Thus, our migration study also became a kind of social study of the various journalism and media landscapes.

From your point of view, what is exciting about the study?

We usually speak of "the" journalism as a whole, but in reality the self-image and circumstances differ extremely from country to country. Although this is by no means a new finding in journalism research, it is all too often overlooked in public perception and discussion. There is a well-known quote from the Austrian-American management theorist Peter Drucker, "Culture eats strategy for breakfast." This is very similar here. In general, a country's journalism culture, social norms, narratives, and political tendencies shape its reporting on migration more than the actual facts or the personal attitude of individual reporters. Of course, this also applies to all other topics. I myself often deal with transnational European journalism and now understand much better why it often does not work. Nevertheless, our study has also given me some tips and tricks on how to strengthen it.

Why do you make your data accessible?

Our data is the product of a publicly funded research project, which is why we believe it should be made public. However, even more important for the publication was another thought: We ourselves analysed our data from the perspective of a very specific interest in knowledge. But who says that we did everything right? And perhaps the data even contain answers to quite different questions? In other words: We would like to give other researchers the opportunity to make their own evaluations and possibly come to other or completely new conclusions. In addition, there is generally little information about the self-image of journalists and communication professionals. The available data often only refer to individual countries and are usually collected - if at all - at long intervals. We would therefore be pleased if our work in future research projects could serve as a snapshot of the situation in 2017.

  • Eric Karstens advises European and international non-profit organisations and companies on journalism, communication, and media. He develops funding applications and offers and is involved in the implementation of the resulting projects. For the non-profit foundation European Journalism Centre (EJC) in Maastricht (Netherlands), he is responsible for the technical coordination of activities in the EU Research Framework Programme.
a photo of Eric Karstens

Eric Karstens (photo: Gabriele Sternberg)