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The News Gap

The News Gap: When the Information Preferences of the Media and the Public Diverge

Pablo Javier Boczkowski
Eugenia Mitchelstein
Copyright Date: 2013
Published by: MIT Press
Pages: 320
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  • Book Info
    The News Gap
    Book Description:

    The sites of major media organizations -- CNN,USA Today, theGuardian, and others -- provide the public with much of the online news they consume. But although a large proportion of the top stories these sites disseminate cover politics, international relations, and economics, users of these sites show a preference (as evidenced by the most viewed stories) for news about sports, crime, entertainment, and weather. In this book, Pablo Boczkowski and Eugenia Mitchelstein examine this gap and consider the implications for the media industry and democratic life in the digital age.Drawing on analyses of more than 50,000 stories posted on twenty news sites in seven countries in North and South America and Western Europe, Boczkowski and Mitchelstein find that the gap in news preferences exists regardless of ideological orientation or national media culture. They show that it narrows in times of heightened political activity (including presidential elections or government crises) as readers feel compelled to inform themselves about public affairs but remains wide during times of normal political activity. Boczkowski and Mitchelstein also find that the gap is not affected by innovations in Web-native forms of storytelling such as blogs and user-generated content on mainstream news sites. Keeping the account of the news gap up to date, in the book's coda they extend the analysis through the 2012 U.S. presidential election. Drawing upon these findings, the authors explore the news gap's troubling consequences for the matrix that connects communication, technology, and politics in the digital age.

    eISBN: 978-0-262-31818-1
    Subjects: Language & Literature, Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. A Note About the Figures
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  5. 1 When Supply and Demand Donʹt Meet
    (pp. 1-22)

    A certain bakery has long been a fixture of daily life in a neighborhood. Legend has it that the founders decided, when they opened the bakery, that in addition to making money they wanted to contribute to the well-being of their customers. To that end, in addition to bread and pastries made with refined flour they also featured a wide selection of healthier goods made with whole-wheat flour. After a while, about 60 percent of their baked goods were made with refined flour and about 40 percent with whole-wheat flour. The items made with refined flour usually sold out before...

  6. 2 The Divergence in the Content Choices of Journalists and Consumers
    (pp. 23-48)

    March 17, 2008 was a fairly typical news day in Germany, and it is precisely this typical quality that makes the findings in this chapter revealing. At least that might be the impression a reader would get from a cursory glance at the top screen of Tagesspiegel, the website ofDer Tagesspiegel, one of country’s leading dailies. (See figure 2.1.) Such a glance would show also that the thematic composition of the stories on this first screen of the homepage lean heavily toward public-affairs news. Seven of the first ten stories on the homepage are about public-affairs news; the remaining...

  7. 3 The Difference Politics Makes
    (pp. 49-86)

    November 4, 2008 was an extraordinary day in recent American history. More than 130 million Americans went to the polls to elect the first African-American president in the country’s history in what was the highest turnout for a presidential election since 1968.¹ It was also the first election in 56 years in which neither an incumbent president nor a vice-president ran for office. If these aspects of the electoral process weren’t enough to generate major interest in public-affairs reportage, in the same year fifteen banks failed, the federal government rescued many others, and the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 18...

  8. 4 How Storytelling Matters
    (pp. 87-112)

    In chapters 2 and 3 we established that there is a gap between which news subjects garner the attention of journalists and which subjects garner the attention of consumers. However, news stories vary greatly, not only in the topics they address, but also in how they cover those topics. For instance, a single event, such as an earthquake, can be reported in several ways. A straight news story may present a summary of the main facts in a dispassionate voice; a feature article may adopt a narrative approach and concentrate on the human side of the event. A commentary article...

  9. 5 Clicking on Whatʹs Interesting, Emailing Whatʹs Bizarre or Useful, and Commenting on Whatʹs Controversial
    (pp. 113-138)

    The accounts presented in the previous three chapters compared the stories that journalists deemed most newsworthy with the most clicked articles as a proxy for what consumers read. However, as we noted briefly in chapter 1, clicking isn’t the only way for users to interact with articles on news sites. During the period of our study for this book, most leading sites offered at least two other forms of interaction with their news content. Consumers could email one or more articles to their friends and family members, or they could comment on the content of these articles, and the entire...

  10. 6 The Meaning of the News Gap for Media and Democracy
    (pp. 139-156)

    We opened this book with the hypothetical example of a traditional neighborhood bakery. It seems fitting to close it by returning to that example to highlight four lessons that we learned in chapters 2–5.

    First, the plight of that particular bakery isn’t unique. Neighborhood bakeries in cities across countries and continents with different industry structures, culinary traditions, and taste cultures must deal with the gap between the supply of and the demand for bread and pastries made with whole-wheat flour and those made with refined flour.

    Second, the gap is quite dynamic, mostly because of fluctuations in the nature...

  11. Coda
    (pp. 157-174)

    A central argument of this book was that the online news choices of journalists and consumers vary in relation to changes in the sociopolitical context. We established this pattern by comparing the evolution of these respective choices within a presidential-election year (2008) and between that year and a non-election year (2009). In this coda, we further elaborate our account of the dynamic character of the supply-demand gap in online news by extending our analysis to encompass a five-year sequence that starts and ends with presidential elections (2008 and 2012), has a congressional election in the middle (2010), and includes two...

  12. Appendix
    (pp. 175-254)
  13. Notes
    (pp. 255-278)
  14. References
    (pp. 279-300)
  15. Index
    (pp. 301-302)