From “Public Journalism” to “Engaged Journalism”: Imagined Audiences and Denigrating Discourse

Patrick Ferrucci, Jacob L. Nelson, Miles P. Davis


At a moment of intense uncertainty within the news industry, a growing number believe the key to the profession’s survival depends on journalists improving their relationship with the public. As a result, many news practitioners, funders, and scholars have begun advocating for journalists to “engage” with their audiences, thus expanding the audience’s role in the news production process. In this study, we use a textual analysis of metajournalistic discourse from journalism trade magazines to reveal that although the specific language surrounding “engaged” journalism is new, its reconceptualization of the journalist–audience relationship traces back to the public journalism movement of the 1990s. Our findings illustrate that these movements are remarkably similar in their motivations, their goals, and—most importantly—the way in which their advocates imagine the news audience. The results are interpreted with an eye toward of the future of the industry and the potential effects of these interventions.


journalism studies, engaged journalism, public journalism, metajournalism, textual analysis

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