Performing investigative identities: How print journalists establish authority through their texts




investigative journalism, news coverage, journalists, authority, boundary work, discourse analysis, thematic analysis, Switzerland


Faced with an increasingly challenging environment, journalists and news organizations are looking to investigative journalism as a symbolic resource to assert their professionalism. However, while the literature recognizes a strong link between authority and professionalism on the one hand, and investigative journalism and professionalism on the other, it has overlooked how investigative journalism itself can be used to establish authority. This paper aims to fill this gap by exploring how investigative pieces contribute to the legitimization of journalists in French-speaking Switzerland. To answer this question, we conducted a thematic and discursive qualitative analysis of 186 investigative pieces to examine identity markers that present journalists as particularly legitimate knowledge producers. Our findings show how print journalists perform an investigative identity throughout their texts. This includes playing a watchdog role, demonstrating an “investigative mindset,” claiming specialized skills, and / or highlighting their thorough verification procedure. By employing these strategies, investigative journalists seek recognition based on their social role, their individual traits, their specialized skills, and / or their incontrovertible knowledge claims. We analyze these four identity markers as strategic devices for claiming special authority within the journalistic profession.


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How to Cite

Wuergler, L., & Dubied, A. (2023). Performing investigative identities: How print journalists establish authority through their texts. Studies in Communication Sciences, 1–20.



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