Impoverishment or expansion of the public sphere? The impact of marketing and digitization on sourcing practices and editorial content

Sarah Van Leuven , Karin Raeymaeckers ,
The future of journalism conference


This research project is rooted in our observation of the new duality in the current media landscape. On the one hand, the growing impact of commercialization within the media sector can be demonstrated by the increasing use of institutional, official sources and pre-packaged information. However, new technologies and web applications as Facebook or YouTube also invite for a more diverse use of journalistic sources that might lead to more balanced media access for a wider range of actors. Therefore, actors in the civil society, individual citizens and alternative news sources may develop into more important, although non-institutional, information sources for journalists. Considering these divergent perspectives, our research reveals the underlying mechanisms of the news production process by identifying the prominent sourcing practices and sourcing actors in the newsrooms of six Belgian newspapers. From a longitudinal methodological perspective we match our results with reflexions on the expanding or shrinking mediated public sphere. We focus our research on content analysis of prominent themes, sources and actors in the news output over a period of 30 years (1980-2010). The results will be analyzed in a comparative perspective facing popular and quality newspapers. Finally, we will compare French and Dutch language newspapers, which offers the promising possibility to include journalism culture as an explaining variable in the analysis.