Rationalizing the Gap: How Journalists in a Nondemocratic Regime Make Sense of Their Professional Work
This article investigates how news professionals in a nondemocratic regime rationalize their institutional roles and daily reporting practices, negotiate boundaries of their work, and make sense of their professional activities. This study used qualitative interviewing to explore personal experiences, perceived practices, and opinions of Belarusian journalists and media experts. When addressing the gap between their understanding of normative roles and describing their actual practices, journalists provided such rationalizations as personal beliefs and motivations, risks, internal conflict, and professional deformation, as well as attempts to find middle ground. News practitioners in autocratic regimes often expand boundaries of press freedom with civic courage by reporting critically of government policies and taking risks when public interests are at stake. In addition, the study highlights that certain restrictions lead to a more disciplined professional culture of journalists as thorough fact-checking is necessary to avoid penalties enforced by government offices.