Higher Seminar in Journalism. News in a digital culture.
News in a digital culture – ideas about the meaning of news among young adults
Professor Stina Bengtsson & Associate Professor Sofia Johansson (Media and Communication, Södertörn)
News, for a long time considered a distinct commodity produced by journalists and established media organisations, is currently often considered a concept in flux. This
is prompted by changes in news production, including altering practices of journalists
and the opportunities for media users to produce and share their own content, but it is
equally a result of novel forms of news distribution, where social media platforms, micro-celebrities and alternative and viral news sites have gained a prominent role in news dissemination.
Alongside transformations in the production and distribution of news have followed changing use patterns, leading to renewed questions about participation, trust and civic engagement in the public sphere. It is arguable, furthermore, that the altered context for news consumption interlinks not only with new behaviours around news, but also with more varied understandings of the concept itself – with a range of different sources of information competing for what is to be considered ‘news’. What, in fact, do people mean when referring to ‘news’ today? When framed by the flow of mixed information in social media, or transmitted by distributors far from traditional journalistic organisations, how is news understood from an audience perspective?
In this presentation we present an ongoing research project aiming to contribute to scholarly debates about news and democracy in digitized society, by providing a rethinking of the concept of news. The empirical part of the project involves focus groups and individual interviews with ca seventy 18–26-year-olds in Sweden, exploring perceptions and practices around news among different socioeconomic groups and geographical settings, and taking a particular interest in the participants’ own relations to, definitions, and ideas of the concept. In the presentation we introduce the project outline and draw on some preliminary findings, underline several co-existing definitions in operation at the same time – relating partly to conventional notions but also to news as something highly personal; produced and disseminated by personal friends and ‘influencers’ in the social media feeds. Suggesting a closing gap between ideas of news as stemming from established media organisation and news as a more malleable concept, grounded in a mixture of the personal and the public, the study thus opens up for analysis of how young adults may evaluate and relate to different forms of ‘news’ today.