Understanding the Audience Turn in Journalism: From Quality Discourse to Innovation Discourse as Anchoring Practices 1995–2020

Irene Costera Meijer*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review

Abstract

Paying close attention to news users has become fully integrated in professional journalism. Even though this practice may still meet with resistance, becoming more audience responsive is no longer automatically condemned as the highway to popularization and sensationalism. What has changed in journalism’s ecosystem to account for this turnaround? This paper explains how journalists' attitude towards audiences changed from keeping them at a distance to constantly monitoring their movements. It is based on longitudinal participatory observation of key moments (editorial meetings, public debates) in Dutch journalism, as well as on informal talks and formal interviews with more than one hundred journalists and editors during the last twenty years. It traces four tipping points between 1995 and 2020 regarding the audience turn in commercial news and public service journalism: (1) Quality news as “not having to reckon with your audience”. (2) Increasing professional awareness of “informed citizenship” as quality journalism’s remit; (3) digitalization of journalism; and (4) increasing relevance of “audience engagement”. Ann Swidler’s concept of “anchoring practice” (2001) will be used as a lens to understand the gradual shift from quality discourse to innovation discourse as anchoring practices in journalism and journalism studies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2326-2342
Number of pages17
JournalJournalism Studies
Volume21
Issue number16
Early online date26 Nov 2020
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2020

Keywords

  • anchoring practice
  • Audience studies
  • boundary work
  • historical analysis
  • innovation discourse
  • quality discourse

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