Democracy has long been a pivotal concept in analysing, evaluating, and critiquing journalism. Indeed, the coupling of the two is almost axiomatic; for centuries, especially in the Anglo-American world, a robust democracy has implied a free press, a “Fourth Estate more important far than they all” (Carlyle 1840), and still does to this day. Moreover, the industry traditionally asserts its institutional legitimacy and associated discourses of value based upon these classic democratic notions. It is a watchdog, a fourth estate, a representative of the people (McNair 2009). However, whereas the dominant, established discourses connecting journalism and democracy feature grand narratives and strong notions of democracy (and consequently high demands of journalism and high expectations
of citizens), in the age of digital journalism the emphasis oftentimes seems to shy away from this to stress the interactional possibilities afforded by new media. In many articulations, the focus is not so much on citizen engagement but rather audience or user interaction; instead of theorising and empirically examining journalism’s role for democracy (participation through news), the focus is on participation in news. Democracy does not so much feature as the main aim in this new wave of digital journalism, but is still an important part of the discourse surrounding it: democracy in journalism, rather than through it.