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  • Publication
    Accès libre
    Reinventing the wheel? How local newsrooms try (or not) to rethink their relationships with their audiences
    (2021-9-23) ;
    Standaert, Olivier
    Sebbah, Brigitte
    This communication discusses the results of an international research project investigating how local media outlets develop initiatives to empower their relationships with their audiences. Conducted in the European French-speaking landscape (France, French-speaking Switzerland and Belgium), this research is part of a twofold questioning at the heart of Journalism Studies, that is 1) to what extent new technologies are able to modify these relationships (Barnes 2016) and 2) how journalists can address the problem of news avoidance and the decline of trust in news (Reuters Institute 2019). We focus on local news media, particularly concerned by issues of proximity and links to the audience, since they position themselves as key players in the weaving of social ties in a given geographical space (Hess & Waller 2017; Jenkins & Nielsen 2020). A crowdsourcing campaign with local media outlets from France, Belgium and Switzerland allowed us to identify around 550 initiatives over the last 2.5 years. The full list can be consulted online at: https://www.unine.ch/ajm/recensement-linc. On this basis, we inductively created a typology of 26 types of initiatives according to their purpose (editorial/commercial) and their format (reader café, editorial conference, crowdfunding campaign, etc.). We then categorized the editorial initiatives in order to highlight the degree of audience integration in the editorial process, ranging from the most “passive” to the most engaging kinds of relationship (observation – dialogue – consultation – contribution- co-creation). Among the 550 initiatives, 110 of them specifically focus on actions undertaken by local news outlets during the Covid-19 pandemic. This very particular context allowed us to highlight specific modalities of engagement with audiences, in particular initiatives that foster solidarity and mutual support between people and those that develop social links within the local community (e.g. during lockdowns). This shows local media capacity to play new or less prominent roles in recent years, that have been revived during this exceptional situation. We then conducted 45 in-depth interviews (Kaufmann 1996; Demazière and Dubar 1997) with staff members in charge of these initiatives in 10 media outlets from the three markets studied. This allowed us to study how these attempts to reach out to audiences are integrated into pre-existing processes. We sought to determine if they correspond to temporary fashions or deeper organizational transformations. Our results show that these initiatives are implemented according to strategies and means that vary greatly depending on the type of media. Journalists justify their deployment for equally varied reasons: commercial purposes (strengthen audience loyalty, attract new subscribers) rub shoulders with editorial concerns (to better understand audiences, evolving with the public’s uses). At their most advanced stage, reflections gathered during the interviews echo the moving epistemologies of journalism, especially in times of crisis (Ward 2018). Journalists discuss the very purpose of local journalism through the complex and shifting power relations between the newsrooms and what they try to define as their “audience(s)”: At the heart of this issue, we find the tensions between the willingness to support/represent/act for local communities and the more normative roles of journalism (Hanitzsch & Vos 2018; Standaert et al. 2019), as well as the (in)dependence of the journalists on their audiences.
  • Publication
    Restriction temporaire
    La proximité aux publics des médias d’information locaux européens : stratégies, actions et discours des acteurs dans leur contexte de déploiement
    (Neuchâtel : Université de Neuchâtel, 2022-12) ;
    La thèse porte sur la proximité aux publics des médias locaux. Ces médias cherchent à renforcer leurs liens aux publics pour répondre aux défis que représentent leur transition numérique, la désaffection des publics et la crise économique du secteur. Ancrée en sciences de l’information et de la communication, et plus précisément en journalism studies, la thèse s’inscrit principalement dans le champ des recherches sur la participation et l’engagement en regard des pratiques journalistiques et des publics. La proximité aux publics des médias locaux est analysée à la croisée de plusieurs perspectives. Une approche transnationale à l’échelle des médias locaux d’Europe francophone est associée au cas spécifique du quotidien italien L’Eco di Bergamo ; et pour ce dernier, l’observation de la situation contemporaine est mariée à une perspective historique.
    La recherche se base principalement sur deux types de données. Elle s’appuie sur le recensement et l’analyse des actions (dites « initiatives ») lancées par les médias visant à redynamiser leur relation avec les publics. Elle repose en outre sur l’étude de matériaux discursifs recueillis via des entretiens qualitatifs dans et en dehors des rédactions des médias locaux considérés comme activement impliqués dans une quête de proximité aux publics.
    La thèse conceptualise la (construction de) proximité aux publics comme étant dynamique et située. Elle se façonne dans des tensions entre trois dimensions : gatekeeping, sociale et commerciale. Cette conceptualisation considère les publics comme une figure à la fois centrale et plurielle, définie selon les diverses stratégies des médias dont elle est la cible, et incarnée dans les discours et les actions des acteurs, dans un contexte donné.
    Les principaux résultats empiriques mettent en lumière et caractérisent une reconfiguration de la proximité aux publics « en train de se faire ». Dans les médias francophones considérés par l’étude, elle se dessine plutôt dans des rapports dialogiques et horizontaux avec les publics. À L’Eco di Bergamo elle est davantage teintée de la pensée marketing. Simultanément, l’ensemble des médias de notre recherche continuent à construire une proximité aux publics sur la base de pratiques et d’actions qui sont l’héritage du passé. Abstract : This dissertation focuses on local news media’s proximity to audiences. Local news organizations seek to strengthen their links to audiences in order to face the challenges that include their digital transformation, audiences’ disaffection and the economic crisis of the sector. Falling within information and communication sciences, and more precisely journalism studies, the dissertation draws mainly on research on participation and engagement related to journalistic practices and audiences. Local media’s proximity to audiences is analyzed at the intersection of several perspectives. A transnational approach studying local media in French-speaking Europe integrates a case study of the Italian daily L’Eco di Bergamo; for which, the observation of the contemporary situation is combined with a historical perspective.
    The research relies mainly on two types of data. It is based on the identification and analysis of actions (i.e. “initiatives”) undertaken by local media to revitalize their relationship with audiences. It is also based on the study of discursive material collected through qualitative interviews inside and outside the newsroom of local media considered to be actively involved in a quest for proximity to audiences.
    The dissertation conceptualizes (the construction of) proximity to audiences as dynamic and situated. It is shaped by the tensions between three dimensions: gatekeeping, social and commercial. This conceptualization sees audiences as a figure that is both central and plural, defined according to the various news media’s strategies that target it, and embodied in the discourses and actions of actors in a given context.
    The main empirical results highlight and characterize a reconfiguration of proximity to audiences “in the making”. In the French-speaking media considered by the study, this reconfiguration takes shape rather in dialogical and horizontal ties with audiences. At L’Eco di Bergamo, it is rather colored by marketing thinking. At the same time, all news organizations of our research continue to build a proximity to audiences on the basis of practices and actions that are the legacy of the past.