Category Archives: Comparative media research

What is journalism studies studying?

I’m at the 2017 Future of Journalism conference in Cardiff, one of the most important academic journalism studies conferences in the world, with more than 200 participants from Europe, the US, and beyond. Over 150 papers will be presented, many of them will later be published in some of the field’s top journals.

All these papers are work-in-progress, fresh, recent, up-to-date work by a wide range of academics studying journalism from a range of perspectives, from a range of background, from a range of countries.

In combination, they provide a basis for at least a partial answer to the question of what journalism studies is actually studying today.

So I did a quick and subjective categorization of all the paper titles by topic. (This is not a formal content analysis, and I did this on my own. For a more rigorous recent meta-analysis of the field, see this piece by Laura Ahva and Steen Steensen.) The results are below. I categorized the 150+ papers by their title, and collapsed all topics with less than 5 papers into “others”.

I found the results quite interesting – in part as a reminder how where academic research overlaps with pressing civic, professional, industry, and policy-maker concerns (and where it does not), in part as an illustration of how the academic community collectively gather around certain topics in bottom-up ways with little in terms of explicit, coordinated discussion of what “the field” “should do”.

FoJ for blog

The bulk of the presenters and the bulk of the presentations are from and focused on high income democracies, so there are a whole range of issues around state censorship, freedom of expression, violence against journalists, media capture, and other very pressing issues that are largely absent.

Given the focus on high-income democracies, a couple of stand-outs from me—

  • Lots of discussion of post-truth and fake-news, from what I have seen presented so far often critical of how these terms are used, but also a case of academics latching on the fashionable terms. (It is interesting that there is relatively little audience research in general, and on this in particular–though Irene Costera Meijer and Tim Groot Kormelink had interesting data and analysis.)
  • Discussion of social media, search engines, and messaging apps is primarily focused on what news organizations and ordinary users do with platform companies’ products and services (especially social media) (lot’s of Twitter buzz around Shannon MacGregor‘s presentation–I did not hear it myself), and not on what platform companies do to the wider media environment (discussions of digital intermediaries).
  • Much work is being done on new journalistic formats and practices (data journalism, fact-checking, use of analytics, virtual reality, etc.) and growing body of work on digital-born news organizations—this is important and encouraging, work by Jane Singer, Valerie Belair-Gagnon and others.

Conspicuous absences, in my view—

  • The business models that funded most of journalism as we knew it are being fundamentally challenged by the move to digital media, the proliferation of choice for both audiences and advertisers, and the rise of platform companies, and in my view the question of new funding models is one of the most important ones today—yet we see, at least at this conference, very little work on it. One paper on willingness to pay, two on native advertising. (Richard Fletcher and I have done some work on this, I have a handbook chapter here, Jay Hamilton’s more than ten years old book remains a classic as is work of Robert Picard.)
  • Beyond that, the question of innovation and entrepreneurship, of constant organizational change in legacy and digital-born news media seems of central importance to me, and has been the subject of a fair amount of work in the past, but little at this conference. (I look to Lucy Kung for work on this, have also done some with Alessio Cornia and Annika Sehl on some of these issues, see various reports here, here, and here.)
  • Similarly, the way in which platform companies are part of a structural transformation of our media environments, for good, for ill, in all its nuance and complexity, is a monumental change with profound consequences for journalism and news media, but one we, at least here, see little academic research on. (Sarah Ganter and I have done some work on this and more to come, Jose van Dijck, Tarleton Gillespie and Frank Pasquale are among my go-to sources outside journalism studies).

Finally, a couple of classic and important topics that have seen quite few papers at least at this conference—

  • I saw only one paper title on television news. Less important than in the past, surely, and historically always under-researched in journalism studies, but still incredibly important and widely used, especially by older people (who can decide elections! See Trump and Brexit…) I like Stephen Cushion’s work on this as well as older work by Russ Neuman and colleagues.
  • Two papers on public service media. Given the estimated the estimated annual investment of about €16.6 billion in public service provision across Europe alone, their importance, widely varying performance, different challenges including political pressure and need to develop digital offerings, that seems like a topic worth a bit more investigation.
  • One paper on inequality. Given the a development where many societies are more and more unequal in many ways, and given that we have reasons to believe that the move from a low-choice to a high-choice media environment may increase already significant information inequalities as people (often affluent and highly educated) who are very interested in news consume more and more, and those less interested (often less affluent and with less formal education) may consume less and less as other offerings catch their attention, this bears more work it seems to me.

So, much interesting work being presented, some interesting absences, which presents opportunities for important research in the future.


People have asked for a break-down of the 34 percent categorized as “other” in the pie chart. Below is a bar chart where topics addressed by only one paper are collapsed into “other” but the remaining parts are broken out by topic. Note, as explained above, some of the categories above are already aggregates, e.g. “new journalistic practices” include work on bots, automated content, computational journalism, data journalism, VR, and newsroom use of audience analytics.

FoJ 34 percent


Professor of Political Communication

oxford-logoI’m happy and proud to share that I’ve been named Professor of Political Communication at the University of Oxford.

Titles are strange things. Entirely immaterial (“That and a dollar will get you a cup of coffee”) and at the same time deeply meaningful. Academic work is about being part of a community of inquiry, and titles are one of the ways in which our communities recognize valuable work.

That recognition means a lot to me. I am primarily driven by my own curiosity (and occasional contrarian impulses) and my individual professional and personal priorities, all of which are so well aligned with the mission of the work we do together at the Reuters Institute. But it makes me happy to see the work I have done on that basis recognized as valuable by others.

My core interest is in the important and imperfect social and political institutions that enable democracy and make it possible for people to be citizens.

I am interested in these institutions (with warts and all)—how they arise, what their preconditions are, what their implications are, and in how they change and sometimes disintegrate. Substantially, this has led me to study political campaigns, social movements, technology companies, and especially news media in a range of ways, drawing on theories and methods from political science, sociology, and media/communications research. (My appointment is in a department of politics, but I consider myself an interdisciplinary social scientist with a particular interest in news media and communication.) Because I want in real-world variation over time and across different contexts, I have pursued a fair amount of international, comparative work on the role of digital technology as part of processes of institutional and organizational change, especially in journalism and news media–often pushing back against the tendency in some quarters and some times to assume their implications are the same everywhere.

In line with my commitment to problem-oriented social science and my ambition to make the research I am involved in speak to some of the important issues of our time, I have prioritized engagement with relevant stakeholders in political life, the public sector, and private enterprise by publishing through both academic and non-academic channels, by engaging with journalists, and by speaking frequently at both academic and professional conferences and events all over the world.

I like to say that it is important for me that I can explain the value of what I do to my mom (a more demanding version of the proverbial man on the street), the people I study (ordinary people, journalists, technologists, political professionals), and to my academic colleagues (across the social science and beyond)—and the title of professor is one of the most tangible expressions of recognition that the latter community offers, and one I particularly appreciate because I know my interest in news media, my preference for interdisciplinary work, and my commitment to problem-oriented research and public engagement set me apart from many other social scientists who have different priorities—that these colleagues see the value of what I do is very encouraging.

To receive this recognition from the University of Oxford, with its 900+ year history of excellence and truly global reach—and as its first professor of political communication—is an extraordinary privilege and an honor I will try to live up to. I know I have gotten to where I am from a privileged starting point—I am a white man from a peaceful and prosperous country—but I also feel like I have travelled a long way, from the small town in the countryside I grew up in, as the first of my family to go to college, and as a migrant working in a second language for most of my adult life.

I try to show my gratitude to all the many people who mean so much for me and who help and support me in so many ways on a regular basis, but I would like to highlight a few here. (No names, you know who you are.) My wife and my family for their unflagging support despite the strange and often unintelligible nature of much of what I do. The community of faculty and fellow graduates of Columbia University from whom I have learned so much and who remain such an inspiration. A group of contemporaries from across the academic fields I traverse who are such models of academic professionalism and personal integrity and who continue to be both close friends and a source of intellectual stimulation (including the occasional vigorous disagreement). The many impassioned professionals from across journalism, the media world, the technology industry, and politics and policymaking who find time to talk to me about their work even as they are busy trying to do often very difficult things in an uncertain and rapidly changing environment. My Oxford colleagues and friends, from across the Department of Politics and International Relations, the School of Government, the Oxford Internet Institute, and Green Templeton College. And, especially, everyone at the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism itself—the staff, researchers, journalists, and others who gather here make it a truly special place and one I am proud to be part of.

(Note: I will continue to work full-time as Director of Research at the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism.)

RISJ summer school underway

20170911_144625How can comparative qualitative research on journalism and news media help us understand and tackle the big issues of our time?

At our Reuters Institute Summer School we are trying to find out, with a great group – thanks for good discussion today on day one to participants Martha Palacios Dominguez, Jacob Nelson, Raul Ferrer Conill, Kiki De Bruin, David Cheruiyot, Julieta Brambila, Sandra Banjac, Ruben Arnoldo Gonzalez, Jennifer Henrichsen, Tim Neff, Laurens Lauer, Chang Zhang Matt Powers & Sandra Vera Zambrano.

Thanks also to the home team of Lucas Graves and Annika Seh, and sorry to miss Falk Hartig who was accepted for participation but couldn’t join us.

2017 Int’ Journal of Press/Politics Conference

IJPPI’m proud to present the 2017 International Journal of Press/Politics Conference, hosted September 27-29 by the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism at the University of Oxford.

The conference hashtag will be #IJPP17.

The full program including abstracts is here [PDF], and an overview with titles and presenters is below–we will be covering many issues relevant for the International Journal of Press/Politic‘s mission: to advance our understanding of the relations between news media and politics in a global perspective.

With more than 60 researchers from almost 20 countries and a keynote by Talia Stroud, it will be a truly international event and it is one I really look forward to–the third installment of what I hope will be an annual event, with the best and most relevant papers submitted to the journal for later publication.



Thursday 28 September

PANEL 1A: Risk and Conflict Reporting

Towards a ‘reflexive’ turn in digital journalism research – cosmopolitan relational ‘loops’ as a model for assessing transnational ‘risk’ journalism: a case study from Pakistan

Ingrid Volkmer, Kasim Sharif and Andrea Carson

Conflict Framing in the News and Informal Political Discussions

Camilla Bjarnøe and David Hopmann

Terrorism and Climate Change: Two Global Phenomena Divided by A Common Professional Journalism

Hillel Nossek

Which Atrocities Matter? Investigating Determinants of News Coverage of Human Rights

Scott Maier


PANEL 1B: Online Media & Audience Behaviours

Who is Pulling the Cart in the Horse Race? Comparing News Media Agendas with User Agendas in Election Seasons

Jacob Ørmen and Casper Petersen

The role of the online press in the emergence and visibility of Local Publics in a municipal election in France

Franck Bousquet

No Spillover: A Longitudinal Analysis of the Effects of Political Communication Online and Off

Benjamin R. Warner and Michael W. Kearney

Media, Public Opinion, and Political Participation

Yossi David


PANEL 2A: Online Media & Contentious Politics

ICTs and Contentious Politics in the Digital Age: Towards a synthetic framework

Jun Liu

Fault in the language: Political rhetoric, partisan media and mass polarization on Facebook

Fawad Baig and Sehrish Mushtaq

The rejection of multicultural democracy on right-wing news websites: A comparative analysis of the agenda-building articulations of right wing alternative media movements in the US, Austria and Germany

Lea Hellmueller and Matthias Revers

Online newspapers as target of strategic user-generated content —Dealing with hate-speech, fake news and hidden propaganda.

Lena Frischlich, Svenja Boberg, and Thorsten Quandt


PANEL 2B: China in Local and International News

 International Politics: It’s the Economy, (Metaphorically). Metaphors of China in the Financial Press

Minyao Tang and Tianbo Xu

State Sovereignty or Freedom of Navigation: the Rhetoric Battle between China and the US for a Dominating Narrative in the Controversy over South China Sea.

Fan Min and Zhang Xiaomei

From CCTV to CGTN: An assessment of China’s Go global media strategy and ongoing development of its news operation

Jie Shao and James Stanyer

Adieu to Contra-News and Hegemonic Channels: Is the Multipolar World Order the Premise for a More Balanced News Flow?

Massimo Di Ricco


PANEL 3B: The case of the US Media System

Washington Reporters as “Beltway Insiders”: Space, Place, and Elitism

Nikki Usher and Scott Nover

From Liberal to Polarized Liberal? Contemporary US news in Hallin and Mancini’s typology of news systems

Efrat Nechushtai

Passion and Politics: Voters’ emotion, perceived candidate image, and decisions in 2016 US presidential election

Denis Wu and Renita Coleman

The hybrid media system in the 2016 US presidential election

Kelly Fincham


PANEL 3B: ‘Fake News’ and Media Trust

Conceptualizing ‘Fake News’ for Political Communication Research

Jana L. Egelhofer and Sophie Lecheler

Explaining Media Trust

Oliver Quiring, Schemer, Christian, Jackob, Nikolaus, Schultz, Tanjev & Ziegele, Marc

They won’t get fooled (again)? Exploring consumption of and trust to “alternative” online news media in the Czech Republic

Vaclav Stetka and Jaromir Mazak

A Study to Examine the Third-Person Effects of Fake News during the Presidential Election in South Korea.

Wi-Geun Kim, Thomas J. Johnson, and Joseph Yoo


Friday 29 September

PANEL 4A: Media in Hybrid and Authoritarian Regimes

Scaling Down: The Menu of Media Manipulation in Subnational Hybrid Regimes

J.A. Brambila

Reporting transitional justice: the issue of media bias in Serbian and Kenyan contexts

Aleksandra Krstić and Judith Lohne

The Journalisms of Islam:  Contending views in Muslim Southeast Asia

Janet Steele

Access Journalism, (Anonymous) Sources, and Authoritarian Regimes: Western Media Coverage of North Korea

Helen Cho


PANEL 4B: Comparative Perspectives on the 2016 US Election

The whole world is watching. A comparative study on how the US 2016 election was covered in the news.

Peter Van Aelst, Rens Vliegenthart, and Amber Boydstun

“Trumping” National Interests: Comparative Analysis of Chinese, Russian, and Mexican International News

Yin Wu, Larisa Doroshenko, Shreenita Ghosh, Xiaomei Sun, and Maria Guadalupe Herrera Villalobos

The “World Watches the US Election:” Comparing global media perspectives on the US Presidential Election

Randolph Kluver, Skye Cooley, and Robert Hinck


PANEL 5A: Populism and UK Politics

Personality politics in media coverage over time; the UK case 1992-2013

Inaki Sagarzazu, Ana Ines Langer, and Johannes Gruber

Media and political participation: fostering inclusive governance

Sophie Baskett

Brexit and the Political Value Space of Constituencies on Twitter

Marco Bastos, Dan Mercea, and Andrea Baronchelli

“We Need to Talk About Immigration”: Media Coverage of Immigration During the 2015 UK General Election and 2016 EU Referendum Campaigns

Martin Moore and Gordon Ramsay


PANEL 5B: Press Freedom and State-Media Relations

Destroying the Messenger: A Comparative Analysis of the Recent Political Attitude towards Press Freedom in Democratic Societies

Wiebke Lamer

The role of Vietnamese state-owned media in improving governance: The case study of a farmer who shot at the police

Tran Le Thuy

‘Undemocratic’ Representations of Democracy: Politics and the Political Economy of Media in India

Ruhi Khan and Danish Khan

The Press Coverage of Corruption in France, Italy and United Kingdom: Integrity Safekeeping or Penal Populism?

Roberto Mincigrucci and Anna Stanziano


PANEL 6A: Global News, Public Broadcasting and Comparative Research

How Media Ownership Matters for Public Service Orientation: A Comparison of Commercial, Civil Society, and Public Media in the U.S., Sweden, and France

Rodney Benson

Desperately Seeking Global News

Alexa Robertson

Dual Screening, Public Service Broadcasting, and Political Participation in Eight Western Democracies

Cristian Vaccari and Augusto Valeriani

Developing a cross-nationally comparative discourse approach to researching mediated political communication

Mats Ekström and Julie Firmstone


PANEL 6B: Political Elites and Political Communication

The performances of mainstream politicians: politics as usual?

Stephen Coleman and Julie Firmstone

What Can I Do For You?  MP-Constituent Interaction Beyond the Electoral Context

Nikki Soo

A Trojan Horse for Marketing? Solutions Journalism in the French Regional Press

Pauline Amiel and Matthew Powers

Rethinking journalist-politician relations in the age of post-truth politics. Strategies of de-legitimization

Arjen van Dalen

Call for Papers – special issue if IJPP on Populist (political) Communication


Call for Papers – special issue on Populist Communication

Special issue editors: Toril Aalberg, Frank Esser, Carsten Reinemann, James Stanyer and Claes de Vreese


Populism is a feature of contemporary politics across the globe. However, the communicative aspects of populism have been underexplored or often ignored. Yet—in light of the current social, political, and economic turmoil, and of the changing media environment—the study of populist political communication has perhaps never been more important.

Systematic knowledge is sparse on questions related to populist actors as communicators, the role of the media, and the impact of populist communication strategies on citizens. This scarcity is surprising since the populist zeitgeist, as signaled by Mudde (2004) more than a decade ago, was in part seen to be caused by the media’s preference for, and receptivity toward, populist actors.

As argued in the recent book by Aalberg et al (2017), as a working definition of populism, it makes more sense to talk about degrees and intensity of populism rather than a dichotomy. Following the suggestion by Jagers and Walgrave (2007), we can distinguish various elements of populism. They identify complete populism which includes reference and appeals to the people, anti-elitism, and exclusion of outgroups. Excluding populism includes only reference and appeals to the people, and exclusion of outgroups, whereas anti-elitist populism includes reference and appeals to the people, and anti-elitism. Finally, empty populism includes only reference and appeals to the people. Their definition, along with Moffitt and Tormey‘s (2014, p.394) definition of populism as “political style, a repertoire of performative features which cuts across different political situations that are used to create political relations” are good starting points for scholars addressing populist communication specifically.

In this special issue we look for submissions that explore the relationship and interactions between key actors: (a) political parties, (b) different kinds of media including both media organizations and digital media, and (c) citizens. Many key questions remain in the study of populist communication: these concern (non-)mediated representation of populism, rhetorical style adopted by populists, and message impact. What emotional, cognitive, attitudinal, and behavioral effect does the communication of populists have on (different groups of) citizens? Can communication styles help explain the electoral success of populist actors? What role does the proliferation of social media make? How are populist actors represented in mainstream news media across countries? Are these conditions for populists’ success?

These are examples of questions that we hope the submissions for the special issue will address. We particularly welcome comparative designs. Submissions should emphasize their wider contribution and substantial implications in addition to presenting individual analyses of examples of populist communication.

Range of papers to be considered

The CfP welcomes papers focusing on one or more of these interactions. The special issue is intended to be international and if possible comparative in nature.


Extended abstracts due (2 pages): October 1, 2017

Invited submissions due: November 1, 2017

Full papers due: February 1, 2018

Full papers will be invited to present at a special issue workshop, adjacent to COST Action conference, Madrid, April 2018. Partial funding for presenters will be available for a set of papers. The special issue editors will be at the conference and workshop and provide feedback.

Email submission of extended abstracts is submitted to:

Full paper submissions are handled though the journal’s online submission system. All submissions are due to external review and standard editorial decisions.

Please contact the special issue editors – Toril Aalberg, Frank Esser, Carsten Reinemann, James Stanyer and Claes de Vreese – with questions.

2017 Digital News Report

The 2017 Reuters Institute Digital News Report was published June 22. Covering 36 markets on 5 continents, it is the biggest internationally comparative study of news and media use across the world. I’m proud to be of the team behind it, including the lead author Nic Newman as well as Richard Fletcher, Antonis Kalogeropoulos, and David Levy.

The full report is available here, 161 slides with more detail here, and a 2:24 video with highlights here.

The best part of the report is always the chance to take it on the road and discuss the data and analysis with smart people from across the news industry, media research, technology companies, and policymakers.I had the good fortune to discuss it with an amazing panel including Melissa Bell from Vox, Mitra Kalita from CNN, Niketa Patel from Twitter, Jason White from Facebook, and Emily Bell from the Tow Center at our New York City launch event at the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism.

A full video of my presentation and our discussion is here.


You’ll find plenty of discussion on Twitter under #DNR17.

Below are my 5 top charts, but really, if you care about news, media, and politics, you should dig in youself.

1. Journalists, news media, and technology companies are all viewed with considerable skepticism by most people in most countries.


2. Social media very important for how people get news,but growth has stalled in many countries-while messaging apps are on the rise.


3. We live in distributed media environment. Across 36 markets, 1/3 of online news users say going direct to websites and apps is their main way of accessing news, 2/3 say various forms of distributed discovery (search, social, etc.) is their main way.


4. While distributed environments are associated with fears of filter bubbles, we find that using social media, search, etc to in fact drive more diverse news diets


5. Finally, the business of news is still challenging, with very competitive advertising market and limited progress on getting people to pay for news–but the good news for news organizations is that younger media users pay for news at least as often as older ones do, and in fact are far more likely to pay for digital content and services generally.



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 (Senior Research Fellow), Sarah Ganter (Research Associate) and James Painter (who directs our fellowship program), as well as most of our research team and myself, have 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)


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)


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)


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)


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)


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.