Remotely Accessing the Field and Building Trust with Distant Sources. Perspectives from Ethnographic Research and Journalism Practice




Comparing journalists' and ethnographic researchers' practice, practical experiences, travel restrictions, field access, building trust, ICT, digital methods, ethical challenges, research in sensitive contexts


Journalists and ethnographic researchers, such as anthropologists, sociologists or media scholars, have comparable ways of establishing initial contacts with people from their fields of interest. Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and consequential travel restrictions and social distancing, it has become increasingly difficult to access a field. Taking inspiration from social anthropologist Ulf Hannerz (2004, p. 226), who compared journalists and anthropologists as “neighboring groups engaged in a somehow parallel pursuit,” this article explores what researchers may learn from practitioners who conduct research without being on-site. Fed by various practical journalists’ experiences, the article aims to investigate how information and communication technologies (ICTs) and digitally mediated methods, such as online search tools and social media, can be used to establish contacts and gain trust remotely. Here, the relevance of these methods for accessing a field in general goes beyond the limitations imposed during the COVID-19 pandemic and can be of interest to all those who face difficulties of field access of any kind. Ultimately, this article reflects on corresponding ethical challenges that may arise while conducting research remotely.

Author Biographies

Laura Gianna Guntrum, TU Darmstadt

Laura Gianna Guntrum (she/her) is a German research associate and forms part of the research group of Science and Technology for Peace and Security (PEASEC) at the Department of Computer Science with secondary appointment in the Department of History and Social Science at the Technical University of Darmstadt since January, 2021. Her research interests include the use of ICT during political crisis and intersectional approaches within peace and conflict studies.

Mira Keßler, Ruhr-Universität Bochum

Mira Keßler is a PhD student at the Graduate School MEDAS21 – Media Development Assistance in the 21st century – funded by Volkswagen-Foundation. Her research examines how individuals in journalism training connect with one another in light of their differences. While conducting her research in Europe, India, and Nepal, Mira seeks to contribute to solving problems of practical relevance. Her research interests include journalism training, teaching, (cross-cultural) communication, postcolonialism, de-westernisation, and qualitative methods. She holds an M.A. in Media Studies from Eberhard-Karls-University Tübingen. Mira also worked as a filmmaker, media educator, and journalist. For more information about the author, please follow this link:

Jignesh Patel, University of Erfurt

Jignesh Patel is a fact-checker and Media & Information Literacy trainer. After completing his Master in Mass Communication and Journalism (MMCJ) from Gujarat University, he has been fact-checking claims emanating from social as well as mainstream media for close to three years now. He has a knack for visual investigation with a major interest in fact-checking videos and images. He worked for India's leading fact checking organisation Alt News and was responsible for setting up Alt News‘ education initiative. In October 2021 he has started his second master of Global Communication: Politics and Society at the University of Erfurt.

Anna Varfolomeeva, University of Helsinki

Anna Varfolomeeva is a Postdoctoral Researcher at Helsinki Institute of Sustainability Science and Faculty of Arts, University of Helsinki. Her postdoctoral project focuses on indigenous conceptualizations of sustainability in industrialized areas of Russia. Anna received her PhD (2019) at Central European University in Budapest and previously worked at the School of Advanced Studies, University of Tyumen in Siberia. She is the co-editor of Multispecies Households in the Saian Mountains: Ecology at the Russia-Mongolia Border (2019).




How to Cite

Guntrum, L. G., Keßler, M., Patel, J., & Varfolomeeva, A. (2022). Remotely Accessing the Field and Building Trust with Distant Sources. Perspectives from Ethnographic Research and Journalism Practice. Global Media Journal - German Edition, 12(1).