‘Journalism and the Coronavirus Pandemic’ SPECIAL ISSUE

Belgian Journalists in Lockdown: Survey on Employment and Working Conditions and Representations of Their Role

Manon Libert, Florence Le Cam & David Domingo

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted an important paradox: it has reminded us of the importance of the news media and the central place it occupies in the public space in times of crisis. At the same time, it has showed the major difficulties the industry faces in Belgium and elsewhere in the world. The lockdown disrupted the employment and practices of many journalists in ways that may reveal the contemporary tensions between professional identity and working conditions more clearly than in average news cycles. In order to understand what the Belgian French-speaking journalists went through during the first lockdown, we conducted a survey about the implications of the crisis for their employment status and work practices. This survey also covered their perceptions concerning their social role, their journalistic skills and the quality of their work covering the COVID-19 crisis. The responses show a sharp contrast between challenging working conditions (isolation, lack of expertise and job losses in worst cases) and the satisfaction that comes from the social contribution of their reporting. In order to interpret the results, we consider the theory of valuation as a framework to understand the attachment of journalists to their work and how they practise it.

KEYWORDS: COVID-19 crisis, Dewey, valuation, employment, working conditions, professional role