Reuters Institute 2017 ICA papers and participation

logoSo proud of the very strong line-up of Reuters Institute papers and participants for 2017 ICA in San Diego.

Robert G. Picard and James Painter, as well as most of our research team and myself, has been at the conference, listening, learning, and presenting some of our work, including a very strong set of papers — some titles and abstracts below.

Online News Video Consumption: A Comparison of Six Countries

Antonis Kalogeropoulos (Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, University of Oxford)

Abstract

Online news video is becoming increasingly prominent in the websites of news organizations and social media platforms. Given that we have limited knowledge on online news video use, this study examines the consumption of online news video in six countries (Denmark, France, Germany, Spain, United Kingdom, United States), as well as how online video news use is correlated with other news behaviour patterns. Based a comparative survey of news consumption, we show that online news videos are becoming increasingly prominent in most countries. We also show that online news videos are seen both on the sites of news organisations but especially and increasingly off-site on social media like Facebook and video sharing sites like YouTube. This study is a first attempt in understanding the audience of online news videos. We argue that these findings reflect the power of social media platforms in influencing news consumption habits.

Public Service Media and News in a Digital Media Environment: A Study of Six Countries

Annika Sehl, Alessio Cornia, and Rasmus Kleis Nielsen (Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, University of Oxford)

Abstract

In this paper, we examine how the public service media in six European countries (Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Poland, and the United Kingdom) are delivering news in an increasingly digital media environment. We aim to explain the demonstrably large differences between how they perform in terms of audience reach (e.g. why the German PSM ARD and ZDF are considerably less able than the British BBC to effectively match their offline reach online). The study is based on interviews conducted between December 2015 and February 2016, primarily with senior managers and editors at PSM in the six countries, as well as a secondary analysis of data. We use our empirical analysis of how a broad range of European PSM are dealing with the new digital developments to advance our understanding of the relative importance of the organizational, economic, and political factors in shaping how PSM are responding to the technological changes.

Incidental Exposure to News on Social Media in Four Countries

Richard Fletcher and Rasmus Kleis Nielsen (Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, University of Oxford)

Abstract

People are exposed to news ‘incidentally’ if they encounter it while intending to do other things. Whilst the existence of incidental exposure to news on television has been demonstrated, the same cannot yet be said of social media. We use data from the 2015 Reuters Institute Digital News Report survey to examine incidental exposure on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube in four countries (Italy, Australia, US, UK). We find that (i) those incidentally exposed to news use more online sources, and engage with news more, than non-users (ii) the effect of incidental exposure on number of sources used is strongest on Twitter, followed by YouTube, then Facebook, and (iii) only those who intentionally use multiple networks for news use more sources, and engage more, than those incidentally exposed. Our findings suggest that the move to media environments characterized by selective exposure is accompanied by incidental exposure via social media.

Fragmentation and Duplication: A Cross-National Comparative Analysis of Cross-Platform News Audiences

Richard Fletcher and Rasmus Kleis Nielsen (Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, University of Oxford)

Abstract

The move to a high choice online media environment has been associated with fears of audience fragmentation, and the end of a shared public agenda and common culture. Others have challenged this thesis by demonstrating high duplication among audiences for the most popular media outlets. However, this challenge has almost always been based on data from the United States alone, and has not fully accounted for cross-platform consumption. Using data from the 2016 Reuters Institute Digital News Report from six countries (Germany, Denmark, France, Spain, UK, USA) we address these shortcomings and find (i) that incorporating significance testing reduces the amount of cross-platform news audience duplication (ii) that cross-platform news audiences vary country-to-country, with audience duplication lower in Northern and Western Europe, and although in some cases the difference is not statistically significant (iii) we find no support for the idea online news audiences are more fragmented than offline audiences.

Lack of Resources or Lack of Relevance? How and Why People Avoid News

Benjamin Toff and Rasmus Kleis Nielsen (Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, University of Oxford)

Abstract

In this paper, we take a grounded theory approach to examining the role that news plays—and does not play—in people’s lives. While previous work has lamented low levels of news use and knowledge of public affairs, the perspectives of those who regularly refrain from using conventional sources of information have rarely been captured.
Previous surveys have shown news consumption patterns tend to be correlated with socioeconomic status, age, and education, and a range of explanations have been offered for limited news use among disadvantaged groups. These explanations include a lack of interest, efficacy, or sufficient contextual knowledge, as well as a failure of the news itself to address topics relevant to diverse populations. To better develop a coherent theory and assess attitudes toward news and journalism among those disaffected from it, we present results from in-depth interviews conducted in the United Kingdom with people in working class and disadvantaged communities. This qualitative data is supplemented by observations of group conversations, comparisons with quantitative survey data, and local news content analysis, which measures the correspondence between topics in the news and the issues and concerns raised by study participants.
Questions we investigate in these data include: (1) What social function does news play even among those who typically abstain from using it? (2) How does the high choice media environment impact behavioural choices? (3) How do work rhythms and daily routines impact news use? And (4) how do attitudes toward news and the journalism profession affect tendencies to avoid news?Over the last several years, I have conducted a series of in-depth qualitative interviews with people who self-identified as “intentionally and significantly limiting media use,” people I call “media resisters.” Amongst those who specifically limit news, I’ve argued that news consumption hinders, rather than enhances, their willingness to participate in public life (Woodstock, 2013). For news resisters, diminishing their contact with news does not have the negative consequence one would assume, namely that they would be naïve and complacent about public policy and civic life. Rather, with admittedly limited time and resources, news resisters remain engaged citizens.

 

Congratulations to IJPP authors – ICA awards

Very proud that two articles recently published in the International Journal of Press/Politics were honored at the 2017 International Communication Association.

First, Claudio Mellado and Arjen van Dalen won a Top Faculty Paper Award from the Journalism Studies Division for their excellent paper on how journalistic role performance has evolved over time in Chile from 1990 onwards, published  in our April issue.

Mellado, Claudia, and Arjen Van Dalen. 2017. “Changing Times, Changing Journalism: A Content Analysis of Journalistic Role Performances in a Transitional Democracy.” The International Journal of Press/Politics 22 (2): 244–63. doi:10.1177/1940161217693395.
Second, Julia Lück, Antal Wozniak, and Hartmut Wessler were the finalist for the Wolfgang Donsbach Outstanding Journal Article of the Year, also given by the Journalism Studies Division, for their terrific paper on how reporters and sources co-produce climate change coverage at international summits, published last year.
Lück, Julia, Antal Wozniak, and Hartmut Wessler. 2016. “Networks of Coproduction: How Journalists and Environmental NGOs Create Common Interpretations of the UN Climate Change Conferences.” The International Journal of Press/Politics 21 (1): 25–47. doi:10.1177/1940161215612204.

 

Looking back on ICA preconference on normative theory

Together with Chris Anderson, Daniel Kreiss, Dave Karpf, and Matt Powers, I organized an ICA pre-conference on the role of normative theory in communication research May 25.

It made for a day of really interesting and stimulating conversation, thanks to the presenters, our discussants, invited panelists, and everyone who attended. (I was on a panel of journal editors along with Barbie Zelizer, Claes de Vreese, and Silvio Waisbord talking about the role of  normative theory in the journals we edit — photo below from  Erik Bucy.)

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I won’t try to summarize the many interesting points made, but instead highlight what I though were some of the most important and interesting disagreements where people held different views —

  1. At a most basic level, people embrace different traditions of normative theorizing, mostly deliberative democracy, liberal democracy, and radical democracy. Most of the traditions explicitly mobilized are (a) tied to democracy (and not other normative questions like, say, justice) and (b) are strongly tied to Western countries (with a few notable exceptions), something Barbie Zelizer has pointed out in the past.
  2. There is an implicit and rarely explicitly discussed tension between people who prefer what political theorists would call ideal theories and those who prefer non-ideal theories — illustrated elsewhere by the debate between for example John Rawls (as a strong proponent of ideal theory) and Amartya Sen (as a proponent of non-ideal theory). (I found Zofia Stemplowska’s book chapter a useful guide to the issue.)
  3. Considerable disagreement around what role question of what democratic realists like Bernard Williams call “realisability” should play in normative discussions. What some think of as what Ian Hacking calls “elevator words” that raise us to higher levels of discourse, others think of as being so abstract and distant from reality as to be near-irrelevant. (I have written about this issue here.)

So, the conversations, and the disagreements continued. In advance of the pre-conference, we drafted a reading list (here), ,and I’ll add some things to after the discussions we had.

2017 International Journal of Press/Politics Book Award to Katrin Voltmer

I’m happy to anVoltmer-MediaTransDemocnounce that Katrin Voltmer (University of Leeds) is the recipient of the 2017 International Journal of Press/Politics Book Award for her book The Media in Transitional Democracies (Polity Press, 2013).

Below is the official announcement of the award from the full award committee, which included Peter van Aelst (as Chair of the ICA Political Communication Division) Henrik Örnebring (as Chair of the ICA Journalism Studies Division), and myself (as editor of the journal).

2017 International Journal of Press/Politics Book Award to Katrin Voltmer

Political communication research and journalism studies has grown more international  and transnational in recent years, but the majority of English-language academic work still tends to focus on a small number of in a global perspective very unusual high income democracies, and many of our shared theoretical, methodological, and substantial assumptions are derived from research on these countries.

Everyone recognize that this – despite the evident progressive both fields have made – limits our ability to understand political communication and journalism more broadly, as it plays out in very different political, media, and social contexts across the world.

But pushing our shared understanding in a more truly international direction has often been left to area specialists and regional studies, and have not always been tied back to core underlying concerns about the relationship between media and politics.

Katrin Voltmer’s 2013 book The Media in Transitional Democracies marks a break with these implicit and explicit biases. The award committee, which this year consisted of Peter van Aelst, Henrik Örnebring, and myself, is proud to honor it with the 2017 International Journal of Press/Politics Book Award for its truly comprehensive synthesis of comparative politics, political communication, and journalism studies research on transitional democracies from across the world. The Media in Transitional Democracies develops an original and important argument about how media and politics develop in path-dependent ways depending on previous regime types, and provides a systematic overview of existing research that covers a broad set of case countries from all over the world.

The award was instituted by the journal in 2015 to honor “internationally-oriented books that advance our theoretical and empirical understanding of the linkages between news media and politics in a globalized world in a significant way.” It is sponsored by Sage.

Books published within the last ten years are eligible for the award, and we have again had a very strong field of candidates. This is a real testament to the theoretical creativity, methodological rigor, and growing internationalization of both political communication and journalism studies research.

The award committee agreed that Katrin’s book stood out as a particularly necessary work, a relevant book on understudied important topics, a book with a truly global orientation, and a book that combines synthesis and original argumentation with nuance and a humble recognition of how much remains to be done before our shared understanding of media and politics – as well as our theoretical, methodological, and substantial assumptions about how to study it – match the global nature of our objects of analysis and the importance of what we study.

I hope you’ll join me in congratulating Katrin for writing this book. The award is simply a way for the community to recognize and highlight her contribution.

Digital news as forms of knowledge

I have written a somewhat nerdy (but hopefully still interesting) book chapter that is basically a challenge to any kind of generalization of the type “digital news is like X” for Remaking the News, a terrific new book edited by Pablo Boczkowski and Chris Anderson.

The chapter is a “yes, but” response to people who associate digital news with “churnalism” that tries to take seriously that we are seeing a boom in superficial, instantly produced and published material (some of which is valuable) as well as more and more really detailed journalism that enrolls data visualizations, interactives, mapping, etc. to enrich both the content and the storytelling.

I play of Robert Park‘s classic chapter on news as a form of knowledge and argue that  what we see today is an increasingly diverse polarization of news that include both much more content that enable knowledge as what the pragmatic philosopher William James called “acquaintance with”, focused on impressions of the world as well as content that enables “knowledge about” that  help us understand relations.

Buy the book here, read a pre-publication version of my chapter here, and see the full abstract below.

“Digital News As Forms of Knowledge: A New Chapter in the Sociology of Knowledge”

Forthcoming, Pablo Boczkowski and C.W. Anderson (eds.) 2017. Remaking the News: Essays on the Future of Journalism Scholarship in the Digital Age. Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press.

What kinds of knowledge might news be said to be? And how is news as knowledge changing as the social practices, organizational forms, and media technologies that create and constitute it change over time? The purpose of this chapter is to address these questions and to offer a contemporary sequel to what Robert E. Park called “a chapter in the sociology of knowledge”. I am concerned with what changes in news content, the organization of news work, and the technologies involved in producing and disseminating news means for how we think about news as knowledge, and will discuss this more general issues on the basis specifically of past and present examples from the United States. I suggest that much news today is still frequently characterized by many of the traits Park identified, but that our increasingly digital media environment offers far more diverse forms of news and also includes a growing amount of substantially different kinds of news closer to the philosopher William James’ extremes of “acquaintance with” and “knowledge about”. Today, as we see simultaneously an increasing emphasis on presentist, minute-by-minute and second-by-second breaking news and the growth of various forms of long-form journalism, explanatory journalism, and data journalism designed to overcome some of the perceived epistemological shortcomings of older forms of news, new forms of news as knowledge that have greater staying power as content, but also because of certain affordances of digital media. Drawing on Park and his inspiration from James, I suggest we can think of digital news as involving at least three different ideal-typical forms of mediated, public knowledge today. First, we see the growing importance of forms of news-as-impression, decontextualized snippets of information presented via headline services, news alerts, live tickers, and a variety of new digital intermediaries including search engines, social media, and messaging apps. Second, a recognizable descendant of the archetypical late-20th century form of news remains important, news-as-items, published as in principle self-contained discrete articles and news stories bundled together in a newspaper, a broadcast stream, on a website, or in an app. Third, at the opposite end of James’ spectrum from acquaintance-with to knowledge-about, we see the rise of news-about-relations, combining elements of long-form “contextual” or “explanatory” forms of journalism well-known from some 20th century newspapers, magazines, and current affairs programs with new forms of data journalism, visualization, and interactivity afforded by digital technologies. Digital news may be associated with the rise of news-as-impressions and a potential hollowing out of inherited forms of news-as-items—with more transient information for what Park in 1940 called a “specious present”. Certainly many critics amongst journalists, academics, and other public figures complain about its “churnalistic” qualities. But digital news is far more than this and we should be suspicious of overarching generalizations about the nature of news today, which also involves a remarkable growth in news-as-relations more oriented towards providing what James called knowledge-about, and news that today is more accessible, more timely, and more detailed and data driven that probably ever before. Recognizing the properties of digital news as different forms of knowledge—rather than a form of knowledge—will help us understand how journalistic self-understandings, popular conceptions of journalism, academic hypothesis about journalism, and normative theories of journalism might require rethinking as the basic connection between news and knowledge they all implicitly rely on change over time.

Keywords: journalism, news, knowledge, sociology of knowledge, media

Dealing with digital intermediaries – article out

In a new article, “Dealing with digital intermediaries”, Sarah Anne Ganter and I examine relations between publishers and platform companies.

The article presents an in-depth case study and show that publishers’ relationships to platforms are characterized by a tension between (1) short-term, operational, often editorially led pursuit of the opportunities offered by both search and social to reach people and (2) more long-term strategic worries about whether publishers will become too dependent on platform companies, including worries over whether they will lose control over their editorial identity, access to user data, and central parts of their revenue models.

On the basis of interviews with senior editorial staff, people from management, and technologists, we show that the way the case organization handles its relationship with different platforms is shaped by a fear of missing out, by the difficulties of evaluating the risk/reward ratio of engaging with different initiatives developed by platform companies, and by a sense of a profound asymmetry as a large news media organization finds itself dealing with far larger platforms.

Ultimately, our analysis suggests that publishers are becoming simultaneously increasingly empowered by and dependent upon a small number of centrally placed and powerful digital platforms largely beyond their control.

The article is published in New Media & Society and available as open access here and here as PDF.

The work behind the piece was supported by the Tietgen Award that I received in 2014 from the DSEB.

Summer school on comparative qualitative research on journalism and news media

I’m organizing a summer  school at the Reuters Institute in Oxford September 11-12 with Lucas Graves and Annika Sehl. It’s going to be great. Apply by May 31 to join. Full info below.

Some of the most important research on journalism and news media has been based on qualitative studies, including in-depth interviews, ethnography, historical studies, and other qualitative methods. Such work has generated lasting empirical insights as well as many of the foundational concepts in the academic study of media and communications.

Qualitative research has, however, tended to produce insights which are less ‘portable’ to new research questions and contexts. Too often the impact of this kind of scholarship is limited because findings are highly specific to the case and/or country studied, because engagement with theoretical work is not explicit, or because the logic of generalisation and the standards of validity have not been made clear.

These hurdles are especially pronounced in the vital emerging domain of comparative international media research. Well-designed qualitative work — whether carefully situated case-studies or explicitly comparative projects — has the potential to significantly advance our understanding of, for example, the economic and professional forces reshaping news production today — changes which are playing out very differently in different organizations and media systems. But we have so far seen far less systematically comparative and internationally oriented qualitative research on journalism and news media than what has been pursued by, for example, researchers focused on content analysis, role perceptions, and the like.

The purpose of this two-day summer school for advanced doctoral students and early career researchers, hosted by the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism at the University of Oxford, is to explore the unique promise of qualitative methods for comparative scholarship in journalism and media/communications and to help the participants connect their individual projects to wider discussions to in order to increase their substantive contribution and impact.

Through a combination of seminars led by Oxford-based researchers and workshop discussions of work-in-progress from the participants, the aim is to:

  1. Significantly advance our shared understanding of the methodological issues involved in advancing genuinely comparative and internationally-oriented qualitative research on journalism and news media,
  2. Explicitly engage with theoretical discussions that can help structure such work and clarify its contribution (beyond describing interesting and sometimes intrinsically important cases), most notably recent work drawing on institutional theory and science and technology studies.
  3. Help the participants think about their own individual research as contributing to a collective and cumulative attempt to understand the evolution of news and journalism, and to identify potential collaborators for cross-country studies.

Seminars at the summer school will be led by Lucas Graves, Rasmus Kleis Nielsen, and Annika Sehl.

All participants will be provided with a reading list in advance for the seminars and will be asked to submit a draft article or chapter that they would like to workshop and get feedback on from the organizers and the other participants at the summer school.

The participation fee is £149 per person, covering the summer school itself as well as lunch both days and dinner at an Oxford college. The participation fee does not cover transport and accommodation (which each participant will be responsible for organizing on their own).

We will accept a maximum of 12 participants for the summer school to ensure that we have an intimate and constructive forum for discussion and that everyone can get detailed feedback on their work. We will aim for a diverse group to advance our goal of building towards more comparative, international qualitative research on journalism and news media.

To apply to take part, please send an abstract of no more than 500 words outlining the central research question, empirical basis, and driving hypotheses and intellectual stakes of the work that you would like to present to Philippa Garson at philippa.garson@politics.ox.ac.uk no later than May 31. Please direct practical questions to her, and substantive questions about the program to Lucas Graves at lucas.graves@wisc.edu.

We will notify those accepted before the end of June.

About the summer school organisers

Lucas Graves is Assistant Professor in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Rasmus Kleis Nielsen is Director of Research at the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism at the University of Oxford and Editor-in-Chief of the International Journal of Press/Politics.

Annika Sehl is Research Fellow at the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism at the University of Oxford.

About the Reuters Institute

The Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism is based in the Department of Politics and International Relations at the University of Oxford. The Institute was launched in November 2006 and developed from the Reuters Fellowship Programme, established at Oxford more than 30 years ago. The institute is committed to connecting timely and rigorous research from a range of different disciplines to the substantial issues facing journalism and news media around the world.