Carmen Sicking

Lunchtime Seminar - The paradoxical relationship between journalism and its audience - or: How to make sense of user-generated content?

Tuesday, 3. May 2016 - 12:00 to Saturday, 15. June 2024 - 7:10, Leo 18

Title: "The paradoxical relationship between journalism and its audience - or: How to make sense of user-generated content?"


Wiebke Loosen is a Senior Researcher for journalism research at the Hans Bredow Institute for Media Research (Hamburg, Germany) and lecturer at the University of Hamburg. She has made various contributions to theoretical and empirical research in the field of journalism’s transformation in the internet age, including topics such as digital journalism, cross media journalism, and the “social mediatization” of journalism. Her current research includes work on audience participation in journalism, the changing journalism-/audience-relationship, the emerging startup culture in journalism and the changes in journalism’s organizational foundation, data journalism, and journalism’s role in increasingly algorithmically constructed public spheres. Further information on her work can be found on the web site of the Hans Bredow Institute (https://www.hans-bredow-institut.de/), and you can follow her on Twitter @WLoosen.


As part of the larger transformation of public communication in the digital age, professional journalists are faced with an increasing amount of audience feedback, e.g. in forums, comments sections, and social media. In pre‐digital times, conversations among audience members about mass media content remained largely invisible to journalists, with the exception of letters or calls to the editor. Today, the conversations of “the people formerly known as the audience” (Jay Rosen) are becoming increasingly visible to journalists, but also to other users, fundamentally changing how journalists and audiences perceive, use, and manage this kind of feedback.

Most (online) newsrooms will consider comment sections and other features for audience feedback mandatory. However, newsrooms differ as to how they manage these spaces, how they engage their users, and how they make use of feedback for their own reporting – not least because the manual handling and summarising of comments by journalists or dedicated social media editors is time consuming, while a fully automated analysis is expensive and error-prone. Accordingly, the development of tools to assist journalists in analyzing, filtering, and summarizing user‐generated content has been identified as a main challenge for news organizations.

In this talk I would like to offer insights into the changing relationship between journalism and its audiences from my own research, introduce “Scan”, an ongoing project that aims at developing a framework for the systematic, semi‐automated analysis of audience feedback to help journalists make constructive use of user comments, and propose research topics that would best be dealt with in an interdisciplinary environment, at the very least, at the intersection of computer science and communication studies.