chapter  14
10 Pages

Journalism, participative media and trust in a comparative context

ByThomas Hanitzsch

Journalism is in transition, there is no question about it. The online environment has substantially shaken up long-held beliefs about the nature of news and overpampered practices of journalism, even to the extent that the future of professional news-making has become a matter of concern. Crisis narratives are thriving in the literature, with some scholars already proclaiming the ‘death’ or ‘end’ of journalism (McChesney and Nichols, 2010; Charles and Stewart, 2011). Deuze (2006a: 2) has called journalism a ‘zombie institution’, and the University of Bedfordshire devoted an entire conference to ‘The End of Journalism?’ in 2008. In this volume, too, McNair (Ch 5) diagnoses an ‘existential crisis’ of journalism, while he concedes that new communication technologies do not necessarily reduce the need for professional journalism but actually enhance them. All these contributions clearly seem to suggest that journalism as we know it is in search of a redefinition of its purpose and social contract, as well as a reconstitution of its boundaries, which have become alarmingly fuzzy with the rise of participatory modes of communication. At the same time, practitioners, observers and scholars have noted startling signs of

declining public trust in the media. Brants (Ch 1) notes in this volume that trust in media is seen as the ‘life blood of journalism’s role in and contribution to people’s sense making’. In a world of shrinking confidence in the media, it seems, journalism is pushing itself to the margins of public debate. After the evaporation of public trust in political actors, along with a growing sense of cynicism expressed by the larger public, we now seem to witness a collapse of public confidence in journalism’s capacity to act in the public interest. This chapter aims to interrogate these observations from a cross-national and comparative perspective.