The abstract:Self-published web diaries called blogs are one manifestation of the Internet’s potential to create new discursive and dialogic spaces for citizens. Blogs are described by their authors and others in the news media (as well as some academic commentators) as a medium that potentially fosters political dialogue in the spirit of Habermas’ conceptual “public sphere.” Blogs also serve as potential competitors to mass media outlets in political debates in two distinct ways: first, by acting as agenda-setters and framers of issues, events and figures and second, by challenging journalistic norms such as the principles of fairness, neutrality and non-partisanship. In spite of these claims, however, very little empirical evidence exists to date on whether political blogs perform the roles of agenda-setters, gatekeepers or framers, or whether they are actually seen as a challenge or potential replacement to mass media outlets by themselves, by journalists or by those who could utilize blogs to transmit messages to the public. This thesis examines these questions as they pertain to Canadian politics, focusing on the interaction between journalists, partisan bloggers and political communications practitioners to assess whether blogs written by explicitly partisan authors actually: 1) create unique discursive spaces for discussion of Canadian political issues, 2) set agendas for political discussion and set issues and 3) serve as an occupational threat/potential replacement to media outlets for disseminating political information. Using surveys and content analysis, this thesis contends that partisan blogs largely mimic political discussion already occurring in media-produced content and are perceived as a potential, though not completely credible, replacement for shaping political agendas and disseminating information.
h/t David Akin for this and the following highlights.
- A majority of bloggers (69%) are members of a particular party and are highly likely to be engaged in a variety of party activities such as fundraising and volunteering on campaigns.
- Partisan blogs are most likely to get political information from a mixture of online sources, including newspaper and broadcast media outlets as well as blogs
- Bloggers overwhelmingly see their role as being “watchdogs” of journalists
- Better than three of of every four journalists and communicators surveyed said they do not believe bloggers should be accredited to cover Parliament or should have access to public institutions in the same manner as journalists. But just one of ever three bloggers thought the same thing. (I'm in the minority among my peers here. I believe that, for there are plenty of events where 'amateurs' who wish to conduct themselves professionally ought to qualify for the same accreditation as a professional journalist.
- Bloggers overwhelmingly agree they should have the same legal protections as journalists but just 36 per cent of journalists feel that way and only 23 per cent of PR people feel that way.
- Bloggers and journalists largely agree on one thing: The Internet has made journalism better. Oddly, political spin doctors weren't so convinced.
- "How much do you think blogs have changed journalism over the last few years?" More than half of the spin doctors said "A Lot" but only about one-third of journalists or bloggers said "A Lot".
- Eight out of ten journalists and six out of ten spin doctors rated the quality of information on the sites of amateur bloggers as "fair or poor".
- A majority of bloggers, journalists and communicators all "strongly disagree or somewhat disagree" with the statement: Bloggers adhere to journalistic standards"
- I found it fascinating that while 40 per cent of journalists said they have been contacted by a blogger, less than 20 per cent of journalists said they reached out to contact a blogger. And just 7 per cent of political spin doctors have contacted a blogger. (That one I find hard to believe.) On the other hand bloggers are not shy: 64 per cent of have contacted a journalist and 32 per cent have phoned or e-mailed a professional political communicator.