Fiction or reality? How audiences make sense of movies and series about journalism: a Flemish case study

ResearcherFoto project Maxine

Maxine De Wulf Helskens (CIMS & CJS)


Sarah Van Leuven (CJS)


Frederik Dhaenens (CIMS)


Representations of journalists in fiction movies and series communicate what journalism is, should, and could be both for journalists and the public. They aid in discursively constructing journalistic roles, affect the public perception of journalism including the credibility and public trust of journalists, and reproduce gender, sexual, and racial stereotypes in relation to journalism.

In an era in which the credibility of journalists and trust in the media is diminishing worldwide and the journalistic profession is under transition, these representations become even more relevant. Therefore, this research project, funded by Research Foundation Flanders (FWO), aims to uncover how both regular audiences and journalists make sense of such fiction movies and series in a Flemish context. It caters to the gaps in existing research which include the lack of research into fiction series, the lack of audience research, and the lack of non-American research that takes into account an intersectional perspective.

To do so, it employs both a quantitative and qualitative research design including textual analyses, content analyses, surveys, focus groups, and in-depth interviews. The project will also include a comparative element by including analyses of movies and series of international and Flemish origin and by conducting audience research with both Flemish and American audiences. The project timeline is from November 2021 until November 2025.