From Abstract News Users to Living Citizens: Assessing Audience Engagement Through a Professional Lens
Journal article, Peer reviewed
MetadataVis full innførsel
OriginalversjonJournalism Practice. 2021. 10.1080/17512786.2021.1925949
Journalists’ increasing focus on news users is often seen as diverting the news agenda away from the core issues that are important to democracy. Hence, the practices of connecting journalists to the audience tend to be assessed as detrimental to the democratic function of journalism: informing citizens and facilitating public opinion. However, this normative link between practice and ideals has rarely been empirically addressed when studying audience engagement. In this article we use a case study (BiobioChile) to provide a more precise understanding of the democratic relevance that everyday engagement with the audience—through and beyond metrics—entails for journalism. First, our analysis suggests that audiences can be integrated into journalism’s democratic framework by moving beyond the dilemma of informed citizenship versus news user’s metrics to include what we propose to call living citizens: empirical concrete living beings grounded in journalistic practice. Second, we distinguish three audience oriented roles—observer, listener and connector—aimed both at maximizing the attention of news users, and at making sense of their needs as living citizens. These roles cover verifiable routines and values, thereby enabling a better assessment of the fulfilment of the democratic ideals of journalism.