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May they come in? A comparison of German and Flemish efforts to welcome public participation in the news media

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Abstract
In recent years, traditional news media have been confronted with a vast amount of changes resulting in at least as many challenges. Mainly the new possibilities of the internet, an outcome of the so called “Web 2.0” transformation, have left deep marks in the daily practice of journalism. One of the fields of change is the way journalists are looking at their publics. Traditionally, the audience is being looked upon by journalists as a passive group at which information is directed unilaterally. The success of some newly arisen internet technologies has shown, though, that a considerable part of this “former” audience is willing to play a more active role. Most of this change is taking place outside of the traditional media, e.g. on weblogs, on social network sites or even on citizen media websites. Mainly for commercial but also for journalistic reasons, traditional news media have started to offer participatory technologies on their websites too. In theory, this could offer public participation possibilities in all phases of the news production process, leading to a full-fledged participatory journalism. This research examines audience participation opportunities on German and Flemish newspaper websites from a comparative perspective, using the theoretical and methodological model by Domingo et al. (2008). This international research group has developed an analytical grid that follows the logic of news production stages - from access and observation over selection/filtering, processing/editing and distribution to the interpretation of the content. The content analysis for both countries shows that professional journalists are trying to integrate input from their public into the process of content production, though journalistic culture has not changed much. Users are mainly limited to the role of commentators on professionally produced content. Furthermore, we demonstrate how control mechanisms supervised by professional journalists are implemented in order to make contributors toe the line. This appears to be more the case in Flanders as compared to Germany. We explain this difference by referring to differences in the media contexts and the journalistic cultures (e.g. Hallin & Mancini, 2005). For example, the German media are traditionally tied to political and civil groups. Moreover, the German press market consists of different regions whereas Flanders could be considered as one semi-national region. This results in more focus on regional and local questions in Germany, whereas Flemish media address national and international matters relatively to a higher degree. As a result of the strongly increased competition in their depillarized market, Flemish media in addition appear to base their welcoming of public input on economical grounds rather than on locality.

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Chicago
De Keyser, Jeroen, and Annika Sehl. 2010. “May They Come in? A Comparison of German and Flemish Efforts to Welcome Public Participation in the News Media.” In ECREA 2010 : 3rd European Communication Conference, Proceedings. Hamburg, Germany: University of Hamburg.
APA
De Keyser, Jeroen, & Sehl, A. (2010). May they come in? A comparison of German and Flemish efforts to welcome public participation in the news media. ECREA 2010 : 3rd European communication conference, Proceedings. Presented at the ECREA 2010 : 3rd European Communication Conference, Hamburg, Germany: University of Hamburg.
Vancouver
1.
De Keyser J, Sehl A. May they come in? A comparison of German and Flemish efforts to welcome public participation in the news media. ECREA 2010 : 3rd European communication conference, Proceedings. Hamburg, Germany: University of Hamburg; 2010.
MLA
De Keyser, Jeroen, and Annika Sehl. “May They Come in? A Comparison of German and Flemish Efforts to Welcome Public Participation in the News Media.” ECREA 2010 : 3rd European Communication Conference, Proceedings. Hamburg, Germany: University of Hamburg, 2010. Print.
@inproceedings{2047835,
  abstract     = {In recent years, traditional news media have been confronted with a vast amount of changes resulting in at least as many challenges. Mainly the new possibilities of the internet, an outcome of the so called {\textquotedblleft}Web 2.0{\textquotedblright} transformation, have left deep marks in the daily practice of journalism. One of the fields of change is the way journalists are looking at their publics. Traditionally, the audience is being looked upon by journalists as a passive group at which information is directed unilaterally. The success of some newly arisen internet technologies has shown, though, that a considerable part of this {\textquotedblleft}former{\textquotedblright} audience is willing to play a more active role. Most of this change is taking place outside of the traditional media, e.g. on weblogs, on social network sites or even on citizen media websites. Mainly for commercial but also for journalistic reasons, traditional news media have started to offer participatory technologies on their websites too. In theory, this could offer public participation possibilities in all phases of the news production process, leading to a full-fledged participatory journalism. This research examines audience participation opportunities on German and Flemish newspaper websites from a comparative perspective, using the theoretical and methodological model by Domingo et al. (2008). This international research group has developed an analytical grid that follows the logic of news production stages - from access and observation over selection/filtering, processing/editing and distribution to the interpretation of the content. The content analysis for both countries shows that professional journalists are trying to integrate input from their public into the process of content production, though journalistic culture has not changed much. Users are mainly limited to the role of commentators on professionally produced content. Furthermore, we demonstrate how control mechanisms supervised by professional journalists are implemented in order to make contributors toe the line. This appears to be more the case in Flanders as compared to Germany. We explain this difference by referring to differences in the media contexts and the journalistic cultures (e.g. Hallin \& Mancini, 2005). For example, the German media are traditionally tied to political and civil groups. Moreover, the German press market consists of different regions whereas Flanders could be considered as one semi-national region. This results in more focus on regional and local questions in Germany, whereas Flemish media address national and international matters relatively to a higher degree. As a result of the strongly increased competition in their depillarized market, Flemish media in addition appear to base their welcoming of public input on economical grounds rather than on locality.},
  author       = {De Keyser, Jeroen and Sehl, Annika},
  booktitle    = {ECREA 2010 : 3rd European communication conference, Proceedings},
  language     = {eng},
  location     = {Hamburg, Germany},
  pages        = {14},
  publisher    = {University of Hamburg},
  title        = {May they come in? A comparison of German and Flemish efforts to welcome public participation in the news media},
  url          = {http://firstmonday.org/htbin/cgiwrap/bin/ojs/index.php/fm/article/view/3457/3064},
  year         = {2010},
}