Activist-journalism and the norm of objectivity: Role Performance in the Reporting of the #MeToo Movement in Denmark and Sweden

Jannie Møller Hartley, Tina Askanius*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


This article presents the results of a study examining the self-perceived roles of journalists covering the #MeToo movement in Denmark and Sweden. Drawing on qualitative interviews with journalists, editors and activists (N = 20) and participant observation at various #MeToo events, we examine the professional journalism cultures underpinning differences in the coverage and the broader public debate spurred by the movement in the two countries. The analysis is informed by the theoretical framework of role performance [Mellado, C. 2015. “Professional Roles in News Content: Six Dimensions of Journalistic Role Performance”. Journalism Studies.; Mellado, C., L. Hellmueller, and W. Donsbach. 2016. Journalistic Role Performance Concepts, Contexts, and Methods. Routledge) in combination with Tuchman’s (1972. “Objectivity as Strategic Ritual”. American Journal of Sociology 77 (4): 660–679) seminal work on “Objectivity as Strategic Ritual”. This combined framework enables an analysis of how journalists negotiate ideals of objective reporting and activist imperatives when covering the movement and issues of gender (in)equality more broadly. Our study shows that journalists, to a varying degree, felt torn between ideals of impartiality and objectivity and ideals of active reporting oriented towards action and problem-solving but that these experiences differed between the two countries and between newsrooms. We discuss these findings in light of differences in the political climates around issues related to gender in the two countries and partially diverging normative ideals and professional journalistic cultures regarding the extent to which journalism and activism can and should be combined.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournalism Practice
Issue number6
Pages (from-to)860-877
Number of pages18
Publication statusPublished - 2021

Bibliographical note

June, 2021: This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives License (, which permits non-commercial re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited, and is not altered, transformed, or built upon in any way.


  • Journalistic norms and practices
  • Journalistic roles
  • Objectivity
  • Activism
  • Role theory
  • #MeToo

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