ORM: from l’Observatoire du récit médiatique to a Research Observatory on Media and Journalism

Created in September 1991 by Professors Gabriel Ringlet and Marc Lits, ORM (short for Observatoire du Récit Médiatique) was conceived as a research laboratory focused on the analysis of news media, in close connection with the School of Journalism (EjL) which had a teaching and training mission.

The initial team was also composed of Frédéric Antoine, Benoît Grevisse, Gérad Derèze, Jean-Claude Guyot and Philippe Marion.
Officially recognised as a research centre by the Catholic University of Louvain in April 1993, ORM has developed its research around three axes:

  • socio-economy of media, which studies the organisational and production logic of press groups and their products
  • media narratology, which applies the models of narrative analysis to the narratives present in the media, in line with the work of Paul Ricœur;
  • media ethno-sociology, which deals with the reception and consumption of media by the public.

Across these three axes, the deontological and ethical aspects of the journalistic profession were also taken into account. As well as an attention to media productions that are not directly related to information.

The first hypothesis of the ORM was that media stories, whether they are about major international news events or about micro-events from everyday life, weave our imaginary universe. Much more than simple stories, they are essential reference points, means of structuring the modern imagination. ORM devoted itself to the observation and analysis of this media system, in the press as well as in the audiovisual sector (the web was still in its infancy when ORM was launched and social networks did not exist!).

From the outset, its research consisted of three complementary components: the constitution of a rigorous and specific methodological framework for analysing press stories; the application of this methodology to the study of major contemporary media stories; and the dissemination of these analyses to the scientific community but also to a wider public, to all media consumers.

This logic has always been carried out in a collective manner, through publications and numerous colloquia (always bringing together university researchers, media professionals and the public sensitive to media issues).

ORM published 15 issues of La lettre de l’ORM between June 1994 and November 1998, which was transformed into Médiatiques in 1999, starting with issue 16. The magazine existed in paper format until issue 45 and was then distributed online until issue 50. A dozen special issues also complete this production.

ORM has also published several collective books, published by Vie Ouvrière (La peur, la mort et les médias in 1993 or Le roi est mort… Emotion et médias the same year) and by Academia Bruylant (Tribunes de presse et Coupures de presse in 1996, L’année des médias from 1996 to 1998). B. Grevise and M. Lits also co-edit the Info&Com collection (De Boeck Supérieur) where several books on media analysis and journalism practice are published.

In 2010, ORM joined the new research institute ‘Language and Communication’ (ILC), which brings together all researchers in information, communication and lingustics, where it is part of the Pôle de Recherche en Communication (PCOM).

At the turn of the 20′, ORM was reorganised into three research axes focused on issues of production, content and reception of information of general interest in a context of digital change. ORM has also become the Observatory for Research on Media and Journalism. While continuing its tradition of research fuelled by media narratology and the sociology of journalism, ORM has strengthened its quantitative and technological capacities.

This option is reflected in the constitution of a highly interdisciplinary team and its close collaborations with the technological platform of the MiiL (UCLouvain Media information and intelligibility Lab). Combining scientific tradition and innovation, ORM is fully and originally part of the Journalism Studies movement.

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