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.