The Fourth Estate in the networked age: A framework for online journalism public affairs coverage
Rosenberry, John W
MetadataShow full item record
The characteristics of online news presentation offer a unique opportunity for journalists to strengthen their ability to fulfill their Fourth Estate role. In this project, traditional theories of journalism, democracy and political communication are blended with emerging theories of online communication to create a coverage blueprint or framework for online journalism. The goal is to develop and evaluate a set of normative "best practices" that online newspapers can use to help them more effectively perform their role of connecting the governors to the governed and assisting in the formation of public opinion that has an impact on public policy. The current implementation of the practices in this framework is empirically investigated with both a review of online news sites that represent a cross-section of the industry and a case study of one site where many of the practices from the framework are in use. The case study demonstrates that the practices can be effectively implemented in a realistic situation to improve political communication. However, the cross-sectional study shows that these practices have not yet been widely adopted, and the ones that are used most commonly are ones that are closely related to the most traditional functions of newspaper coverage, which is interpreted as evidence that using interactive online tools to "cover" public affairs differently is one that may be starting to take root in journalism, but has not reached what one editor calls "critical mass." If more media organizations used tools like these to help citizens become more engaged with the political process, then the political communication system that underlies our self-governing society could begin to function more effectively in some small but significant ways.