Tim Groot Kormelink: The New News Consumer: Storytelling

Tim Groot Kormelink | VU University, Faculty of Humanities, Department of Journalism | Supervisor: Irene Costera Meijer | December 2013 – December 2018 | t[dot]grootkormelink[at]vu[dot]nl

My research is part of the project The New News Consumer: User-Based Innovation to Meet Paradigmatic Change in News Use and Media Habits. The central question that drives this project is: how does digitalization enable and inhibit novel news habits and patterns of media use, and how can journalism institutions develop services and offer their information in a way that fits optimally with changing user preferences and practices? In particular, my research is concerned with storytelling and the ways users value and experience different narrative forms of journalism. Experimental research suggests that employing a narrative (i.e., telling a story) enhances enjoyment and understanding of news (e.g., Knobloch et al., 2004; Machill et al., 2007; Yaros, 2006), but less is known about how users value and experience different ways of telling the news in the context of their everyday life. Using a variety of (mostly qualitative) methods, including in-depth interviews, diaries, and sensory ethnography, this project aims to explore how users can be served by journalism in ways which do justice to reality in all its complexity.

Birte Schohaus: Politicians in talk shows – Behind the scenes

Birte Schohaus | University of Groningen, department of media and journalism studies |1 October 2012 end 30 September 2016 | Supervisors: professor Marcel Broersma & professor  Huub Wijfjes | b[dot]schohaus[at]rug[dot]nl

Despite a growing body of different news media, like online news and social media, television is still a crucial source of political information for citizens. The interaction between politicians and journalists on television, however, has changed markedly during the last decades and is still altering. Television talk shows have played a significant role in these changes and have gained a special position in the relations between journalists and politicians. There is more space for soft news and human interest in this genre than in news programs, and the host can easily switch between serious and more entertaining topics or questions. Politicians have to adjust to these formats, but also think they can get their message across much more easily in a talk show than in news programs where they only get a few seconds of speaking time.

In my research I focus on the relationship between the on- and off-screen interaction between politicians and journalists in Dutch talk shows and how this is affected by the programs’ format. By combining ethnographic research, interviews with politicians, spokesmen, editors and journalists, and a qualitative content analysis of those shows, the production process as well as the final product are analysed to unravel underlying structures, agreements and ideas that shape a program’s format and the interaction in it.


Joëlle Swart: The New News Consumer: Public Connection in the Digital Age

Joëlle Swart | University of Groningen, Centre for Media and Journalism Studies | prof. dr. Marcel Broersma & dr. Chris Peters | 1 December 2013 until 1 December 2017 | j[dot]a[dot]c[dot]swart[at]rug[dot]nl

In this digitalized world, news users have an almost unlimited access to news and information. Rather than a mass press that decides what audiences need to know, the user is in control of how, where and when he or she consumes the news. At the same time, news organizations are having difficulties to adapt to these changing audience demands. Despite heavy investment from the news industry, news organizations struggle with declining newspaper circulations and television viewer ratings, raising the question how journalism can preserve its democratic function of connecting news consumers to public issues and preparing them for civic engagement. This PhD project focuses on the question how digitalization can facilitate new forms of ‘public connection’ (Couldry et al., 2007) and civic engagement. Previous research suggests that news consumers still feel a need to orient themselves to public issues (e.g. Heikkilä et al., 2010). If so, what are the means and avenues by which such public connection occurs? What is the democratic and civic potential of new forms of engagement with news, such as commenting, liking and social network sharing for public connection? And how can news media best support such public connection? Using a mixed-method approach, this project aims to map current patterns of news consumption and public connection, in order to help news organizations to preserve its democratic function and increase their relevance in news consumers’ everyday lives.


  • Couldry, N., Livingstone, S. M., & Markham, T. (2007). Media consumption and public engagement. Beyond the presumption of attention. London: Palgrave.
  • Heikkilä, H., Kunelius, R., & Ahva, L. (2010). From credibility to relevance. Towards a sociology of journalism’s “added value”. Journalism Practice, 4(3), 274-284.

Yu Sun: Public Deliberation in Chinese Online Sphere

Yu Sun, University of Groningen, Department of Journalism and media studies | Supervisor: Professor Marcel Broersma | 1 September, 2013 – 31 August, 2017 | y[dot]sun[at]rug[dot]nl

Chinese Internet has become a prominent source for keeping people update about what is happening in China. There are more than 480 million Internet users now in China. With the emergence of social media in China, people have a new participatory channel to get informed and discuss issues of their concern. Sometimes, lay citizens’ voices expressed on this interactive media platform generate collective preference among all actors and can be transformed into influential say in authorities’ governance. This successful deliberative practice not only empowers ordinary citizens to express their appeals in public policy to defend their rights and interests but also provides governments a larger setting to make good and democratic decisions. Nevertheless, the outcome of public discussions in online sphere, sometimes, leads to nowhere.

Therefore, the value of social media itself is still questionable in terms of its engaging and mobilizational capacity without looking at the whole socio-political context and power relations outside it. In order to comprehensively understand the social media’s role in Chinese public sphere, it’s necessary to look at online discussions about specific issues and the interaction and dynamic interplay between deliberative outcome and other social actors in the whole network of power relations.

In my study, public discussions on Chinese social media platforms will be investigated to see how “street-level deliberation” is shaped in Chinese cyberspace (Coleman & Moss, 2012, p.11). Besides, the interaction between citizen deliberative outcome and the authorities’ policy-making will also be explored to further reveal multilevel interaction among publics and governments and the multifaceted power relations between state and society in China.


Steven Willemsen: On the Cognitive and Hermeneutic Dynamics of Complex Film Narratives

Steven Willemsen | University of Groningen, Dept. Arts, Culture & Media | Supervisors: Prof. Dr. Liesbeth Korthals Altes, Dr. Miklos Kiss | Project date: 2014-2018 | s[dot]p[dot]m[dot]willemsen[at]rug[dot]nl

Challenging, perplexing or confusing movies pervade the history of narrative cinema – from modernist art films to contemporary blockbusters. Yet especially over the last two decades, one can see a striking increase in complex storytelling in audiovisual media, with abundant examples across mainstream film and serialized television.

In Film Studies too, narrative complexity gathered considerable attention. Recent works have offered formal inventories of so-called ‘puzzle,’ ‘mind game,’ ‘modular,’ or ‘multiform’ narratives. What remains lacking, however, is research that aims at an understanding of narrative complexity in terms of its different viewing effects. After all, what makes a story feel complex, and why would viewers be attracted to this?

My project aims to address these questions by developing a reception-oriented approach to complex narration in film. Defining complexity as a felt confusion in the viewing experience, the analysis focuses on (1) the cognitive level, asking on what cognitive-psychological processes and sense-making routines films can play to create a perceived complexity; and (2) ‘meta-hermeneutic’ questions regarding viewers’ interpretive strategies to make meaning of complex narrative situations. The goal is to provide an understanding of the widespread viewer interest in complex story structures. Do such narratives expand the self-reflexive functions of modernist experimentations to mainstream media? Or are they perhaps challenging cognitive puzzles that offer ‘brain candy’ for viewers used to more (inter-)active participation in media? By examining the cognitive and interpretive underpinnings active in comprehending complex stories, the project should innovatively address the viewership connected to the rich history of complex storytelling in cinema