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Journalism

Active Audiences for the News

Up next at ASMC14 is Jacob Ørmen, whose interest is in the processes of news engagement. News has always been conveyed to others through many different channels, importantly also including ordinary political conversations between everyday people. Social media and similar sites facilitate such conversations, but this also needs to be placed in a wider context that also recognises other such conversations.

In which situations, then, do people engage in such conversations about politics? When and where do they do so? Jacob has examined this for the case of Denmark, where political engagement generally is fairly strong; Danes generally like to talk about politics, but do not necessarily do so online. Jacob's approach to researching this has used surveys and interviews to explore how people choose their spaces for political discussion.

He has defined a number of types: mixed sharers, who talk face to face, but mostly on social media; conversationalists who mainly use face to face; news consumers who receive but do not discuss political news; and disengaged citizens. Conversationalists and news consumers receive information via face to face, email, SMS, phone, and social media, but do not themselves further the discussion through electronic media forms; conversationalists tend to be older or of school age, while mixed sharers are largely early to middle-aged adults.

Social Media and Public Service Media

The final keynote at ASMC14 is by the fabulous Hallvard Moe, whose focus is on the intersections between social media and public service broadcasting. How can media researchers contribute to rethinking public service broadcasting? Defining PSB is difficult, but there is often a belief that policy makers know it when they see it; PSB is an inherently contested concept, coined a very long time ago in a very different context – even in Europe alone, how PSBs are positioned and organised is very different across different countries.

What such institutions have in common, though, is the general aim that PSBs should provide vital information and contribute to the public good; they are a policy tool to provide journalism and bring citizens together as a public. PSB institutions around the world do not necessarily always achieve such an ideal – they now exist in almost constant turmoil, due to a range of contextual factors. They can only survive by externalising their internal challenges; these challenges are always present, and in recent years especially associated with the rise of digital media and the media practices such media enable and promote.

The Passion in New Journalistic Models

The final speakers in the ASMC14 session is by Tamara Witschge and Mark Deuze. Tamara begins by noting her skepticism about the current state of journalism, and highlights the fact that many journalists are highly reluctant to work as freelancers outside of the conventional newsroom – yet those journalists who do work as freelancers often say that they would not go back to an institutional setting.

This is a question relating to the social dimension of news production, of course. New models challenge the conceptualisation of what is news, who produces it, and what it is for; new news startups show remarkable passion and innovation in rethinking the idea of news, and do not necessarily work with conventional conceptualisations of journalism. Tamara's and Mark's project aims to gain insight into such new organisations.

Journalists' Reluctance to Engage with New Media

The final day at ASMC14 starts with Chris Anderson, who begins with noting the strange, halting, and unexpected adoption of new digital tools in journalism; there has been treat reluctance to engage with some technologies, while others have been adopted much more quickly. For example, the New York Times has one of the best data journalism operations in the business, but on the other hand only began to hyperlink to other sites about a year ago – why this strange imbalance?

This likely has something to do with professional culture and attitudes in journalism, deeply embedded with journalists' own understanding of how they maintain their cultural authority. Journalism arises from the valorisation of a socially odd form of work, and from a particular vision of the public. This interacts in complex ways with the organisational routines in journalistic practice. The current crisis of news, then, is one of management, economics, and technology, but also of culture, authority and professional identity.

Protest Hashtags as Contested Ground: The Case of #idlenomore

Today's first keynote at ASMC14 is by the excellent Alfred Hermida, who uses the Canadian protest hashtag #idlenomore as an example of contested media spaces. In such spaces, which voices are being listened to, and what coverage does this enable?

The #idlenomore movement for Indigenous rights had been going for some time, but really went off when one of the Canadian Indigenous leaders went to meet with PM Stephen Harper about the issued it raised – a move condemned by the protesters who felt that this leader did not speak for the protest movement, since the movement had not emerged from organised Indigenous groups. That condemnation was especially strong on Twitter, with protest leaders actively encouraging followers to tweet their indignation.

Sourcing News Stories from Social Media

The final speaker in this ASMC14 session is Ansgard Heinrich, who explores the use of Twitter as a sourcing tool. Social media can be sources of information (and misinformation), a device for comments (and rants), a tool for organising social movements, and an instrument for civic groups to promote their messages. Which of these functions are affecting the journalism industry, then?

Ansgard focusses here on the Egyptian revolution, which was described by some commentators as a 'social media revolution'. While this may have been an overstatement, what role did social media play, especially in comparison to journalism? Activist networks use social media to promote their causes and organise protests, of course; journalists also utilise social media, especially to cover live and breaking news events.

Tweeting Along with Political Talkshows

The next speaker at ASMC14 is Evelien D'heer, whose focus is on the use of Twitter as a backchannel to a Flemish political TV talkshow, Terzake. The show has now appointed a 'conversation manager' to guide the Twitter discussion, following a public Twitter spat over the quality of the programme: after criticism of the show's quality by a user, a patronising tweet from the programme makers was widely criticised, and the conversation manager is meant to improve producer/audience relations again.

In this case, then, social media and journalistic logics co-define the programme and its meanings. Evelien's project investigated this process by conducting interviews with programme makers, newsroom observations, network analyses of the Twitter conversation, and interviews with tweeting audience members. This approach is able to compare stated expectations with observations of actual behaviour, on both sides.

Social Media and Journalism

The second day of ASMC14 has started, and I'm afraid I got here a little too late to catch all of Marcel Broersma and Todd Graham's paper. So, we're starting with Steve Paulussen, who explores Twitter's impact on journalism practices.

A Mid-Year Update of Recent Publications

I’ve continued to update my lists of publications and presentations over the past months, but I think it’s time to do another quick round-up of recent work before all the new projects start in earnest.

First off, my colleagues Darryl Woodford, Troy Sadkowsky and I have been making some good progress developing further methodological approaches to Twitter research – focussing this time especially on examining how accounts gain their followers (for some of the outcomes from that research, also see our coverage at Mapping Online Publics):

Axel Bruns, Darryl Woodford, and Troy Sadkowsky. “Towards a Methodology for Examining Twitter Follower Accession.First Monday 19.4 (2014).

Axel Bruns and Darryl Woodford. “Identifying the Events That Connect Social Media Users: Charting Follower Accession on Twitter.” In SAGE Research Methods Cases. London: Sage, 2013.

More generally, I’ve also been involved in a couple of related publications led by Stefan Stieglitz from the University of Münster (one in English,  one in German) which highlight the contribution which the emerging field of social media analytics will be able to make to the disciplines of business informatics and information systems:

Journalistic Frames vs. User Frames in News Discussion

The next paper at Digital Methods is by Nina Springer, who continues the framing theme. Classical framing research examines the impact of frames on audiences, while it is obvious that audiences aren't simply passive recipients, but actively engage with media frames; is this the case especially in new and social media spaces?

This is also a question about the plurality of opinion - the multiplicity of frames may point to the presence of diverse opinions in media coverage. This can also be understood from the perspective of interpretative repertoires: within any repertoire, multiple interconnected frames may exist and involve logics of evaluation, logics of action, and typical actors and structures.

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