Harnessing the Life History Method to Study the Media Industries

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


Life histories allow individuals to tell a longitudinal narrative of their experiences from their own emic perspective, illuminating how media workers feel and think about the work they do. To collect life histories, researchers conduct relatively unstructured in-depth interviews, enabling individuals to tell their story in interaction with an attentive interviewer. After briefly describing this method, we survey recent advances in the use of life histories to study media industries labor. We then consider how life histories could serve as an effective tool to study the temporal dimension of media work. We argue that using life histories to study media work could help identify patterns of institutional continuity and change over time. We then consider how analysis of occupational life history accounts could benefit the exploration of the emergence of precarity in media work alongside the persistence of more stable employment arrangements. Hence, this method provides a better understanding of heterogeneity in labor experiences and especially variation in the levels of precarity workers experience in the media industries. Finally, we consider the presence of life history-like accounts in the public domain - in news coverage, on crowdfunding platforms and in the judicial arena. Employing the life history logic and methodology could enrich the analysis of such public texts and help validate the findings of conventional life history research.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Routledge Companion to Media Industries
EditorsP. McDonald
Place of PublicationLondon
PublisherTaylor and Francis
Number of pages8
ISBN (Electronic)9781000451818
ISBN (Print)9780367225261
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 selection and editorial matter, Paul McDonald; individual chapters, the contributors.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Sciences (all)


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