The rise of platforms (2019 ICA post-conference)

Platform companies such as Google, Facebook, and Twitter are increasingly central to most forms of mediated communication around the world and therefore to most of the individual, institutional, and governance questions with which communication research deals.

To bring together different scholars with overlapping interests in the implications of this rise, Erika Franklin Fowler, Sarah Anne Ganter, Natali Helberger, Dave Karpf, Daniel Kreiss, Shannon McGregor and I are organizing a post-conference May 29 after the 2019 ICA conference.

More information about the post-conference here, deadline for extended abstracts is January 11.

We hope to see lots of interesting and intellectually and geographically diverse work presented and discussed at the post-conference.

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.


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.

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.

4. Trust and the news media

* O’Neill, Onora. 2002. A Question of Trust. Reith Lectures ; 2002. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. (Also available at

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.

6. Framing and media effects

* CommGap. 2012. “Media Effects”. World Bank Communication for Governance Accountability Program. (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.

8. News, race, and recognition

* Lamont, M. (2018). Addressing recognition gaps: Destigmatization and the reduction of inequality. American Sociological Review, 83(3), 419-444.

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.

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.”

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.

Fourth annual International Journal of Press/Politics conference, program


Next week, October 11-12, the incoming editor-in-chief Cristian Vaccari and I are hosting the fourth annual International Journal of Press/Politics conference at the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism at the University of Oxford.

It’s a special occasion for me as it will be my last conference as editor (I step down at the end of December and Cristian takes over).

Looking forward to welcoming colleagues from all over the world — full program below.


Thursday October 11th

8.00-8.45am                 Registration and coffee

8.45-9.00                      Opening remarks

9.00-10.00                    Keynote lecture by Andrew Chadwick

10.00-10.30                  Break

10.30-12.00                  Panels 1a and 1b 

12.00-13.00                  Lunch

13.00-14.30                  Panels 2a and 2b

14.30-15.00                  Break

15.00-16.30                  Panels 3a and 3b

7pm-onwards            Dinner


Friday October 12

8.00-9.00am                Arrival and coffee

9.00.-10.30                   Panels 4a and 4b

10.30-10.45                  Break

10.45-11.45                  Panels 5a and 5b

11.45-12.00                  Break

12.00-13.00                  Roundtable with IJPP Editorial Board members and closing remarks

13.00-14.00                  Lunch


Thursday October 11th

8.45-9.00    Opening remarks

9.00-10.00  Keynote lecture, Andy Chadwick

10.30-12.00 Panels 1a and 1b



Facebook Advertising in the United Kingdom General Election of 2017

Nick Anstead, Richard Stupart, Damian Tambini and Joao Vieira-Magalhaes


Diverging patterns of Facebook interactions on online news: media sources and partisan communities in the lead-up of 2018 Italian General Election

Fabio Giglietto, Augusto Valeriani, Nicola Righetti, and Giada Marino


When does Abuse and Harassment Marginalize Female Political Voices on Social Media?

Yannis Theocharis, Maarja Luhiste, Zoltan Fazekas, Sebastian Adrian Popa, and Pablo Barberá


PANEL 1b: NEWS CONSUMPTION (Chair: Homero Gil de Zúñiga)

More News Avoiders? A Longitudinal Study of News Consumption in Low and High Choice Media Environments 1997-2016

Rune Karlsen, Audun Beyer, and Kari Steen-Johnsen


News consumption on social media in authoritarian regimes: polarization and political apathy

Aleksandra Urman 


Gateways to news and selective exposure: Evidence from survey and navigation data

Ana Cardenal, Carlos Aguilar-Paredes, and Mario Pérez-Montoro


13.00-14.30 Panels 2a and 2b



The Moderating Effect of Political Responsibility on Populist Communication Online: The case of the German AfD

Tobias Widmann

“His Tweets Speak for Themselves”: An Analysis of Donald Trump’s Twitter Behaviour

Suzanne Elayan, Martin Sykora and Tom Jackson


The rally-intensive campaign: A distinct type of election campaign in sub-Saharan Africa and beyond

Dan Paget



“Beyond the Dark Mountains”: Suspicion and Distrust in the work of journalists covering the Israeli-Palestinian conflict

Tali Aharoni


Strategies for safety autonomy: The role of journalists’ capital enhancing professional autonomy in violent contexts

Julieta Brambila


Local authoritarian enclaves in democracies and democratic hybrids: How much do they explain the harassment and murder of journalists over the last quarter century?

Sallie Hughes and Yulia Vorobyeva


15.00-16.30 Panels 3a and 3b



Democratizing Views in International News: Proportions of Northern and Southern Perspectives in American and Finnish Coverage of the Global South

Kirsi Cheas


The political determinants of journalists’ career

Andrea Ceron, Sergio Splendore,Rosa Berganza, Thomas Hanitzsch, and Neil Thurman


How German and British journalists differ in their political and ethical role conceptions

Henkel, Imke, Neil Thurman, Veronika Deffner, and Ivica Obadic



The Authentic Politician: Strategies to Construct Authenticity in Political Campaigns

Gunn Enli


Old and New Echo Chambers

Paolo Mancini and Anna Stanziano


Communicative Power in the Hybrid Media System

Andreas Jungherr, Oliver Posegga, and Jisun An


Friday October 12

9.00-10.30 Panels 4a and 4b


PANEL 4a: NEWS CONTENT (Chair: Neil Thurman)

From Network to Narrative: Understanding the Nature and Trajectory of News Stories

Sarah Oates


Thinking through the political media system:  Surprising similarities between polarized media outlets during Election 2016

Chris Wells, Josephine Lukito, and Zhongkai Sun


An anatomy of the complex role of the media on policy ‘U-turns’

Ana Ines Langer



The Populist Campaigns against European Public Service Media: Hot Air or Existential Threat?

Felix Simon, Annika Sehl and Ralph Schroeder


Fake News as a Combative Frame: Results from a qualitative content analysis of the term’s definitions and uses on Twitter

Dominique Doering and Gina Neff


Disinformation and Media Manipulation in the Swedish 2018 Election

Ralph Schroeder, Lisa Kaati, and Johan Fernquist


10.45-11.45 Panels 5a and 5b



Are there echo chambers? A 7-nation comparison

Grant Blank & Elizabeth Dubois


The Proliferation of the ‘News Finds Me’ Perception Across Different Societies

Homero Gil de Zúñiga Nadine Strauss Brigitte Huber James Liu



Perceived Media Bias and Political Action: A 17-Country Comparison

Matthew Barnidge, Hernando Rojas, Rüdiger Schmitt-Beck, Paul A. Beck


Polarization and Inequality: key drivers of distrust in media old and new?

Jane Suiter and Richard Fletcher


12.00-13.00 IJPP Editorial Board Roundtable (with Paolo Mancini, Sallie Hughes, and Sarah Oates) and closing remarks


13.00-14.00 Lunch

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.