Category Archives: Online journalism

What academic work on journalism/news/media would it be useful for journalists to read?

Back in August, Meera Selva, Joy Jenkins and I — all from the Reuters Institute — started asking people for suggestions of what academic work on journalism/news/media it would be useful for journalists to read.

Bookshelf

We wanted to create a list of reading suggestions for the incoming Reuters Institute  Journalist Fellows, mid-career journalists from all over the world who spend between 3 and 9 months with us in Oxford working on a project of their own choosing

A stable version is on the institute website here, and a Google Document open to editing is here.

We also hoped this would be useful for journalists elsewhere thinking about the present and future of their profession, the institutions that sustain and constrain it, its social and political implications, and how it is changing.

I’ve often felt (and written about) that academic research on journalism is too disconnected and far removed from urgent, present conversations about the future of news, so it was great to be reminded that there are many in the academic community who care  about how research can play a role in these discussions, and enthusiastically offered up suggestions.

We had hundreds of suggestions — and I’m sure we could have collected or come up with hundreds more — so what we have done to make it  a bit more managable and easy to access is to create 17 topics with a few suggested readings, including one marked as a good place to start on that topic, and then collected the other suggestions at the back of the document.

The 17 topics, and suggested first readings, are

1. Some classic big ideas on journalism, media, and ideas in public life

* Lippmann, Walter. 1997. Public Opinion. New Brunswick, N.J., U.S.A: Transaction Publishers.

2. What is journalism and news?

* Deuze, M. (2005). What is journalism? Professional identity and ideology of journalists reconsidered. Journalism, 6(4), 442-464. https://doi.org/10.1177/1464884905056815

3. Audience behaviour

* Newman, Nic, Richard Fletcher, Antonis Kalogeropoulos, David A. L Levy, and Rasmus Kleis Nielsen. 2018. “Reuters Institute Digital News Report 2018.” Oxford: Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism. http://www.digitalnewsreport.org/.

4. Trust and the news media

* O’Neill, Onora. 2002. A Question of Trust. Reith Lectures ; 2002. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. (Also available at https://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/reith2002/lectures.shtml)

5. Inequality and polarisation in news use

* Prior, Markus. 2005. “News vs. Entertainment: How Increasing Media Choice Widens Gaps in Political Knowledge and Turnout.” American Journal of Political Science 49 (3): 577–92. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1540-5907.2005.00143.x.

6. Framing and media effects

* CommGap. 2012. “Media Effects”. World Bank Communication for Governance Accountability Program. http://siteresources.worldbank.org/EXTGOVACC/Resources/MediaEffectsweb.pdf (short overview).

7. Relations between reporters and officials

* Bennett, W. Lance. 1990. “Toward a Theory of Press-State Relations in the United States.” The Journal of Communication 40 (2): 103–27. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1460-2466.1990.tb02265.x.

8. News, race, and recognition

* Lamont, M. (2018). Addressing recognition gaps: Destigmatization and the reduction of inequality. American Sociological Review, 83(3), 419-444. https://doi.org/10.1177%2F0003122418773775

9. Women and journalism

* Franks, Suzanne. 2013. Women and Journalism. London: I.B.Tauris.

10. Business of news

* Nielsen, Rasmus Kleis. Forthcoming. “The Changing Economic Contexts of Journalism.” In Handbook of Journalism Studies, edited by Thomas Hanitzsch and Karin Wahl-Jorgensen. https://rasmuskleisnielsen.files.wordpress.com/2018/05/nielsen-the-changing-economic-contexts-of-journalism-v2.pdf.

11. Innovation in the media

* Küng, Lucy. 2015. Innovators in Digital News. RISJ Challenges. London: Tauris.

12. Platform companies and news media

* Bell, Emily J., Taylor Owen, Peter D. Brown, Codi Hauka, and Nushin Rashidian. 2017. “The Platform Press: How Silicon Valley Reengineered Journalism.” https://academiccommons.columbia.edu/catalog/ac:15dv41ns27.

13. Digital media and technology

* Dijck, José van. 2013. The Culture of Connectivity: A Critical History of Social Media. Oxford ; New York: Oxford University Press.

14. Disinformation

* Wardle, Claire, and Hossein Derakhshan. 2017. Information Disorder: Toward an Interdisciplinary Framework for Research and Policy Making. Report to the Council of Europe. https://shorensteincenter. org/information-disorder-framework-for-research-and-policymaking.

15. Democracy, journalism, and media

* Schudson, Michael. 2008. Why Democracies Need an Unlovable Press. Cambridge, UK: Polity. (Especially the chapter “Six or Seven Things that Journalism can do for Democracy”)

16. Censorship and propaganda

* Simon, Joel. 2014. The New Censorship : Inside the Global Battle for Media Freedom. Columbia Journalism Review Books. New York: Columbia University Press.

17. International/comparative research

* Hallin, Daniel C., and Paolo Mancini. 2005. “Comparing Media Systems.” In Mass Media and Society, edited by James Curran and Michael Gurevitch, 4th ed., 215–33. London: Hodder Arnold.

There are topics not yet on the list (local journalism, for example), and the list reflects the biases of published English language research and of our personal/professional  networks in tending towards studies of and from Western countries, often specifically from the US. (It also reflects the fact that I (a) have learned a lot from my time at Columbia University and (b) am proud of the work we have done at the Reuters Institute.) The list is thus, like any list, limited, but we hope it  is potentially useful and interesting, at least as a starting point, and hope journalists all over the world will find it useful.

Let us know what you think, we plan to update it going forward.

Advertisements

Do people know where they get their news from?

When people get news via search engines, social media, and others forms of distributed discovery — rather than going directly to a website or app — they often cannot correctly recall what brand e a story they have read actually came from.

In a new article in New Media & Society led by Antonis Kalogeropoulos and with Richard Fletcher, we’ve looked more closely at the factors that influence correct news brand attribution in different environments.

Abstract below, full article here.

The digital media environment is increasingly characterized by distributed discovery, where media users find content produced by news media via platforms like search engines and social media. Here, we measure whether online news users correctly attribute stories they have accessed to the brands that have produced them. We call this “news brand attribution.” Based on a unique combination of passive tracking followed by surveys served to a panel of users after they had accessed news by identifiable means (direct, search, social) and controlling for demographic and media consumption variables, we find that users are far more likely to correctly attribute a story to a news brand if they accessed it directly rather than via search or social. We discuss the implications of our findings for the business of journalism, for our understanding of source cues in an increasingly distributed media environment and the potential of the novel research design developed.

“Cutting through the noise” – short Q&A on my new role as RISJ Director

Below a video of a short Q&A about my new role as Director of the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism.

How can journalism cut through the noise of a world in which there is so many voices and so much information out there?

How can we help journalists face the challenges and opportunities of a changing world and continually transformed media environment from a position of strength?

How can the institute serve as a bazaar, a trading zone, bringing together journalists, different contributions made by our own research and other academics, and other relevant voices including media executives, policymakers, technology companies?

All part of our work helping journalists around the world think about their profession and the future of news, and what they can do to shape it.

Full transcript here and video below.

What can we do for journalism?

When I think of journalism I think of the journalists who do it and the people they do it for, and the question for me as new Director of the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism at the University of Oxford is what we can do for them through our activities, including our journalism fellowship program, our leadership development programs, and our independent research.

Nobody knows better than journalists that journalism is not perfect. It ranges from the heroic to the humdrum. Some of it is amusing and useful, a bit of it is crap or even outright dangerous, even as much of it is informative and empowering—everyday reporting in some ways as important as the occasional big stand-out investigations. When I think of the people who do it, I think of the journalists I’ve met in newsrooms across the world and through the Journalism Fellowship program at the Reuters Institute, journalists who have done it all, from the daily grind to outstanding examples of determined reporting in the face of extraordinary obstacles—like the Mexican journalist Juliana Fregoso, who told me the advantage of reporting on organized crime as a woman in a society with a strong strand of machismo culture was that the cartels would warn female reporters before they killed them, or Ntibinyane Ntibinyane, who was detained and threatened by Botswanan security operatives when he and his colleagues tried to investigate whether the president was using public funds for renovations at his holiday home, but who persisted and went on to obtain satellite imagery to document that that was indeed the case. They are just two examples from the many amazing journalists we have hosted.

Ultimately, most journalists do what they do for the public. Journalism exists in the context of its audience, and its social role, its political importance, and the entire business behind it is premised on that relationship. When I think of the people journalists do journalism for, I think of my nephews in Denmark, one a plumber, the other probably heading to university. Like their counterparts across the world, they are part of a generation that will never be regular readers of a printed newspaper or routine viewers of television news bulletins. They have the same need for accurate, accessible, diverse, relevant, and timely independently produced reliable information about public affairs that my generation and my parents’ generation have had. But like most everybody else under 40 they will never miss the 20th century media environment I grew up in. Their media environment is defined by digital media, mobile, and by platforms, and they have no sentimental longing for paper or broadcast. Why would they?

For both journalists and the public, the basic journalistic aspiration of finding truth and reporting it is of enduring importance, as are all the ways in which journalism can empower people by helping them keep informed about, oriented in, and engaged with the world around them. Even as much else change, core elements of the craft of journalism, and many of the fundamental challenges, remain constant—like holding power to account, whether people in public office or private interests who shy publicity, like clearly narrating complex problems in real-time, like making the significant interesting and the interesting significant.

In my office, I keep a picture that reminds me of these challenges, and why they matter. It is from the Atocha Station in Madrid, one of the places where an al-Qaeda terrorist cell set of bombs March 11 in 2004, killing 192 people and wounded thousands more three days before Spain’s general elections. Leading members of the governing Partido Popular claimed that Basque terrorist separatists were behind the bombings, even in face of mounting evidence that radical Islamists were responsible. Some news media accepted, publicized, and stuck by the ruling party and its line even as voting grew nearer. Others, like El Pais, questioned it, and reported the truth in advance of the election.

A man pays his respects at memorial site at Madrid's Atocha station.

Picture © REUTERS/Susana Vera

I keep this picture as a powerful reminder of the enduring importance of journalism’s commitment to finding truth and reporting it – quickly, in the face of much confusion and competing claims – to meet people’s need to be informed and empowered to make their own decisions.

This commitment is timeless. These needs are constant. But much else in journalism is changing, often in challenging ways.

The question for me as incoming Director of the Reuters Institute is thus the one I began with—what can we do to help journalists (and all of us who rely on journalism) reinvent the profession and the industry that sustains (and sometimes constrains) it the 21st century so that journalism can inform and empower the public in the future?

There is no question for me that continued, radical, and sometimes painful professional and organizational change will be a necessary part of that reinvention.

My theory of change is this—we at the Reuters Institute cannot change anything.

But we can empower those who will shape the future of journalism—especially in the profession itself and in the news media industry, but also in technology companies, amongst policymakers, in the academy, and in the broader public. We are not an advocacy group or a lobby organization, but we believe in the power and purpose of independent journalism and we want to help.

My vision is a Reuters Institute that empowers a new generation of leaders in news and help them reinvent the journalistic profession and the organizations that enable it, a generation who on that basis can face the opportunities and challenges offered by a changing audience, technology, and political environment from a position of strength.

Recent years have seen incredibly impressive examples of journalism and journalistic innovation. From new forms of storytelling, like the Daily Mirror’s Wigan Pier Project and the BBC’s experiment with telling the story of migration through a “takeover” of your mobile phone, over new forms of reporting like the Washington Post’s carefully orchestrated and reader-powered investigation of the  Donald J. Trump Foundation and initiatives like “My Country Talks” pioneered by Die Zeit or Rappler’s work on disinformation in the Philippines and joint debunking, fact-checking, and source verification work by collaborations like CrossCheck in France, Verificado in Mexico, and Comprova in Brazil, to classic investigative reporting ranging from individual stories like the Wire’s Jay Amit Shah revelations in India to the Panama papers project orchestrated by ICIJ and enabled by Süddeutsche Zeitung’s decision to share documents with a network of partners.

But for all these immensely encouraging examples of powerful, public-impact journalism, it is also clear that this is an incredibly challenging time for journalism.

The challenges are many and complex and include, at the very least—

External challenges, including (1) increasing political pressures from prominent politicians (in some countries amounting to an active war on journalism, in others attitudes ranging from benign indifference to barely disguised hostility), (2) the ongoing and inevitable decline of business models built around print and broadcast that historically funded professional news production, and (3) a changing media environment increasingly dominated by platform companies that presents both challenges and opportunities to journalists and news media alike.

Internal challenges, including existential questions (1) about what journalism is and what it is for, how it and the organizations that enable it can reinvent itself, (2) of how it can remain relevant and be genuinely valuable for the public as a whole and for us as individuals by keeping us informed about, oriented in, and engaged with the world when it is so clearly losing the battle for attention, and, in many countries, (3) how journalism can ensure that news is trustworthy and trusted.

There are no clear, singular, “right” answers to these challenges, or the opportunities that come with some of them.

We don’t have them at the Reuters Institute.

I most certainly do not have them.

But what we and I do have is the conviction that facing these questions will require a renewed commitment to core principles of journalism (like the ambition to find truth and report it), as well as continued professional and organizational change (with everything from forms of journalistic work to new business models to support it).

No one knows what the future of journalism is. But we know it will have to be different from its past. In some ways, we know that it should be different from the past.

Can we look at the question of whether journalism captures the full range of diverse groups, voices, and views in society and say that all is well? Can we look at some of the most important issues of our time, whether climate change, the financial crises, or political events like the Brexit referendum or the election of Donald J. Trump, and say that journalism has got it right? At its best, journalism is amazing—informative, empowering, really engaging and relevant, diverse and empowering. But much of it is not, and has not been. Journalists know this. The public know it. And we need to face that fact and think about how to do better in the future, and what kind of professional, organizational, and institutional change doing better will require.

My ambition for the Reuters Institute is that we help those journalists, editors, and others who will lead the profession and the industry on that journey into the future, and try to help them make journalism the best it can be. Help them though our fellowship program, which brings outstanding journalists from all over the world to Oxford where they learn from each other, benefit from our research, and engage with academics from many different backgrounds. Help them through our leadership development programs, where we host events for leading editors and executives and help them work through the challenges they individually, and the profession and the industry as a whole, faces. Help them through our independent, evidence-based global research, which address some of the core issues around journalism, news, and media in an accessible, timely, and relevant fashion. And through more than that, our participation in professional and industry events, our work with policymakers, our own events, communication, and much more.

Anyone who tells you that journey will be easy is a liar or a fool.

But it is an incredibly important journey. We at the Reuters Institute want to be part of it, and we believe we can help people make it work. Together, we won’t be trying to go back to the journalism of yesterday, but build towards a better journalism for tomorrow. For the sake of journalists all over the world, like our fellows. And for the sake of the public they do their journalism for, like my nephews, like you and me.

Note: I was offered the position as Director July 17 and will start in my new role October 1. I never for a moment doubted that this is what I wanted to do. I believe very strongly that independent journalism, with all its imperfections, is incredibly important. I believe in the mission of the Reuters Institute, I believe in our efforts at connecting practice and research, and I believe in the global community around the institute. I’m delighted and honoured that Alan Rusbridger’s public announcement of my appointment and the official release from Monique Villa, CEO of our main sponsor, the Thomson Reuters Foundation as well as from the institute itself was so well received by so many people from all over the world that I greatly respect, I won’t name anyone, but I’m glad that the people who responded to the announcement included all the different communities of journalists, editors, executives, technologists, policymakers, and academics that we engage with, and came from so many different parts of the world, reflecting our global orientation.

President Trump does not trust news from platform companies – nor do right-wing voters

President Trump not only considers wide swaths of the US news media “enemies of the people”.

He is now also asserting without evidence that social media companies like Facebook and Twitter “silence conservative voices” and has alleged that Google search results are “rigged” and are “suppressing” Republicans and conservatives.

Trump’s attacks included some demonstrable false claims, as for example BuzzFeed News has demonstrated, including the idea that Google promoted president Obama’s State of the Union on its homepage but stopped promoting these speeches when Trump took office.

As Jason Kint, CEO of Digital Content Next, a trade association that represents online news publishers and a frequent critic of platform companies wrote after Trump’s attacks on Google, “He’s 100% wrong. He’s spreading complete BS. If he was even remotely correct, I would be the first to call it out. I have a lot of issues with Google, this isn’t one of them.”

But will his attacks resonate with conservative voters? Our Reuters Institute Digital News Report survey data suggests it might.

Not only are partisan voters likely to take cues from politicians they support. In this case, the President’s attacks also plays into widespread distrust not only of news media, but also news found via social media and search engines. (Our survey was in the field in January/February so well before Trump started publicly attacking the platform companies.)

People on the political right in the US not only have far less trust in the news media than the rest of the population.

They also trust news in social and search far less than people in the center or on the political left, as shown in the chart below.

17 percent of those on the political right say they trust most news, compared to 16 percent who say they trust news in search engines and just 8 percent who say they trust news in social media. (The latter perhaps complicating the narrative that Conservatives favor social media.)

Trump trust US

Google has denied using political viewpoints to shape its search results, and said “Search is not used to set a political agenda and we don’t bias our results toward any political ideology.” (Facebook and Twitter have not responded directly.)

But Trump’s core supporters may not believe it, or any of the other platform companies the President is now attacking. As news media have long known, it is one issue how you can try to avoid political bias. It is another whether some people think you are politically biased.

Thanks to Antonis Kalogeropoulos who helped with the chart.

 

If journalism studies research want to be part of the conversation about the future of journalism, we need to start showing up

The rise of digital media and the resulting changes in both the practice and business of news, the crisis of confidence in the media in many countries, and growing political pressures on independent journalism in others, animates an increasingly urgent conversation about the future of journalism.

The academic field of journalism studies often seems virtually absent from that conversation.

We might feel that we, like other scientific fields, have “epistemic authority” over our main object of analysis, the legitimate and recognized right to define, describe, and explain specific aspects of reality.

But few seems to care what we know, or find what we do relevant. As former ICA President Larry Gross said at ICA in 2017, we, like other media and communications researchers, may feel we have a lot to offer. But the debate is in practice often dominated by lawyers, economists, and consultants.

Similarly, with some notable exceptions, much of the discussion around what we study—journalism, its output, and the relations that constitute, define, and enable it in different contexts—is driven by practitioners, pundits, and scientists from other fields.

Journalism studies, on the other hand, seems largely absent.

Some of the factors accounting for our relative absence are surely external to our field, things over which we have little control.

But there are arguable also internal factors, factors we might address if we want to be part of the conversation about the future of journalism.[1]

One factor is not showing up.

Consider for example the International Journalism Festival, held every spring in Perugia in Italy. It can serve as a useful illustrative case because it represents a fantastic opportunity to engage with many different voices engaged in the conversation around the future of journalism. (There are many ways to engage, including writing for popular outlets, social media, and private conversations with journalists. But attending professional and industry events like IJF I think are an important example of engagement.)

The festival is free to attend, and draws thousands of people, including hundreds of speakers from news media, technology companies, and policymaking circles. It is genuinely international with participants from many different countries. It is proudly open and inclusive in providing a platform for many different voices from many different backgrounds—those interested simply propose a panel and the organizers work to accommodate all they can, and subsidize most of the speakers.

IJF is fantastically interesting, good fun, and, from an engagement point of view, a cheap, easy, and engaging way for academics to learn from journalists and others and share work with them.

However, it appears that not many academics do so.

Consider the 2018 festival, which hosted more than 500 speakers. Looking specifically at the 386 international speakers, and defining an academic speaker broadly as someone who list their main affiliation as a university and works at least in part with research, I could identify only 40 academics, 10%, amongst the speakers.[2]

Even more strikingly for a festival in (continental) Europe, a full 31 of these worked at UK (18) or US (13) universities. The third largest group by country of work? Canada (!) with 3, followed by Belgium, France, Germany, Serbia, Spain, and Turkey with one each. Leaving aside Italians and the UK, there were just 6 academics from the rest of Europe combined, about 1.5% of all festival speakers.

IJF

If we are serious about being part of the conversation about the future of journalism, we need to start showing up to events like this, and show up in numbers and in all our diversity.

I have no problem with the fact that 90% of the IJF speakers are non-academics. I enjoyed every single panel I went to and learned a ton, often especially from non-academics.

But I do think it is a shame and a missed opportunity for academics, both individually and institutionally, that so few of us show up for events like the IJF that provide such a perfect opportunity for learning from and sharing with practitioners, policymakers, and members of the public interested in what we do.

Some scholars have developed a normative idea of “reciprocal journalism”, based on the idea of mutually beneficial forms of exchange.

Perhaps we need an similar commitment from academics to “reciprocal research”, strengthening our own work while also giving back to the public, the people we study, and policy-making discussions?

Some scholars do already show up, judging by the 2018 numbers especially academics from the UK and the US. What drives this strong representation?

Some of it is surely the added visibility and reach that can come with working in English, and in the case of the US a large field of academics with international interests.

But remember, IJF is open to anyone who pitches a panel. (I have no reason to think the festival routinely rejects relevant proposals, but can’t really know from the outside – if anyone has had such experiences, please let me know.)

So part of the reason is likely that UK and US academics pitch more frequently than their counterparts elsewhere in Europe and beyond.

One possible explanation is the growing number of extra-departmental, inter-disciplinary centers committed to connecting research and practice that seems particularly prevalent in English-speaking universities. (This would include for example POLIS at the LSE in the UK and Agora at the University of Oregon in the US as well as us at the Reuters Institute in Oxford.)

Such centers account for only a tiny part of the overall number of academics researching journalism, but they are important because they operate differently from traditional departments where, I would posit, the informal norms and formal reward systems of our field often do not reward engagement, and often tend to reward inwards discussion and narrow specialization.

Centers, in contrast, can serve as what science and technology scholars call trading zones, spaces where the development of interactional expertise helps people with different practical experience, professional objectives, and forms of substantive expertise collaborate across their differences.

And indeed, if we break down the 40 academics who presented at the International Journalism Festival in 2018, by my count, 13 out of the 31 UK and US academics come from various extra-departmental, inter-disciplinary centers focused on connecting research and practice. 6 are associated with the Reuters Institute alone – more than the total number of academic IJF speakers from Belgium, France, Germany, Spain, and Turkey combined. (I am not familiar with all the academic institutions people work at, so I may have under-counted centers based in countries where I do not speak the language. When in doubt, I have assumed people are based in a department, not a center.)

Some may see this difference between departments and centers as a zero-sum trade-off or a division of labor. From this point of view, departments focus on basic science, centers do applied work and engagement. I think this is often misleading.

A different perspective and from my point of view more useful approach is the one developed by some sociologists of science, who have distinguished between what they call “Mode 1” (an older paradigm of scientific work, driven by academically exclusive, investigator-initiated, and discipline-based forms of knowledge production) and “Mode 2,” the kinds of context-driven, problem-focused, and interdisciplinary forms of knowledge production that are central to some of the most successful fields in science today, like computer science, engineering, and medicine.

From this perspective, all centers can benefit from doing some basic science, and all departments can benefit from more engagement.

I would suggest much of the work done in journalism studies today often aspires to the inwards-looking “Mode 1” model, whereas work done in extra-departmental interdisciplinary centers aspires to “Mode 2” forms of knowledge production in ways that tend to encourage engagement with an evolving set of both inside and outside partners and focus on contemporary issues.

The difference here is not between basic and applied research, or between intellectual substance and practical application, but in how questions are asked, why, how work is done, and how it is published.

At the Reuters Institute, for example, we combine self-published fast turn-around reports with peer-reviewed articles in top outlets like the Journal of Communication and New Media & Society.

Similarly, many other academics who spoke (and listened) at the International Journalism Festival combine a focus on scholarly work with a real commitment to engagement with practitioners, whether already established figures like Charlie Beckett and Regina Lawrence, people like Nikki Usher and Ruthie Palmer from my own generation, or PhD students like Lisa-Maria Neudert and Philip di Salvo. If we as a field are serious about engaging in the discussion, learning from and sharing with journalists, policymakers, and the public, we should recognize and celebrate those who do, especially early career researchers who are frankly taking a risk – one I think they should and will be rewarded for – when they take out time to attend things like this rather than trying to crank out yet another peer-reviewed journal article.

Both “Mode 1” and “Mode 2“forms of knowledge production have different strengths and weaknesses, but there is no doubt which one prioritize engagement the most, nor which of them privilege what former ERC President Helga Nowotny has called “social robustness”, the aim of producing “robust knowledge” that is relevant to and accepted by actors in the context of its application.

My own view is that “Mode 2” offers a very promising model of knowledge production for journalism studies if we wish to produce knowledge that is relevant and robust in addition to being distinct, valuable, and reliable.

From this perspective, more engagement would not be distraction for journalism studies, but a way of enriching our work, while also making a greater contribution to public debate, and perhaps to the public. I think this has great potential, for journalism studies as a field, and for the discussion around journalism, and hope many more academics will join.

At its best, journalism studies can be an important part of the conversation about the future of journalism.

But to do so, we need to start showing up, listening to and learning from those already engaged in the discussion, integrate such engagement in what we do and what we value as a field, and work hard to make sure that our work brings independent evidence and insight to the issues of the day.

As John F. Kennedy is supposed to have said, “Every accomplishment starts with the decision to try.” I suggest academics interested in engaging more with those most active in the discussion around the future of journalism, and learning from this conversation start by showing up in greater numbers.

Perhaps try it by coming to the IJF in Perugia next year? It’s April 3-7. Mark your calendar. I’ve marked mine. I hope to see you there.

Notes

[1] I’ve written about similar issues in the field of political communication research here.

[2] This is not a formal content analysis and done quickly on my own by looking through all speakers and categorizing them on the basis of their stated affiliation. The definition of “academic” means that Aron Pilhofer, who does not have a PhD but does important work at Temple University, is counted as an academic, while Guy Berger, who is an accomplished academic but works for UNESCO, does not (nor does Alan Rusbridger who at the University of Oxford, but as Principal of Lady Margaret Hall). I have coded people by the institutional affiliation they provide, not their country of origin.

How much time do people spend with news across media?

How much time do people on average spend with news on a daily basis? A few weeks back, Chris Moran from the Guardian asked this seemingly simply question to which I did not know, but wanted to know, the answer.

Moran

 

There are at least three immediate problems in answering the question. First, people won’t necessarily agree on what precisely constitutes news versus other genres (opinion, sport, culture, etc.), second, we don’t have consistent reliable data across platforms (digital, broadcast, print) and, third, the best available source of consistent data across platforms, surveys, relies on self-reporting, which is notoriously plagued by problems of social desirability bias and inaccurate recall. (Markus Prior compared surveys with behavioural data for TV and found that surveys on average exaggerate news consumption by a factor of three.)

I am going to ignore these three problems here (because we can’t solve them at the moment), as well as the many others that complicate a precise and robust result, and try to give a minimal viable answer to Chris’ rather relevant question. I will offer a high estimate based on generous assumptions and a low estimate based on more conservative assumptions. The figures for the UK in 2016 are, 74 minutes and 25 minutes, depending on assumptions, and for the US 72 minutes and 24 minutes.

stacked bar

I will caveat the estimates further by saying that (1) that time spent does not mean “devote” as in Chris’ original question, as much media use involve multi-tasking, either dual screening with multiple media (about 1/5 of media use according to Ofcom) or using media while also doing something else, and  (2) statistically, we know that “no one is average”, so there will be significant variation most importantly probably by age, interest, and socio-economic class—but I will stick to averages here for a simple overview with simple assumptions.

Enough caveats—here is what the estimates above are based on. First, an estimate of what percentage of time spend on specific media platforms (television, radio, etc.) people spend on news. Second, up-to-date data on how much time people spend with specific media platforms. The high estimates treat the self-reported data as relatively reliable. Third, the low estimate simply divide self-reported figures by three as per Prior’s finding.

The steps then are as follows—

 

First, the estimate of time spent with news.

The most recent publicly available study based on a single consistent source of data that estimates time spent with news that I know of is from the Pew Research Center in the US. In 2010, they surveyed Americans to learn how much time they spent with news on various platforms, including television, radio, print, and online. Using data from this study on the number of minutes Americans said they spent with news on various media platforms and data from eMarketer on how much time American spent in total with the same various media platforms allow us to calculate the percentage of time spent with news on each platform—e.g. in 2010, Pew finds that people on average spend 32 minutes with television news on a daily basis, and eMarketer reports people spend 4 hours and 24 minutes watching television, so television news accounts for 12 percent of viewing time.

So here is what we get. In 2010 in the United States in, the average time spend with news by medium was—

32 minutes of television news (12% of 4:24 average viewing time)

13 minutes of digital news (7% of 3:14 spent with digital media across desktop, smartphone, and tablet)

10 minutes of print news (20% of 0:50 spent with print)

15 minutes of radio news (16% of 1:36 spent with radio)

70 minutes in total (about 11 % of the 10 hours and 42 minutes eMarketer estimated Americans spend with media daily in 2010).

 

Second, up-to-date data on time spend with specific media platforms.

For this, I use Ofcom’s Digital Day study from 2016 for the UK and from eMarketer for the US. If we use the percentages calculated above as a reasonable approximation of how much time spend with a particular medium is spend specifically with news on average, we can calculate the average time spend with news by looking at people’s media use in 2016. (Strong public service media in the UK may mean that the US percentages are too low, as public service media tend to program more news at peak viewing times (documented by Toril Aalberg et al.) and reach wide audiences online.)

The estimates then look as follows—

UK 2016, based on data from Ofcom

38 minutes of TV news (12% of 5:13 viewing time)

19 minutes of digital news (7% of 4:27 spent with digital media across desktop, smartphone, and tablet)

5 minutes of print news (20% of 0:26 spent with print)

12 minutes of radio news (16% of 1:15 spent with radio)

74 minutes in total (this too is about 11% of the 10 hours and 52 minutes Ofcom estimated Brits spend with media daily in 2016).

 

US 2016, based on data from eMarketer

29 minutes of TV news (12% of 4:05 viewing time)

23 minutes of digital (7% of 5:25 spent with digital media across desktop, smartphone, and tablet)

6 minutes of print (20% of 0:28 spent with print)

14 minutes of radio (16% of 1:27 spent with radio)

72 minutes in total (so about 10% of the 12 hours and 5 minutes eMarketer estimated Americans spend with media daily in 2016).

 

The high estimates based on generous assumptions stop here.

 

Third, the low estimates in the figure above

These are based on more conservative assumptions by factoring in Prior’s finding, that people on average over-report by a factor of three (young people, rich people, and people with kids tend to over-report more than that—in some demographics by a factor of eight). The factor may be different in the UK but Prior’s estimate is the best I know of.

Looking specifically at the figure for digital, other sources based on tracking data rather than recall would support that. While the self-reported measures from Pew suggest that people in 2010 on average spent 7% of their time with digital media with news, tracking data from Nielsen suggest that the actual figure in 2011 was much lower, reportedly just 2.6%. This is close to the figure one would arrive at if factoring in Prior’s average over-reporting (2.3%). And some figures for how much time people spend with news across digital media are lower than that. (In the absence of robust data, I have not tried to account for possible difference in the share of news that people consume as part of various ways of using digital media, e.g. difference between desktop and mobile, or difference between news as a share of browsing on the open web versus as a share of time spent with social media—if people know of good data I would like to see it so I can update.)

 

So what?

Beyond giving high and low estimates of how much time people on average spend with news on a daily basis, these calculations also draw attention to a basic feature of the structural move from analogue to digital media: news is a much, much smaller share of what we do with digital media (at most 7% on average) than it is of what we do with older offline forms of media, including print (20%), radio (16%) and even television (12%). The move to a digital media environment with far fiercer competition for our attention is thus a move to an environment in which people spend more time with media, but almost certainly will spend less time with news—and this would be even more so if it wasn’t for products and services like search engines and social media that in their current form demonstrably drive incidental exposure to news when people use them for other purposes.

The powerful driving forces behind this shift are technology, which vastly expand supply, and our relative preferences, which determines the demand. And as Prior has shown in previous work on the move to cable television, while almost everyone is interested in news, most of us have many other things we are more interested in, so the more we get to choose from, the bigger the gulf between those who are most interested in news and those who are less interested in it. Media choice is good in many ways, but it also increases information inequality. And no media environment has ever offered us as many choices as we have today with digital media.

I am grateful to Richard Fletcher for his comments, suggestions, and assistance.