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Hungarian Religious Creatives—Comparative Analysis

Department of Communication Studies, Pázmány Péter Catholic University, Szentkirályi u. 28, 1088 Budapest, Hungary
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Religions 2023, 14(1), 97;
Submission received: 17 November 2022 / Revised: 30 December 2022 / Accepted: 6 January 2023 / Published: 10 January 2023


The research on the relationship between religion and the media has expanded in the past decades with many new directions, one of which is the examination of the creators of religious media content—more precisely, the exploration of their different role perceptions, commitment, motivations, and goals. Religious content creators are those media producers whose content appears on various media surfaces (printed press, radio, television, film, digital media), regardless of whether they perform their activities as employees of a media company or voluntarily. This study presents the research we conducted among Hungarian religious content creators between 2019 and 2020. The purpose of the study is to develop a well-founded role typology based on the defining features and modes of operation of different role types.

1. Introduction

The changes in the contemporary media environment are significantly transforming journalism as a practice. Users of the new media generate news themselves as active content creators and act as opinion leaders and influencers in the environment in which they operate. Not only do newspapers compete for news and news recipients, but there is also competition between news programs, and the civil sector is increasingly demanding to participate in this. Many consider this change to be the erosion of the journalistic profession and the dilution of traditional journalistic roles (Mancini 2013). This transformation means a challenge for social scientists in understanding the future of journalism. While early research focused on the role of journalists in news production, content production related to the topics of everyday life is now more and more decisive, which also plays an orienting role for communities with changing and no longer homogeneous points of view. Journalism no longer means professionalism that exclusively covers the fields of politics, economy, and culture, but is now also the shaper of “common sense” in matters of everyday practice. We call this new form of journalism “community journalism” based on its focus.
Today, journalism that has extended to the field of everyday life calls for the examination of new roles. The media not only informs and entertains, but is also a significant attitude-shaping agent, and thus it is worth exploring this orienting role. It includes the fact that journalists do not merely describe the events, but also provide advice, help, and guidance in dealing with everyday life. In this view, news has a “use value”—only what is relevant in everyday life matters (Eide and Knight 1999; Underwood 2001). Based on this, Hanitzsch and Vos define three new areas to which the examination of journalistic roles should be extended (Hanitzsch and Vos 2017). These are consumption, identity, and emotions, and the defining role of content production in shaping them is becoming increasingly unavoidable. Professional roles can be considered one of the defining segments of journalistic culture, and there has been an increased interest in them in recent decades. However, for a long time, their investigation was missing from the research. If scientists talked about the journalistic role, it was described in a normative approach, as a kind of standard to be followed, outlining the general principles that journalists must comply with. Descriptive research in social science does not look back on a long history. We can only talk about the increase in the number of studies since the turn of the millennium, as the issue has been the focus of attention since then. In the introduction of the study, we will present the scientific embeddedness and sources of our research. First of all, the research context that Hungarian research represents in the exploration of the relationship between religion and the media is presented, followed by a discussion of the studies focusing on journalistic role perceptions found in the international literature.
The relationship between religion and media and digital media has been studied by several scholars in Hungary, and these studies have generally been in line with international research trends. They deal with, among other things: religion and the public sphere, the issue of a mediatized public sphere, and the identity constructed here (Lázár Kovács 2017; Máté-Tóth 2016; Szilczl 2017); examining religions and their media representations (Sükösd 2017); the relationship between the institutional system of the media and the institutional system of the church (Radetzky 2018); the relationship between religion and popular (media) culture (Povedák 2011); and the possibilities of network communication and the effects of the coronavirus pandemic (Andok 2017, 2021, 2022). The examination of the role perception of religious content creators also fits into this Hungarian research horizon. In addition, there were three particularly important sources of our research analyzing the role conceptions of Hungarian religious content creators.
Our first source focuses on exploring the relationship between religious media and the public sphere in Hungary. This topic is important for two reasons. On the one hand, it is important from the point of view of the Hungarian public sphere. Before 1990, prior to the democratic transformation, religious media content could only appear under state censorship. This is important for our research because the older generation of religious content creators lived in the pre-1990s and may have made religious articles and programs. On the other hand, we made a distinction in the analysis of the interviews as to whether the participant was an employee of an ecclesiastically maintained media or a non-ecclesiastically maintained media producing religious content. We believe that this aspect will also affect the issue of authority and the issue of journalistic role performance.
Our second major source was research on journalistic role perceptions. Changes in the contemporary digital media environment are significantly transforming journalism as a practice. For more than a decade, Claudia Mellado and her co-authors have been conducting studies focusing on the journalists’ role perception. It is clear from their research that although the journalistic profession has general characteristics, everyday journalistic practice differs from normative ideas. In recent years, Mellado and her colleagues have published several volumes, the approach and methodology of which are important for our own research (Hanitzsch 2011; Mellado 2015, 2019, 2020; Mellado et al. 2017, 2020). Third, we need to mention Heidi Campbell’s research, which provided the ultimate inspiration. The American researcher specifically examined the role perceptions of religious content creators in the last decade (Campbell 2017, 2020).

2. Literature Review

The very first journalistic role descriptions were normative, and researchers tried to find the functions that journalists fulfil in society. The concept of informing was well suited to the idea that closely linked media operations to the processes that sustain a democratic society. This conception saw the role of journalists in news production and primarily tried to capture it in political thematization (Lasswell 1948). The beginning of the empirical study of journalistic roles is Bernard C. Cohen’s 1963 work, The Press and Foreign Policy, which saw the defining characteristic of the role of journalists in how a piece of news is presented to the public (Cohen 1963). In his work, he distinguished between two different journalistic roles: the neutral and the participant (interventionist). Subsequently, in the 1970s, the first large, representative surveys on this subject were published in the United States of America (Johnstone et al. 1976; Weaver and Wilhoit 1986, 1996; Weaver et al. 2007; Hanitzsch and Vos 2017). In the 1990s, countless articles on this topic were published.
International comparative analyses and the examination of how the specifics of a given media system shape journalistic roles have begun. Perhaps the most prominent here are Siebert–Peterson–Schramm’s Four Theories of the Press, which examines four major media systems, and Patterson and Donsbach’s Political News Journalists, which evaluates five nations (Siebert et al. 1956; Patterson and Donsbach 1996). Later, they would be synthesized by Hallin and Mancini, who, in their extensive work, Comparing Media Systems: Three Models of Media and Politics, already pay attention to the context-dependent nature of journalistic behavior (Hallin and Mancini 2004). In the book Media Systems, three major journalistic cultures are distinguished, which differ not only in terms of news content, but also in journalistic behavior and professional criteria. In their book, they introduce journalistic roles and their institutionalization and political influence as one aspect of the comparative analysis. The largest piece of research was the Worlds of Journalism study, which was conducted with the involvement of 67 countries. This early period was characterized by a strong Western focus and the development of conceptual frameworks for the investigations.
Thanks to growing empirical research, it has become increasingly clear that we cannot speak of a general, normative, homogeneous journalistic role, but that it has many actualizations. In other words, it is worth distinguishing the normative role, as a benchmark and as an expectation, from the actual role, which is more likely to be considered a role performance determined by the context and the personality of the journalist. Thus, it was not only the analysis of journalistic ideas that was interesting, but also the differences in role realization shaped by practice. Of course, all researchers acknowledged that the professional views and philosophy of journalists cannot be separated from practice as they mutually shape each other. Research published after the turn of the millennium considers journalistic roles as specific actualizations, in which motivation, professional values, and identity play a decisive role (Mellado et al. 2017; Mellado and Van Dalen 2014; Tandoc et al. 2013; Weaver et al. 2007). These appeared as different factors in later empirical research. The defining typology of professional roles was created by Mellado et al. in 2012. Two dimensions of the study are separated: normative and performative, where we consider the normative side to be the values that shape behavior and professional decisions, while the performative side is the everyday practice (Mellado et al. 2012, p. 74). In a later article, Mellado, Hellmueller, and Donsbach consider two directions of investigation possible in this regard:
  • How do professional journalists see their roles?
  • How do these roles manifest themselves in practice and how do they influence content and news production practices?
With the help of the answers given, it is possible to reconstruct the journalistic roles present today and the journalistic styles that are closely related to them (Mellado et al. 2017). What we consider today as journalistic culture consists of the various manifestations of these professional roles.

3. Professional Roles

The concept of role has been present in social science approaches for a long time, and most of the time, in Goffman’s interpretation, we see it as a specific result of symbolic interaction. We do not consider the role as static, but as a discursive unit that is actualized in different contexts. Knowledge about professional roles is also created through talking about them. Different contexts and the place and position (esteem) of the profession in society are its shapers. Roles defined as values thus create different journalistic cultures, and this becomes institutionalized as journalistic practice (Hanitzsch 2007). We consider professional socialization to be the process during which the individual becomes part of a professional culture, learning the guidelines and practices important in it, through which he/she can be recognized as a member of the professional community. The specific community practice is an integral part of every profession; on the one hand, it creates a sense of belonging among the members, and on the other hand, it separates it from other professional groups. People belonging to a professional culture internalize these norms, and their behaviour is determined by these patterns even without their consent. It includes specific knowledge, skills, attitudes, procedures, norms, and values attributed to actions. Part of this socialization is also the acquisition of professional roles, which includes both cognitive and strongly emotional engagements. The examination of professional roles is basically a Western-focused approach. It can be marked by names such as Hanitzsch, Josephi, and Mellado (Hanitzsch 2007; Josephi 2005; Mellado et al. 2012; Mellado 2015; Hanitzsch et al. 2011, 2019). Looking at this work, journalistic culture is nothing more than a set of expectations and a set of practices that journalists use to legitimize their role in society and at the same time give meaning to their work (Hanitzsch 2007, p. 369). Journalistic cultures are not only examined at the level of ideas and norms in recent research, but are analyzed on three different levels.
Analysis levels:
  • Value level (this includes the professional views of journalists, i.e., what value they attach to what they do);
  • Cognitive level (what they think about the production and meaning of news content, i.e., what they think about what they do);
  • Performative level (this includes practice and news production, i.e., this level shows how journalists do their work).
Mellado and her colleagues later supplement this with a fourth level, which includes the journalists’ self-reflection on their professional activities.
When we examine a role belonging to a certain culture, we scrutinize the discursive construction of values, attitudes, practices, and beliefs. These are the constructions that can be examined on the basis of communication. Mellado and her colleagues begin their study by defining two distinct dimensions and the four factors associated with them. They distinguish between role orientation and role performance, each of which is assigned two units that can be well investigated empirically. The expectation linked to institutional existence is called role orientation, while the actual practice carried out by journalists and the reflection on it is called role performance. Thus, the examination questions are well outlined.
  • Role orientations (expected within the institutional framework)
    • Normative: What should be done?
    • Cognitive: How can it be done?
  • Role performance (practice perceived by journalists)
    • Practice: What do you actually do in practice?
    • Narrated: How do you talk about what you think about what you do?
The authors criticize previous research, according to which these four categories of journalistic roles blur together and do not separate so sharply (Hanitzsch 2017; Hanitzsch and Vos 2017), or only one area is the focus of attention. That is why turning them into an investigation segment is an undoubted step forward in the interpretive description of journalistic culture. The authors consider these four factors to be inseparable from each other, claiming that the researcher’s interpretation can only see them as identical units from an analytical point of view, while in practice, their interaction is realized. Mellado et her colleagues call their approach the process model of journalistic roles. It is important to note, however, that these types apply primarily to news production and political news production. From this point of view, Mellado and her colleagues were able to explore the following dimensions in relation to journalistic role perceptions.
Dimensions of Journalistic Role Performance:
  • Presence of Journalistic Voice—Intervention role type
  • Power Relation—Watchdog, Loyal, Facilitator role types
  • Audience Approach—Service, Infotainment, and Civic role types (Mellado 2015)
After Mellado’s work, from the second half of the 2010s, we come across research that specifically analyzes the role perceptions of religious content producers. First of all, we should mention Campbell’s studies (Campbell 2017, 2020). During the nine years of her research, data were collected several times in connection with religious content creators. In addition to exploring the typology of role perception, Campbell was also interested in how individual role types and role perceptions are connected to a new kind of authority. “By focusing attention on these new types of religious workers and influencers who are armed with the latest digital tools, I seek to investigate the roles they play in informing how religious authority is conceived of and enacted within digital culture” (Campbell 2020, p. 4). Campbell’s methodology was the in-depth interview. She asked four questions: “Each interviewee was asked the same set of questions related to (a) describing their digital work; (b) ways they saw this work as extension of their religiosity/faith; (c) their relationship to specific religious institutions; and (d) that group’s views of their digital work” (Campbell 2017, p. 310; 2020, pp. 53–4). Between 2011 and 2019, she conducted 110 interviews with American digital religious creatives (RDCs), and later with another 120. Campbell’s analysis was methodologically based on the meaning-making of in-depth interviews, and we also used this in our own research (Campbell 2020, p. 54). Based on the interviews, Campbell divided religious digital creatives (RDCs) into three major groups:
Digital Entrepreneurs involving 50 people;
Digital Spokespersons involving 30 people;
Digital Strategists involving 40 people.
She also explored the subtypes within the main groups and associated a different form of authority with each according to their orientation. (See Table 1.)
During her research, Heidi Campbell also identified subtypes.
Digital Entrepreneurs: They are motivated to serve their church and their religious community with their technological knowledge. They feel it is their voluntary work to deal with this. They gain a reputation for doing so in their own communities. This includes three subtypes:
  • Techies for God: digital media innovators who create websites and software for their community;
  • Theoblogians: non-graduate theologian, hobby theologian;
  • Internet evangelists: creating digital content specifically for evangelistic purposes.
Digital Spokespersons: Primarily caregivers of institutional identity and communication professionals in official churches. They are employed by the church as senior communications consultants. They appear in the digital public sphere with their own “faces”. They create and moderate digital content. They mediate between the media and their own ecclesiastical, religious institution. This includes three subtypes:
  • Media and communication directors: More and more church institutions employ communication professionals. They are responsible for digital imaging, engage in a kind of digital PR activity, and prepare the church leaders digitally;
  • Webmasters, technology team: These individuals do not create content; rather, their work or goals are technological;
  • Online ambassadors: These are church leaders in high positions who are also intensively active in the digital world.
Digital Strategists: Both their institutional and technological embeddedness is very strong. They are well acquainted with digital culture and they formally belong to a church institution. Their primary task is not to produce digital media content, but the network has given them a new opportunity to expand their work. This includes three subtypes:
  • Media missionaries: the mission is no longer on an unknown continent, but on newer and newer areas of the digital sphere;
  • Blogging theologians: Professional theologians who use the network to transfer their theological knowledge;
  • Online pastors: pastors who do not just physically provide spiritual guidance to their parish, but also to the digital community.
Although our empirical research was inspired by Campbell’s Religious Digital Creatives (RDC) study, our Hungarian survey differs at some points (Campbell 2017). The differences from Campbell’s work were as follows:
Only respondents who were “active in digital work for over five years; have a recognizable online profile” were chosen by Campbell (Campbell 2017, p. 310).
Our empirical research was not limited to religious digital creatives, but religious creatives were involved who also create religious content for the printed press, radio, and television.
In her research, Campbell asks her interviewees a total of four questions: “(a) describing their digital work; (b) ways they saw this work as extension of their religiosity/faith; (c) their relationship to specific religious institutions; and (d) that group’s views of their digital work” (Campbell 2017, p. 310; 2020, pp. 53–4). In our research, semi-structured in-depth interviews with religious creatives were extended to include 15 issues (see Appendix A).
The respondents of the American scientist’s survey were “Christians from the USA or Western European countries” (Campbell 2017, p. 310). In 2019, this was supplemented with those from New Zealand and Turkey (Campbell 2020, p. 54). In this study, Hungarian religious creatives were involved, and the Hungarian peculiarities, reflecting that before 1990 in the Hungarian public sphere, the issue of religion could only be presented in a marginalized position, were taken into account.
Campbell defines Religious Digital Creatives as follows: “Religious digital creatives are understood as those with specialist skills who produce and manage born-digital resources and/or content. Digital creatives are producers of artistic or evocative media content or resources, often motivated by a personal passion or business agenda. … RDCs are those involved in digital content production and management with the aim of using their skills to serve a religiously motivated agenda or population. They create a variety of online resources and/or content for personal ministry sites and/or institutionally based outlets online in order to influence both personal and communal agendas influencing a wider religious community” (Campbell 2020, pp. 48–49). Since, in our own research, we also included subjects who create media content for offline interfaces, we relied on the broader concept of religious creatives. Religious creatives are understood as those with specialist skills who produce and manage both offline and born-digital resources and/or content. Religious creatives are producers of artistic or evocative media content or resources, often motivated by a personal passion or business agenda. RCs are those involved in offline and/or digital content production and management with the aim of using their skills to serve a religiously motivated agenda or population. They create a variety of offline and online resources and/or content for personal ministry sites and/or institutionally based outlets offline and/or online in order to influence both personal and communal agendas influencing a wider religious community.

4. Religious and Ecclesiastical Media in the Hungarian Electronic Media Ecosystem

In Hungary, 76.1 percent of the population declared themselves religious according to the data of the 2011 census (the new survey is currently being conducted, so the 2011 data are the most recent). In total, 37.1 percent of the population declared themselves Roman Catholic, 11.6 percent Reformed, 2.2 percent Lutheran, 1.8 percent Orthodox Catholic, 0.1 percent Israelite, and 1.7 percent other religions (Hungary Population census 2011).
This section examines the religious and ecclesiastical media in Hungary from the perspective of media economics and media law. First of all, however, the content of these two phenomena needs to be clarified. By ecclesiastical media, we mean institutions whose founder, owner, or maintainer (financier) is a church officially registered in Hungary. Organizationally, these media can be companies maintained and operated by companies with legal personality (private limited company) or organizations falling within the scope of the Church Act (Act CCVI of 2011) and operated by a certain church. We need to handle the religious label that is primarily used to rate separate content: while the ecclesiastical term denotes the institutional system, the religious term refers to the content of the program. The public service media, which is maintained by the state and is therefore not ecclesiastical in this sense, also creates religious content. On the contrary, the founder of ATV is the Church of the Faith, which primarily provides public service media content, not religious content.
Let us examine what the regulatory environment of electronic media looks like in Hungary. Every society is sensitive to different issues depending on its historical traditions, how strong and stable it is, and the nature of its social, cultural, ethnic, and religious norms. This sensitivity can often be experienced in media content as well. The current legal framework of the Hungarian audiovisual regulation was essentially established in 1996, with the enactment of the first media law, and in 2010, the legal framework on which the Hungarian electronic media still operates today was developed. In order to preserve the identity of religious communities through the media, the state itself is actively involved in the maintenance and operation of public service media programs, in which they provide content to religious communities.
The objectives of the public service media are generally to provide socially and culturally comprehensive programs aimed at as many social and culturally distinct groups and individuals as possible to meet the needs of minorities, religious communities, and other communities and to present their culture. The religious programs are produced by the public service media on the basis of the agreement of the Hungarian churches and religious communities, with their active participation. Both radio and television content are produced on the production infrastructure of the Media Services Support and Asset Management Fund (MTVA). In addition to the Media Act, the principles of the public service media are contained in the Public Service Code in much more detail. Compliance with the provisions of the Code and social oversight of public service media providers and the national news agency in general is the responsibility of the Civil Service Board. The Board has fourteen members, one of whom may be delegated by the Hungarian Catholic Church, the Hungarian Reformed Church, the Hungarian Lutheran Church, and the Association of Jewish Communities in Hungary. According to the Code, the public service media provider is obliged to display the activities of historical churches and religious communities operating and registered in Hungary and in the communities of foreign regions. It should strive for the authentic representation of religious issues in a form that makes them an integral part of the life of society. The programs of the public service media provider must be characterized by respect and patience for worldviews and religious beliefs. The use and recitation of religious symbols and values in programs must not be offensive. The public service media must ensure that the production and placement of religious programs are in accordance with the specific aspects and traditions of religious communities.
Independent ecclesiastical media’s right to exist, as well as the right of any citizen to be informed from the free press, is enshrined in Article IX of the Constitution: “Hungary recognizes and protects the freedom and diversity of the press, and ensures the conditions for free information necessary for the development of a democratic public opinion.” The Hungarian Media Act (Act CLXXXV 2010) distinguishes between three types of media service providers: commercial, community, and public service providers. All Hungarian religious-themed electronic media services operate in community provider status. Although there is nothing to prohibit commercial services, religious communities in Hungary do not make use of this possibility.
In terms of religious content in a new media ecosystem, an important question is whether the ecclesiastical media are adapting to the changed media environment and the new technology. The picture is mixed in this regard. It can be stated that there is no uniform strategy among actors on how service providers can adapt to new consumption patterns as efficiently as possible. Looking at religious content, we see that it appears in large numbers on new digital interfaces, but still with mostly “offline” logic. They try to reach users by digitizing content originally intended for the traditional, offline media space. However, there is little real content innovation to see: there are no new types of programs on either the radio or television. There is little modularity and no microtargeting, i.e., dividing the audience into smaller, more homogeneous groups and thus creating themed content, and so on.
In Hungary, only the public service media broadcast programs with national coverage: 6 h of television content per week and 3.5 h of radio content per week. Part of the religious content is a traditional magazine program, while the other part is a mass/worship live broadcast. TV content is available on the M1, M5, Duna, and Duna World channels, and radio content is available on Kossuth Radio.
In Hungary, there are six regional religious radio stations:
Hungarian Catholic Radio (Magyar Katolikus Rádió): Operated by the Hungarian Catholic Church, the radio station can be listened to on 24 terrestrial frequencies, on the Internet, on mobile phones, and in the form of a podcast, with a physical reach of approximately 4 million people and a daily audience of 207,000 people. Its program is a “classic” public service: literature, religion, culture, public life, music, etc. (24 h a day).
Mária Rádio: A private initiative, this station operates as a foundation, from donations, with a strong religious character (prayer, rosary, meditations). It can be listened to on 25 terrestrial frequencies in addition to the Internet and in the form of podcasts.
Szent István Rádio: The radio station of the Egri Diocese operates in a format similar to Catholic Radio, on nine terrestrial frequencies and on the Internet (24 h a day).
Credo Rádio: From Szombathely, this is a small community radio station reaching approximately 100,000 people, maintained by the Lutheran Church (24 h a day).
Sola Rádio: Budapest’s religious and cultural radio station, a private initiative with an ecumenical approach, wants to be a forum for interreligious dialogue according to its self-definition. It can be heard on URH and on the Internet, with a reach of ~1.5 million people (24 h a day).
Radio Europe (Európa Rádió): The radio station of the Reformed Church is mostly lighter, with a more entertaining focus compared to the Catholic stations. Its reach is approximately 500,000 people, five terrestrial frequencies and, of course, also on the Internet (24 h a day).
In Hungary, there are three regional religious television channels:
EWTN Television (formerly Bonum TV): Hungarian member of the Catholic world network EWTN, this channel operates on donations. It can be received on the most important cable networks and on the nationally covered Mindig TV (Antenna Hungária) network by subscription (24 h a day).
Apostol TV: Apostol TV is maintained by the “Szent Péter és Pál Apostol Media Center” Public Foundation. It is available on the networks of Telekom and Digi (18 h per day).
PAX TV: Available on a cable network, the channel mainly has a religious theme. Its programming consists of documentaries, reports, and educational series (24 h a day).
All historic churches have printed weekly newspapers and the Catholic Church also has two. We can find a total of five weekly newspapers and about 25 monthly magazines among the Hungarian press products.
The professional organization of journalists with a Christian spirit, the Association of Hungarian Catholic Journalists, has had approximately 1000 members since its inception, of which 500–600 are active, according to the organization’s president.

5. Research Design and Methodology

5.1. Empirical Research

The research was carried out in two phases between 2019 and 2021. In the first phase, in 2019–2020, we examined religious creatives who are content creators for traditional (print, radio, television) or online media. In the second phase, in 2020–2021, we examined filmmakers and film directors. This section contains the results of the first phase.
The research was carried out in the autumn of 2019 in Budapest (Hungary) with the involvement of Communication and Media Studies students from Pázmány Péter Catholic University. The students conducted semi-structured interviews consisting of 15 questions with editors, journalists, and public relations professionals. A total of 15 interviews were conducted.
The interviewees were selected in a similar way to those in Campbell’s research (Campbell 2020, p. 53). The religious creatives profiled in our study were identified using a snowball sampling strategy, based on the recommendations of scholars, religious leaders, and laypersons. Among the 15 interviewees in our sample, there were six women and nine men; two of the latter are ecclesiastics. According to their religious affiliation, there were nine Roman Catholics, three Reformed, one Lutheran, one Orthodox Catholic, and one Krishna Consciousness believer. By age, five interviewees were 20–30 years old (two men, three women), five interviewees were 30–40 years old (three men, two women), three interviewees were 40–50 years old (two men, one woman), and two interviewees were over 50 (two men). In terms of age and medium, we observed that the older generation—40–50-year-olds and those over 50—produce offline content for the printed press, radio, or television. People between the ages of 30 and 40 also carry out communication organization work in addition to offline content production. The youngest participants, between the ages of 20 and 30, only create religious content on digital platforms.
The research serves the following purposes through these interviews:
  • Creating a role typology. Explaining her own research, Campbell indicates the limitations of her typology and encourages researchers to supplement it (Campbell 2020, p. 54);
  • Identification of the defining features of each role type;
  • Defining the relationship between each type of role and the concepts for the target audience, because different categories of RCs do different types of work and serve different audiences (Campbell 2020, p. 54);
  • General findings on how the roles work.
The aim of the research is to explore and identify the role types and not to quantify them.
In the analysis of the interviews, we followed the procedure of Mellado and Campbell (Mellado et al. 2012; Mellado 2015; Campbell 2020, p. 54). Identifying the categories of RCs was key in guiding the type of informants interviewed in our study, as well as in considering how these roles might help interpret their responses related to their motivation for using media technology for religious purposes. When examining the role of a particular journalistic culture, we focus on the discursive structure of values, behaviors, and attitudes. The biographical reflections of the religious content creators and the choice of workplace (editorial, media) show that they are committed to their church. This is reflected in their media presence and activities. They consider it their task to convey faith, not just to broadcast events or to promote their institution. Thus, in our study, we further nuanced the above variables and supplemented our analysis with the following codes:
  • Credibility—unique topics that do not fall into the sensationalist routine;
  • Criteria of news value—representation of the truth, commitment to the cause;
  • Displayed moral norms, references;
  • The appeal of the news source;
  • Self-expression as a journalistic value—showing own faith, quality of life;
  • Target audience.

5.2. Methodology

The past decades have been characterized by the strengthening of qualitative research within communication science as well. There is increased interest in the role of communication in social and cultural processes, which quantitative analyses can only partially display, so qualitative approaches are increasingly replacing the previously defining quantitative studies, which is why it is common to speak of a qualitative turn. At the forefront of qualitative research is the reconstruction of “how people construct meanings, how they interpret their world and their experiences” (Merriam 2009, p. 13; Jensen and Jankowski 1991). Taking into account the fact that the present research is not a representative study and that it is forced to make conclusions based on a small number of cases, it nevertheless admits that, with its help, it was possible to outline the roles of the religious content production profession in Hungary in a well-illustrated way, and the created typology forms separate units suitable for analysis.
During our analysis, we used Mellado’s insights on role orientation and role performance as well as Campbell’s analysis models on role performance (Mellado 2015, pp. 601–2; Campbell 2020, pp. 58–60). Within role orientation, we explored the practice of meaning-making in terms of normative and cognitive role factors and for role performance, practice, and narration.

5.3. Role Orientations

Normative role factors include the generalized expectations that, according to journalists, society desires (Donsbach 2012). This includes answers to questions that journalists have about what the target audience expects of them and how to meet these ideals. We can talk about normative expectations that control and/or limit their social behavior, prescribing what to think and do in a given context, emphasizing how journalists contribute to the functioning of certain segments of society. Norms are context-sensitive in this respect (desirable in one media system, not in another), yet suitable for capturing the basic concepts of the journalistic profession. Topics such as the nature and extent of entertainment, the question of objectivity, the speed of news gathering, the acceptability of political expression, and the desirability of social activity come up here.
Cognitive role factors include the institutional values, attitudes, and beliefs that journalists acquire during their professional socialization. They determine what is relevant behavior and practice in certain situations. Most of these views seem self-evident and natural to those in a particular journalistic culture, and will be latent drivers of individual aspirations and ambitions. If we want to capture these empirically, then the formulations of professional goals are included here, for example, knowledge that is embodied in specific expectations and patterns of action.
The second major dimension in Mellado contains categories describing the situational behavior of journalists, which can be observed in the interviews as a journalistic practice (Mellado 2015). This did not appear prominently in previous studies, which focused more on normative and cognitive role typologies.
As qualitative research came to the fore, self-reflection by interviewees soon revealed that they were indispensable for drawing the whole picture. If we want to understand the question of role realization, the actual practice and the reflection on it must be present together in the research. These were previously classified as operational approaches. Mellado transforms this into a separate dimension and considers it researchable using a deep interview method (Mellado 2015).

5.4. Role Performance

If we look at the practice, we need to look at what a journalist is actually doing in the course of his or her work. This includes activities and daily routines. We are looking for answers to questions such as what tasks they take on, what situations they enter into, how they are shaped as active actors, and what the situations are in which they cannot implement their plans. What external (political pressure, editorial expectations, hierarchy) and internal obstacles become barriers for them and how do they try to eliminate them? The practice itself can be interpreted as an actualization of cognitive role perception, how “knowing what” is inseparable from “knowing how”.
The narrated role factor’s starting point is to distinguish what journalists do from what they think they actually do. This is perhaps the most subjective category of the proposed study. Its central question is: what does the journalist think about the roles he or she plays in practice? The self-reflection that appears during the interviews helps us to grasp the relations and attitudes. With the help of this factor, we can explore how the normative expectations are interpreted. The narrated perception of the role of journalists involves judging their own performance by themselves and their (perceived) target audience.
When examining the role of a particular journalistic culture, we focus on the discursive structure of values, behaviors, and attitudes. These are constructs that can be analyzed on a communication basis.

6. Results and Findings

Analyzing the completed interviews, specific role types emerged along these variables, which are presented below. During our analysis, wherever possible, we adopted Campbell’s categories and typology and followed this consistently. Based on the analysis, we were able to identify five different role types:
  • Soldier—SERVICE attitude;
  • Scout—ANALYST attitude;
  • Interpreter—FACILITATOR, MEDIATOR attitude;
  • Missionaire—REPRESENTATION attitude;
  • Teacher—TRANSFER attitude.
The roles are now described in brief using a short description of the defining attitude associated with the role. In the analyses, we present some typical answers in detail in the given category.

6.1. Soldier

What manifests in this role is characterized by a commitment to an idea. He/she sees his or her work as a task and a mission. It is characterized by a well-defined goal and a sense of purpose. Strong and persistent, he/she represents the cause despite the difficulties. His/her actions are determined by deep-seated routines and reflexes that stem from the need to protect what he/she believes in and defeat the enemy at all costs. The defining attitude of a soldier is service.
We classified three interviewees into the Soldier type. All three are men, Catholics, one of them is aged between 30 and 40 years old, and the other two are between 40 and 50 years old. (D.F.: man, 40–50 age, Roman Catholic; K.I.: man, 40–50 age, Roman Catholic; V.Á.: man, 30–40 age, Roman Catholic).
Connection to the media
The first interviewee (D.F.) started working in the media at the Nunciature. He kept in touch with the Vatican and Hungarian news agencies, as well as with the editorial offices of the Hungarian Catholic newspapers. At the Nunciature, “I had to gather the Hungarian news, which we call political reports, on a daily basis”. Press monitoring is a daily occupation for him, taking approximately one and a half hours. He receives press content from the Vatican information center and obtains world church news through the Sismaografo and Achi News sites. The send interviewee (K.I.) edits a Catholic online interface as a priest, and the third interviewee (V.Á.) is a radio editor.
The interviewee talks about his own work like this:
“If I look at the Salesian Society publishing Don Bosco, I was rather in an internal news agency, but at the same time I strengthened the internal system, with programs, material with spiritual content, and news. At the Nunciature, the focus was not so much on the address, the goal was more on communication, it was a summary of the history of the given event, which, whether it was a spiritual, official, or ecclesiastical or state office, my goal was to show the role of the church in society. My strength, I think, is that I reported on the event quickly, precisely and accurately.” (D.F.)
“It’s good to build something.” (K.I.)
Target audience
The target audience of Hungarian church-themed newspapers is middle-aged, church-educated, rural, church-going people, and the interviewee believes that they do not convey content that touches young people. For an interface that transmits authentic religious media content, it is a medium that engages its readers in community life with the help of shared religious content, creates opportunities for personal faith development, and has a youthful editorial staff. According to him, for young people, the feeling of permanence, of being “always the same”, is less attractive, even though the church content shows this permanence. Receivers are constantly looking for what is new in the news.
“However, in a church news, you have to look at the permanence and find the details in it, and I think there is always something new in the permanence, things do not always happen in the same way. This will be authentic if those who were present can pass on the fact that it is good.” (D.F.)
Personality should be striven for, so that the religious content can touch the readers. Text production is thus quite a complex task, because in addition to personality, religious, professional, and ecclesiastical criteria must also be met. This requires professional media workers. The presence of young people is decisive on the social media interface, the consumption of the content is limited to two-minute short gospel sections and meditation, and these short, engaging contents are missing from the practice of the Hungarian Catholic Church.
According to the interviewee, religious media content must always have an “evangelistic” purpose, and this is true for all of them, be it any genre, news about any event, or local or world church news.
“There is always something to show the richness and changes of the event, since we are not all the same and different events may happen in each diocese or religious order, which are always connected to religion and always important, and qualify the church or religious order or diocese.” (D.F.)
“There is already non-religious content. There is cultural content that is not closely related to religious issues. There is public content. It really has to be relevant.” (V.Á.)
Role orientation and role performance
As the last unit of analysis, we looked at the findings of the interview regarding the professional role orientation and role performance established by Mellado (Mellado et al. 2012; Mellado 2015).
Role orientation is aimed at the expectations of the religious content producer:
  • Normative (what should be done?)
On media surfaces, evangelization, purposefulness, and speed, the transmission of the church’s approach play a prominent role for him. (D.F.)
  • Cognitive (how to do it?)
Content that “automatically triggers thinking and reflection on a topic” must be produced. He emphasizes regularity in the production of information, “the right news must be published exactly in accordance with the requirements of the given newspaper”. (K.I.)
Role performance:
  • Practice (what do you actually do in practice?)
He had to “gather the information” on a daily basis. He sees his work as a task (“I’m still involved in one or two tasks”) to “provide news quickly, precisely and accurately” (D.F.) He had to provide information on a regular basis (K.I.).
  • Narrated (how does he talk about what he thinks about what he does?)
He uses the word “obligation” to describe his daily duties, emphasizing that “I strengthened the internal system” (D.F.). “We delivered news quickly and accurately” (V.Á.).

6.2. Scout

The scout assumes that it is not necessary to attack or defend, but to understand the situation. The scout maps the area, identifying potential obstacles to see if there is a bridge at all that crosses the river at the right location. He/she researches what opportunities are available to cope with the situation. The person in this role wants to know, as accurately as possible, what he or she really is. He or she considers it his/her job to follow up the facts, to observe, and to gather the most information. The attitude is analyst.
We classified three interviewees into the scout type. Two of them are women and one of them is a man. Two are Catholics and one is a Krishna Consciousness believer. One is aged between 20 and 30, one is between 40 and 50, and one is 50+ years old. (Sz.J.: man, 50+ years old, Roman Catholic; Sz.K.: woman, 40–50 years old, Roman Catholic; F.K.: woman, 20–30 years old, Krishna Consciousness believer.)
Connection to the media
For the first interviewee (Sz.J.), a Catholic upbringing and church school defined his past. He started working as an engineer. After the transition, in 1989, there was a greater opportunity for church service. At that time, the Catholic newspaper Igen was founded, where he began his work as a journalist; however, after only four years of publication, he was transferred to Új Ember, which was Hungary’s leading Catholic newspaper at the time. He was forty years old when he became a “professional journalist”. His broad interests and the consumption of a wide variety of media products define his days. He likes to read short stories and watch movies, because they are also “artistic interpretations of reality”, but today’s world of social influencers is strange to him. “Mostly I trust myself, I read a lot of things, and then I form an opinion, but of course I am also a daily news consumer”. He is currently a staff member and editorial reporter for Hungarian Catholic Radio. In addition to him, we included the editor-in-chief of a print newspaper (Sz.K.) and the communication specialist of a religious community (F.K.).
Target audience
The interviewee gave a specific answer to this question: the religious content producer does not have to tailor what he has to say to the target audience and adjust to the expectations, but the content he deems important and authentic can reach people who then become regular consumers.
“Fundamentally, I am a supporter of the fact that we are guided by our own convictions in the production of the program’s content, and those who find it attractive will find it. Not many people share this consideration.” (Sz.J.)
He considers the target audience of his current workplace, Hungarian Catholic Radio, to be middle-aged, older, highly educated people belonging to a middle-class lifestyle.
As an editor, his primary goal is not to pay off the target audience, nor to increase the number of listeners (just statistics), but to make sure that what he has to say is important to those who listen: “The goal is not to listen, but to be heard and based on that, they have something to say. So they would say a kind of wake-up call, or I think it’s a stimulus to think, man, use your heart, (in this case the various programs are just) translations of the Gospel.” (Sz.K.)
They see the responsibility of those working in the media, and this appears as a priority aspect for them in content production.
“But what we thematize, what matters from the point of view of my life, what kind of message matters from the point of view of other people’s lives, it doesn’t matter anymore. It is also possible to falsify and cheat by talking about something completely different from what would be important from the point of view of the life of the audience, the news consumer.” (Sz.J.)
They consider the benefit of their own content production to be, on the one hand, communal, which serves others, and, on the other hand, personal, as a form of expression of their religious convictions. This is how individual and community faith meet, and through the sharing of experiences they form a community and can join church life. The provision of information, entertainment, and religious persuasion are only secondary aspects in comparison.
“I just got a compliment today. They feel from my work that I speak of an experienced, internally worked or reworked conviction. I believe what I say.” (Sz.J.)
“I want to create a medium that is colorful and well-structured in terms of content and that is permanent on the Hungarian media market. In which you can say what I consider important and what interests me”. (Sz.K.)
Role orientation and role performance
As the last unit of analysis, we look at the findings of the interview regarding the professional role orientations and role performance established by Mellado (Mellado et al. 2012; Mellado 2015).
Role orientation is aimed at the expectations of the religious content producer:
  • Normative (what should be done?)
“We are guided by our own convictions in the production of program, and those who find it attractive will find it.” (Sz.J.)
  • Cognitive (how to do it?)
“Let’s choose our news in the hope that it will benefit whoever listens or reads it.” The producer of media content “must be competitive with other media.” (Sz.K.)
Role performance:
  • Practice (what do you actually do in practice?)
“I try to put the world together in myself from many different sources.” (Sz.K.)
“What I would say as a dilemma is that it is difficult to find the questioning voice. If we think that something is so dubious, that it’s not quite right, then we don’t really find a way to ask about it without causing offense or incurring the wrath of the hierarchy.” (Sz.J.)
“I gather information so that I can compile the content.” (F.K.)
  • Narrated (how does he talk about what he thinks about what he does?)
“Individual intuition plays a big role” in selecting news. He considers content creation to be his strength, “but I think I’m also good at strategy development.” (Sz.J.)
“I personally say that if I can believe that I have something to do by coming to Earth, then I can achieve it here to a large extent ... This work is something in which I feel that I can fulfill my human duty, my mission, which is tailored to me.” (Sz.J.)

6.3. Interpreter

For him/her, the most important thing is for both parties to feel that they speak the same language. They mediate between the laity and the church, or between believers and non-believers. Many times, they stay in the background, merely managing the threads. Most of the time, he/she organizes or mediates. This role is characterized by a short reaction time and creativity. The main attitude is mediator/facilitator.
We classified four interviewees into the interpreter type. Two of them are women and two of them are men. Two are Catholics, one is Orthodox Catholic, and one is Lutheran. One is aged between 20 and 30, two are aged between 30 and 40, and one is 40–50 years old. (V.N.: man, 30–40 years old, Roman Catholic; Sz.Sz.: man, 40–50 years old, Roman Catholic; Sz.A.: woman, 20–30 years old, Lutheran; H.V.E.: woman, 30–40 years old, Orthodox Catholic).
Connection to the media
Two men work as press and communications officers for the Jesuit-initiated House of Dialogue. Personal motivation and sympathy with Jesuit spirituality led them to this position. Their task is to promote the programs taking place in the House and to deliver them to as many media organizations as possible. (V.N., Sz.Sz.) One female interviewee is the communication manager of the Hungarian Orthodox Catholic Church (H.V.E.), and the younger woman is a volunteer religious blogger (Sz.A.).
Target audience
The development of the program offering is already shaping the community. V.N. and Sz.Sz. are happy to report that the target audience is not only the older age group—the site’s statistics show that it managed to reach and appeal to the younger age group between 20 and 30 years old.
“We have returning guests who, if not night after night, but say, we see them here once a week. What convinces me that there is a kind of spirituality, a kind of opportunity for immersion through the programs we organize for our guests.” (V.N.)
The interviewee says that the target audience must be clearly understood and a distinction must be made according to which channel we send what message to. This does not only mean sending one-way messages to a specific audience, but also cooperative work with other members of the media.
“We have to approach our colleagues in such a way that, if we want materials to be made about us, we capture the part of the story that is exciting for them.” (Sz.Sz.)
In terms of the target community, social media is a challenge, because here the battle is to capture attention, which is often no more than a minute of time or two or three sentences. Attracting and retaining attention from content producers requires professionalism beyond dedication (V.N.).
In addition to the website, they publish most of their content on social media.
With the invitations sent out to the events, they reach 5000 people. With this, they are able to reach a target audience that can be mobilized. This is confirmed for subscribers in the weekly newsletter. These are the three channels they use to promote their events (Sz.Sz., V.N.).
Role orientation and role performance
  • Normative (what should be done?)
“…my superiors and I found a common voice very quickly and agreed that instead of authority, a kind of personality is what we want to convey.” (V.N.)
  • Cognitive (how to do it?)
“...a collaboration. I am working on making this even tighter … its stated purpose of the House is to function as a kind of oasis and to be found here again, so that faith or conviction can be strengthened in this way.” (V.N.)
Role performance:
  • Practice (what do you actually do in practice?)
”…if I manage to get journalists to cover it, that means they find it interesting and exciting too. I think it has a negative site too, when the message doesn’t get through.” (V.N.)
  • Narrated (how does he talk about what he thinks about what he does?)
“Since I have been working here, I have managed to achieve and experience that not only the ecclesiastical press is more and more interested in the events taking place here, but we can also break the stimulus threshold of the so-called mainstream media.” (H.V.E.)
“I think this religious value mediator is a good wording, since I participate or take part in the preparation of such programs that talk about the discussion or presentation of religious values. So, this wording is very accurate. Of course, in order for this to happen, one has to be a bit of a journalist at the same time, and also have a bit of technical knowledge.” (Sz.Sz.)

6.4. Missionaire

The main goal of the missionaire is to represent the norms and values of his/her religious beliefs in a way that makes them evident to others. His/her attitude is representation.
We classified four interviewees into the missionaire type. One of them is a woman and three of them are men. Two are Catholics and two are Reformed Church believers. Three are aged between 20 and 30 and one is between 30 and 40 years old. (Sz.P.: man, 20–30 years old, Reformed Church; F.Gy.: man, 20–30 years old, Reformed Church; B.L.L.: woman, 20–30 years old, Roman Catholic; F.P.: man, 30–40 years old, Roman Catholic).
Connection to the media
Two of the interviewees are full-time employees of the Communication Service of the Hungarian Reformed Church. The news portal and the institution’s website, Reformátusok Lapja, belong to them, although the latter operates with a separate editorship. In addition to coordinating the church’s radio and television content, community organization, and writing articles, their work in the team (team of 3–4 people) is the Public Relations work of the Church. The production of content and the creation of campaigns can be considered a priority area of responsibility on social media platforms (Sz.P., F.Gy.). The young woman is a volunteer religious blogger (B.L.L.) and one man is a freelance cameraman (F.P.).
Target audience
Since this is a service, communication is geared towards several target groups. The Reformed Newspaper includes an older, religiously committed readership. The site is created for people aged 30+, mainly affecting the urban stratum. They only have probable data with no specific numbers. The age group targeted by the church is those aged 6–86 years old (F.Gy.) The youth programs aim to appeal to young people and bring them into community life (B.L.L.).
In terms of content production, it was emphasized that information serving religious development and strengthening religious convictions should be conveyed. The interviewee considers strategic development and the appearance on new media platforms important. His remit is the technological renewal of the entire portal system. At the same time, he emphasizes that any activity can only be carried out authentically (Sz.P.).
Role orientation and role performance
Role orientation:
  • Normative (what should be done?)
“The absolute goal is evangelization, spreading the good news, helping to convert.” (Sz.P.)
  • Cognitive (how to do it?)
“When I write, I always want to convey somewhere that being a Christian is a good, blessed thing. It is not dusty, not to be thrown away, not a remnant of a bygone era, but a miracle to be desired, still carrying a lot of value today.” (Sz.P.)
Role performance:
  • Practice (what do you actually do in practice?)
“I think of myself as someone who stands up for what is right.” (Sz.P.)
“If religious content is not authentic, it is because either the producer or the church behind it does not live and work according to what is discussed in the article.” (F.Gy.)
  • Narrated (how does he talk about what he thinks about what he does?)
“When I came here to work, after a long time I felt that I was in my place, that it is good to be here, that we are doing positive and useful things. The work we do has positive effects. It serves a purpose that I believe in. The people who surround me understand what’s going on inside me.” (Sz.P.)
“I see my role as being honest and authentic. Basically, this is an evangelistic service, at a high professional level.” (B.L.L.)
“I see my role in being honest and credible.” (F.P.)

6.5. Teacher

He/she is aware of the tools of his/her craft and is characterized by a high level of professional knowledge and education. The person in the role of teacher often emphasizes his or her life experience. He/she aims to raise awareness. They know their words have an effect on others. They do their job responsibly and are well prepared. They give others the opportunity to unfold, with the motto: “Be who you are! I will help you with that!”. His/her attitude is transfer.
We classified one interviewee into the teacher type. He is a Catholic and 78 years old (K.I.).
Connection to the media
The interviewee graduated with a degree in Hungarian Language and Literature, was a librarian, and later achieved a degree in sociology. He dealt with reading research and the sociology of culture. In the 1980s, he became an external employee of the Hungarian Public Radio’s education department, and since then he has been working externally as a presenter. He hosts half-hour talk shows, and among his speakers are prominent figures of Hungarian culture.
“There are 30–40 volunteers of all kinds who do this out of enthusiasm. Anyone who gives something to the radio, with an idea or a program, is also accepted, so there are no editorial offices or columns where responsible editors dominate, or filter, manage, say, a public affairs, religious, or cultural column.” (K.I.)
K.I.’s media consumption, despite his old age, is not made up of print newspapers, but online media platforms, television news, and posts from 170 Facebook friends.
“This is the best review for me, because what they read and what they draw attention to presents their different thoughts and views.” (K.I.)
Target audience
He not only produces programs for adults, but also conducts discussions for the radio station’s youth department and children’s radio, as these programs serve as “educational reference books”.
He has no information about the listenership of his talk shows, 90% of which he considers expertise. His understanding of reaching the target audience and addressing them can also be called a specific feature of this role.
Despite this, he believes that the target audience cannot be won over to religious content with a direct mission. Dialog is the new way to talk about religious content, meaning involving the audience and sharing knowledge.
In terms of content, the spectrum is wide, he says, because according to him, any topic can be considered religious if the approach itself looks at it through the eyes of a religious person. In this way, it is possible to have a Christian conversation in extremely diverse areas, be they relationships or social or cultural phenomena. In his programs, he consciously represents this thematic diversity, while aiming to show the Christian way of thinking.
“The religious theme is not the same as the pious side, it is not a sermon, but some kind of religious reflection. So, my motivation is that of a Christian intellectual who has a specific missionary task. This does not mean a mission in the sense of conversion, but somehow a reflection from a Christian point of view should appear in the offer.” (K.I.)
From a content point of view, the most important thing for him is that the programs he produces serve personal development and strengthen religious convictions and belonging to the community, while also providing the receiver with religious information.
Role orientation and role performance
As the last unit of analysis, we look at the findings of the interview regarding the professional role orientation and role performance established by Mellado (Mellado et al. 2012; Mellado 2015; Hellmueller and Mellado 2015).
Role orientation is aimed at the expectations of the religious content producer:
  • Normative (what should be done?)
“A Christian intellectual has a specific missionary task.” (K.I.)
  • Cognitive (how to do it?)
“Somehow, a reflection from a Christian point of view should appear in our offer.” (K.I.)
Role performance:
  • Practice (what do you actually do in practice?)
“I take care of religious topics ... because there is always a religious reflection in it. The religious aspect is in my questions.” “Like a good teacher prepares for class, I prepare for these conversations.” (K.I.)
  • Narrated (how does he talk about what he thinks about what he does?)
“I see myself as a mediator of religious values. I also inform and evangelize.” “I still try to give the best of my knowledge.” (K.I.)

6.6. Target Group

Our study also aimed to show the correspondence between the role of the target group and the role played by the media workers. We hypothesized that role identification is strongly influenced by what kind of target audience the respondents create or believe to create media content for. In the following table, we looked at the target groups that our interviewees assign to the roles defined earlier in our typology, and how they adapt their activities to their content users, and what image they have in terms of the target group. The table shows the relationship between the role of journalist, age, institution, and responsibilities. (See Table 2 and Table 3)
The following table shows the relationship between the role of journalist, key concepts, and the target audience.
After creating a role typology based on the interviews, we were able to draw some conclusions. It has been proven that the individual roles can be grasped well and separated from each other. They are characterized by a specific language code, which we have tried to illustrate with the help of specific quotations.
Although the number of interviews analyzed is not large, we found that there is no mixed type. The producer of media content appears in a given role, identifies himself/herself with its conceptual set of tools, and talks about their own activity, work, and profession.
A correlation can be observed between the given role choice and the position held.
The role of the soldier dominates in those who choose the church profession; we explain all of this by the existence of highly hierarchical church communication.
At the same time, the roles of the interpreter and the missionaire are growing among lay religious content creators as a new norm and benchmark in the communication of religious content.
A possible field of targeting audiences that are more receptive to less direct ways of conveying faith messages is to initiate dialog, for which the role of interpreter seems to be the safest path.
The teaching role, although demonstrable, can be linked to the production of older media content creators.
In our research, we found fewer types compared to Campbell, and even less technological knowledge appeared as a source of authority. We believe there are historical and cultural reasons for this. However, it will be worth repeating the research, because the role types now presented show pre-coronavirus role perceptions that have changed much during the pandemic, precisely because the church and religious communities were able to meet in the digital space due to the closures.

7. Conclusions

The study presents the research we conducted among Hungarian religious content creators between 2019 and 2020. The purpose of the study was to develop a well-founded role typology based on the defining features and modes of operation of different role types. In the first part of the study, we presented the scientific embeddedness and sources of our research. Our first source focuses on exploring the relationship between religious media and the public sphere in Hungary. Our second major source was research on journalistic role perceptions (Mellado 2015; Campbell 2020). The research was carried out in the autumn of 2019 in Budapest (Hungary) using a semi-structured interview composed of 15 questions. Based on the analysis, we were able to identify five different role types: soldier, scout, interpreter, missionaire, and teacher. We were able to discover the connection between the role of journalist, age, institution, and responsibilities and the relationship between the role of journalist, key concepts, and the target audience. Of course, our research also has its limitations, which are as follows: the research was carried out with a small number of items, it was not preceded by pilot research, and the data collection took place before the pandemic. It is true that many of the role types introduced by Campbell exist in Hungary as well, but unfortunately, some of these were not included in our sample in 2019 such as media and communication directors, online ambassadors, and online pastors.

Author Contributions

Conceptualization, M.A., D.S. and A.R.; methodology, D.S.; investigation, M.A., D.S. and A.R.; writing—original draft preparation, M.A.; writing—review and editing, M.A., D.S. and A.R.; visualization, M.A. funding acquisition, M.A. All authors have read and agreed to the published version of the manuscript.


This research was funded by Pázmány Péter Katolikus Egyetem “Role perceptions of religious creatives” project, grant number PPKE–BTK–KUT20.

Institutional Review Board Statement

The study did not require ethical approval.

Informed Consent Statement

Informed consent was obtained from all subjects involved in the study.

Data Availability Statement

No new data were created.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflict of interest.

Appendix A. Set of Questions Used in the Research

  • Please briefly describe if the creation and sharing (broadcasting) of religious media contents is your primary full-time job or only a part of it or not part of your job and you do it as a volunteer!
  • How long have you been dealing with it, on what media platforms have you done or are you doing it now?
  • Why did you start creating religious media contents? What do you think motivated you in it?
  • How much time do you spend with it daily, weekly?
  • Media uses and attitudes about yourself—From what media platforms do you consume contents, how frequently and with what thematic preferences?
  • How do you conceptualize your readers, viewers, listeners and users consuming your contents (age, gender, location, education, content preferences)?
  • Please describe the media platform where your contents are published, broadcast and/or shared!
  • Who is the owner of this media?
  • If there is an editorial board, how hierarchical it is, what are the decision-making mechanisms like (ruled by formal or informal regulations).
  • How many people work there?
  • What is the average age of the team?
Why do you think your created contents are useful, funny, enjoyable for the receivers? Please scale the answers below from 1 to 5 where 1 is not typical and 5 is very typical!
  • The receiver can get religious information. Rate:
  • The receiver can get religious entertainment. Rate:
  • The receiver can donate. Rate:
  • The receiver can become involved in the religious community. Rate:
  • The receiver can deepen his/her religious beliefs. Rate:
  • The receiver can provide others (emotional guidance, support) with contents shared on his/her own SNSs. Rate:
  • The contents can serve personal religious development among religious users. Rate:
What do you think about your role in the process of media content creation? What is your strength—are you professional at technology, textual and visual content creation, are you a strategic thinker? Do you see yourself as a journalist or doing missionary work, serving, informing or entertaining others, giving support or providing experience for the receivers?
What do you think about the religious contents you produce in terms of authenticity and authority? Why do you think receivers see or do not see religious contents authentic in general.
Please scale the answers below from 1 to 5 where 1 is not typical and 5 is very typical!
The created contents must correspond to
professional criteria—Rate:
religious criteria—Rate:
personal expectations—Rate:
aesthetic criteria—Rate:
During the creation of religious content what do you consider to be a message and what do you think about the transmission of these messages? How do you think religious communities and their media contents are subordinated to missionary (evangelical) goals or are they at all? For example, can direct or indirect thematization of their faith be identified?
What positive features or negative criticisms of your media work can you mention?
Do the media contents you create aim to shape or form the audience?
When you produce media contents, do you differentiate according to who you address and what media platform is used. What types of media contents match the different audiences and what media platforms are preferred by these audiences?

Appendix B. Examples

Soldier—× I had to collect it on a daily basis, × I’m still in a task or two × It was my duty × propagate × I strengthened the internal system × We delivered news quickly and accurately × Every article has an evangelistic purpose × Provide information on a regular basis × exactly according to the requirements of the given newspaper × shapes and trains people when we read an article × automatically starts thinking and reflecting on the topic.
Missionaire—× When I write, I always want to convey somewhere that being a Christian is a good, blessed thing. It is not dusty, not to be discarded, it is not a remnant of a bygone age, but a miracle to be desired, which still holds a lot of value. In this sense, the absolute goal is evangelization, spreading the good news, helping to convert × when I came over here to work, after a long time I felt that I was in my place, that it was good to be here, we were doing positive and useful things. The work we do has positive effects. It serves a purpose that I believe in. The people around me understand what’s going on inside me. × I see my role in being honest and credible. × I think of myself as standing up for the right one.
Scout—× Choose our news in the hope that it will benefit those who listen to or read it. So, what I trust was his question, mostly trying to put the world together within myself and from a variety of sources. × to the extent that our conjectures and investigations extend, we think based on them × Individual intuition has many roles × content creation, but I think I am also good at strategy development. × the media content producer must also be competitive with other media × Our own beliefs guide the production of program content.
Interpreter—× My task is to promote the ongoing programs and get them to as many organs as possible × … is a cooperation. I am working to make this even tighter × I found a common voice with my superiors very soon and we agreed that instead of authority, a kind of personality is what we want to convey × I manage to get journalists to deal with this, which means they find it interesting and exciting too. I think the same negative is that when there is one thing when the message doesn’t go through. We have the opportunity to try to get the message out to someone with more force.
Teacher—× I take care of religious topics ... because there is always a religious reflection in it × the religious aspect is my questions × somehow show a reflection from a Christian perspective on the offer × I loved them, I felt like myself, I also learned from them × As a good teacher for classes, I am preparing for these conversations × I talk about a particular topic in 5 minutes, I still try to look it up. I’m starting to gather information on the net from a trusted source for me × I still try to give the best of my knowledge. I don’t weigh views into the recipients, I don’t want to convince them of the truth. I want to involve the recipient in the dialogues I have with my interlocutors.


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Table 1. Campbell’s overview of RDCs Approaches to Authority (source: Campbell 2020, p. 167).
Table 1. Campbell’s overview of RDCs Approaches to Authority (source: Campbell 2020, p. 167).
Media-Making NarrativeTraditional View of Authority (Institutional/Offline Orientation)Enacting Algorithmic Authority (Technological/Online Orientation)
Digital entrepreneursVisionary technology influencersAuthority as power—FoucaultSocial Media Influencer
Digital spokespersonsIdentity curatorsAuthority as roles—WeberThought leader
Digital strategistsMissional media negotiatorsAuthority as relational—LincolnDigital leader
Table 2. Relationship between the role of journalist, age, institution, and responsibilities.
Table 2. Relationship between the role of journalist, age, institution, and responsibilities.
Journalistic RoleAge InstitutionTask
Soldier40–50Esztergom–Budapest Diocese nuncio secretary, priest, Salesian orderThe priest is an instrument of God
Missionaire20–30New media content creator, editor
(777 blog,
Be honest and authentic
Interpreter30–40Press officerTo help to encourage communication
Scout40–50Editor, reporter (traditional mass media)Thematize what message matters to the lives of others
Teacher78Editor, social scientistCultivate religious topics
Table 3. Relationship between the role of journalist, key concepts, and the target audience.
Table 3. Relationship between the role of journalist, key concepts, and the target audience.
Journalistic RoleKey Concepts (to Describe Their Activity) Target Audience
SoldierTask, obligation, confirmation, information, relevant news, accuracy, timeliness, shape, launchTo be evangelized
MissionairePersonal motivation, credibility, standing up for the truth, mediation, utterance, touching with thought, doing useful thingsTo have a positive effect, to connect with the life situation of the target audience
InterpreterOperation, content filling, channel, organizational communication support, opening to the world, value transmission, delivery, confirmation, reporting, promotion, brainstormingInvolve and address as many people as possible belonging to the church, gentle evangelism
ScoutSelection, various sources, intuition, consultation, discussion, stimulation, wake-up, questioningTo benefit the news consumer, to speak with conviction, you will find the one to whom it is attractive. The goal is not to listen, but to be listened to
TeacherChristian reflection, preparation, expert, review, reliable source, best knowledgeNot to weigh the views of the recipients or to convince them of the truth, but to involve them
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