As Paterson et al. describe in the opening chapter of the book Advancing Media Production Research, doing research on media companies and content production is very hard from a scholarly perspective. Partly because researchers have hard times ‘deal[ing] with and convinc[ing] gatekeepers to media organizations’ of cooperating in the research.
The obstacles in doing proper research also stem from the fact that analyzing only interview material (interviews with mediamakers) is not enough. Since ‘what people say is often a poor predictor of what they do’, one must also have enough observational data to get a full picture of the media making process and the choices made, so say Paterson et al.
It would be useful to look beyond the academic boundaries of media research to another profession that’s known for it’s critical thinking and thorough research methods: journalism itself. The Dutch documentary series Medialogica tries already for years to investigate why journalists do what they do and how they make their important choices. Using investigative journalism research methods they try to unveil the processes in the media industry, both in The Netherlands and abroad.
They are successful in doing so, mostly because they, as being journalists themselves, have deep rooted contacts in the media industry. Therefore colleagues know them and take questions for cooperating in their research seriously.
Maybe scholars can, instead of discussing about it with other scholars, come down from their ivory towers and have a look at the way journalists work themselves in getting the story. And how they use their professional network to get the information they want.
Paterson, C., Lee, D., Saha, A., and Zoellner, A. Production Research: Continuity and Transformation. Advancing Media Production Research (2015), 3-19.