About the research unit
The research and teaching unit headed by Nina Springer is concerned with journalism and its reception as well as with factors that influence the reception process, particularly in digitalized contexts. The focus is on conditions and changes in the journalistic profession and journalistic work, journalistic content, and the use and (individual or societal) effects of journalistic products or participation in journalism. Our research projects investigate not only threats to the journalistic workplace, whether caused by audience hostility or precarious employment, but also how journalism is reinventing itself through innovations such as immersive storytelling (for example, in the field of virtual reality), the development of new distribution channels, and crowdsourcing, among others. We analyze journalistic routines such as research and selection, and examine the traces left in journalism by audience orientation or participation, or what roles trust and credibility play in journalism. We work in interdisciplinary, transdisciplinary and transfer-oriented ways, often with an international and comparative orientation, and we use the entire range of social science research methods, including quantitative, partly automated content analyses, expert interviews, surveys, and experimental designs.
Springer, Nina, Prof. Dr. +49 251 83-24655 Engelke, Katherine M., Dr. +49 251 83-21264 Wehden, Lars-Ole, Dr. +49 251 83-23009 von den Driesch, Lea Oldach, Chiara
Our externally and internally funded research projects examine (1) the profession and its routines, but also (2) how and why audiences participate in journalism.
(1) Professional field research and journalistic routines
One focus of our research and teaching activities is the professional field of journalism. The research unit is involved in the Worlds of Journalism study, which maps the profession and the current conditions under which it operates in about a hundred countries worldwide. Our sub-project investigating journalism in Sweden was funded by the Anne-Marie och Gustaf Anders Stiftelse för mediaforskning and supported by the Swedish Federation of Journalists (SJF). The current data show, for example, how prevalent threats of hate speech, intimidation, and public discrediting of journalistic work are from the perspectives of journalists and how great their concern is that perpetrators will not be held accountable for these.
Another project, funded by the Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency (MSB), examines research routines of Swedish and Ukrainian journalists in situations of conflict between Ukraine and Russia. Conducted in cooperation with colleagues from Sweden and Ukraine, the study revealed that digital fact-checking tools are not used in either Swedish or Ukrainian newsrooms. In traditional journalism, which operates at the marginal productivity of individuals, time allotted for research is a crucial “crunch zone” (including, of course, the time required to introduce new technology). In addition, the rather individualistic style of work in journalism can lead to confirmation bias coming through in research and narration. The first results of the study have been published in the Central European Journal of Communication.
Another focus of our unit is the investigation of selection routines in journalists’ professional gatekeepeing. In the course of digitalization and an increase in the importance of social media as a means of accessing news content, the question arises as to whether news presented journalistically on social media differs from the respective websites of established news outlets due to specific selection mechanisms. This could result in a lower level of informedness of those recipients who rely predominantly on social media as a news source. A recent study investigated this question by combining expert interviews with an input-output comparison of news articles distributed by journalists on social media (Wehden, 2022). The findings indicated that the news presented on social media is, in general, quite diverse, although some topics rarely make it to Facebook and Twitter. News factors also seem to be less important for the journalistic selection of articles for social media than certain formal aspects. In addition to the selection of news for social media, we engage in research on journalistic selection in other contexts, such as sports journalism (e.g., Wehden & Schröer, 2019).
(2) (Dark) Participation in journalism
In a digitalized society, journalism research can hardly ignore the “audience turn”. The analysis of the significance of audience preferences for journalistic selection and presentation routines as well as the contributions that users make to professional journalistic products are, therefore, also on our research agenda. One example is crowdsourcing, an innovative tool used by some newsrooms to source—and sometimes even to verify—input for news content (Springer, 2019). Research shows that journalists should know exactly what it is they want to find out from their audiences so that crowdsourcing can be used efficiently. Here, journalistic and quantitative social research methods resemble each other, as the methodological approach and implementation in the form of questionnaires at ProPublica, for example, show. An overview of relevant research is provided by a systematic literature review on participation in online journalism (Engelke, 2019).
One of the most common—but also polarizing—tools of journalistic audience engagement strategies is certainly the comment function. We have identified coping with cognitive dissonance as a key motive for people to comment on news: I cannot leave uncommented what I read here—I beg to differ! (Springer, Engelmann, & Pfaffinger, 2015). Therefore, we also analyze the contributions user comments can make to viewpoint diversity in the public sphere. A study of news and user comments on the financial crisis showed that additions do occur: While news primarily focuses on structures and collective actors (such as governments), users heatedly point to the responsibility of individuals. They also draw analogies and rely on folk wisdom (Baden & Springer, 2014). On the one hand, there is a lot to be learned from comments. On the other, much has happened with this user-generated phenomenon, especially in the last few years; often pointed out is how problematic some users’ comments are, including comments by those who misuse the tool for strategic manipulation (Ksiazek & Springer, 2020). Therefore, we investigate communicative violence against journalists (Springer & Troger, 2021) as well as the spread of misinformation, disinformation, and conspiracy theories.
A COST network in which we are involved has recently been funded in this area (CA21129). In the coming years, the OPINION network will focus on how to automatically analyze opinionated contributions posted to the internet. The network will engage in theory-building and operationalization work to develop a toolkit for analyzing the most diverse forms of opinion expressions in online discourse.
In addition to the question of who is participating in the production, dissemination, and discussion of journalistic content, researchers and professional practitioners are equally interested in who actually receives, shares, likes, and comments on information and news articles—and who does not—and for what reasons. One research project in this area, for example, used automated content analysis of the Twitter accounts of German newspapers to investigate how their followers are distributed geographically and what factors increase a newsroom’s chances of reaching audiences outside the physical distribution area of its own print product via social media (Wehden & Stoltenberg, 2019). Another study (Engelke, 2020) explored the audience perspective on the deliberative character and potential of comments by using qualitative guided interviews with German media users to investigate their reasons for the active and passive (non-)use of comments, how they evaluate comments, and what personal and social significance comments have for them.
- . (). Review Essay: Fixing 'the wicked web': 'dark participation' practices and solutions. European Journal of Communication, 37(1), 103–109. doi: 10.1177/02673231211059260.
- . (). Book Review: Credible Threat. Attacks Against Women Online and the Future of Democracy by Sarah Sobieraj. The International Journal of Press/Politics, 27(2), 545–547. doi: 10.1177/19401612211072863.
- . (). Journalismusforschung: Disziplin durch Entdisziplinierung. Medien & Kommunikationswissenschaft, 70(1-2), 3–16. doi: 10.5771/1615-634X-2022-1-2-3.
- Hass in Kommentaren: Blockieren oder Einmischen? In (Hrsg.), Hate Speech. Definitionen, Ausprägungen, Lösungen. (S. 199–216). Wiesbaden: Springer Fachmedien Wiesbaden GmbH. ().
- . (). Narrating “Their War” and “Our War” – the patriotic journalism paradigm in the context of Swedish and Ukrainian conflict coverage. Central European Journal of Communication, 15(2), 178–201. doi: 10.51480/1899-5101.15.2(31).1.
- . (). Killing the comments: Why do news organizations remove user commentary functions? Journalism and Media, 2(4), 572–583. doi: 10.3390/journalmedia2040034.
- . (). Media and communication studies in Sweden. Publizistik, 66, 1–19. doi: 10.1007/s11616-021-00685-w.
- . (). "Du stehst unter genauer Beobachtung, unangenehmer Beobachtung". Wie Journalistinnen kommunikative Gewalt aus dem Publikum wahrnehmen und verarbeiten. Publizistik, 66(1), 43–65. doi: 10.1007/s11616-020-00637-w.
- Neujustierung der Journalistik/Journalismusforschung in der digitalen Gesellschaft: Proceedings zur Jahrestagung der Fachgruppe Journalistik/Journalismusforschung der Deutschen Gesellschaft für Publizistik-und Kommunikationswissenschaft 2019, Eichstätt. doi: 10.21241/ssoar.70811. (Hrsg.). ().
- . (). Zur Einführung: Bedeutung und Transformation von Journalismus und Journalismusforschung. In (Hrsg.), Neujustierung der Journalistik/Journalismusforschung in der digitalen Gesellschaft: Proceedings zur Jahrestagung der Fachgruppe Journalistik/Journalismusforschung der Deutschen Gesellschaft für Publizistik- und Kommunikationswissenschaft 2019, Eichstätt (S. 1–8). doi: 10.21241/ssoar.70811.
- . (). Sustaining dialogue – A Södertörn case study on journalism departments and the sustainable development goals. In (Eds.), Mellan det hyperlokala och globala. Journalistikens förändringar och utmaningar i en digital tid. (pp. 195–206). Södertörns högskola.
- . (). Ontology of opposition online. Representing antagonistic structures on the Internet. Studies in Communication and Media, 9(1), 35–61. doi: 10.5771/2192-4007-2020-1-35.
- . (). User comments and moderation in digital journalism: Disruptive engagement. London, New York: Routledge.
- . (). 'You really have to have a thick skin': A cross-cultural perspective on how online harassment influences female journalists. Journalism, 21(7), 877–895. doi: 10.1177/1464884918768500.
- . (). Crowdsourcing. In (Eds.), The international encyclopedia of journalism studies (pp. 1–7). John Wiley & Sons. doi: 10.1002/9781118841570.iejs0259.
- . (). User-Generated (Dis)Content. Eine Literatursynopse zur Nutzung der Kommentarfunktion auf Nachrichtensites im Internet. In (Hrsg.), Journalismus im Internet. Profession - Partizipation - Technisierung (S. 241–271). Wiesbaden: VS Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften. doi: 10.1007/978-3-531-93284-2_9.
- . (). User comments in digital journalism: Current research and future directions. In (Eds.), The Routledge handbook of developments in digital journalism studies (pp. 475–486). London: Routledge.
- . (). Online user comments across news and other content formats: Multidisciplinary perspectives, new directions. Studies in Communication and Media, 6(4), 315–332. doi: 10.5771/2192-4007-2017-4-315.
- . (). Conceptualizing viewpoint diversity in news discourse. Journalism, 18(2), 176–194. doi: 10.1177/1464884915605028.
- . (). Rezipientenforschung. Konstanz: UVK Verlag.
- . (). Commenting quality. Effects of user comments on perceptions of journalistic quality. Studies in Communication and Media, 5(3), 353–366. doi: 10.5771/2192-4007-2016-3-353.
- . (). Grundbegriffe der Kommunikationswissenschaft. Konstanz: UVK Verlag.
- . (). User comments: Motives and inhibitors to write and read. Information Communication and Society, 18(7), 798–815. doi: 10.1080/1369118X.2014.997268.
- . (). Empirische Methoden der Kommunikationswissenschaft. Konstanz: UVK Verlag.
- Springer, Nina; Brantner, Cornelia; Wilhelm, Claudia; Engelmann, Ines; Stehle, Helena; Detel, Hanne; Lobinger, Katharina (): ‘The Online Communication Disinhibition Model: Toward a holistic understanding of benign and toxic online communication’. Annual Congress, International Communication Association (ICA), Paris, .
- Springer, Nina (): ‘The good, the bad and the ugly sides of participation. We came a long way, but where are we headed?’ International Scientific Conference: Comments, Hate Speech, Disinformation, and Public Communication Regulation (The Agency for Electronic Media Croatia, Media Research, Scientific Council for the Theatre, Film, Radio and TV), Zagreb, .
- Nygren, Gunnar; Springer, Nina (): ‘Sweden: Journalism in change and under pressure’. NordMedia Conference 2021 (University of Iceland in cooperation with the national Nordic research associations and Nordicom), (Reykjavik, digital), .
- Springer, Nina (): ‘Hate speech as communicative violence’. 71st annual International Communication Association (ICA) conference, (Denver, digital), .
- Baden, Christian; Springer, Nina; Krämer, Benjamin; Steindl, Nina (): ‘Negotiating Nonsense: Discursive interactions between believers in conventional and "alternative" facts’. 71st annual International Communication Association (ICA) conference, (Denver, digital), .
- Springer, Nina; Haim, Mario (): „Machine learning in journalism studies: Legal, ethical and practical challenges of an interdisciplinary research/teaching project“. DGPuK-Fachgruppentagung Journalistik/Journalismusforschung (DGPuK-Fachgruppe Journalistik/Journalismusforschung), (Hamburg, digital), .
- Slavtcheva-Petkova, Vera; Hamada, Basyouni; Ramaprasad, Jyotika; Hughes, Sallie; Steindl, Nina; Hanitzsch, Thomas; Springer, Nina; Hoxha, Abit (): ‘Work in progress: Towards developing a journalists’ safety index’. 70th annual International Communication Association (ICA) conference, (Sunshine Coast, digital), .