Journalism and news cultures: journalistic practices and online media in the Chilean newsroom

2017-03-02T00:58:09Z (GMT) by Jofré Larenas, Claudio Omar
An extensive body of scholarship has examined technological change and the impact of online media on journalism and newsrooms in the US and Europe (Quandt et al., 2006; Domingo, 2008; Domingo et al., 2008; Steensen, 2009; Paulussen & Ugille, 2008; Hermida, 2010; Singer, 2013; Singer et al., 2011). However, comparatively little research has been undertaken in the Latin American context. This deficit is especially apparent in the case of Chile. Important developments in journalism, news media, and technological change in this country remain largely unexplored, despite Chile having one of the highest Internet and social media penetration rates in Latin America. This thesis addresses this research deficit by assessing the practices and beliefs of Chilean journalists and editors in relation to the use of digital interaction technologies – such as email, chat, and social networking (Facebook, Twitter) – in established news media organisations. By exploring their attitudes towards the role of online media and audience participation in the news, this thesis analyses the changing roles of professional journalists and their complex relationship with audiences. To fulfil this thesis’ objectives, a mixed methods research design (Johnson & Onwuegbuzie, 2004; Creswell, 2009) is conducted across two stages. Stage one includes analysis of quantitative data from an online survey of 43 Chilean reporters and editors from 27 established commercial and public service news outlets. The second stage includes a qualitative analysis of 20 semi-structured interviews with editors from 14 Chilean media organisations. The main findings of the research reveal the normalisation of digital interaction technologies by news workers from a ‘top-down’ perspective that is consistent with the maintenance of a gatekeeping role (Hermida & Thurman, 2008) and the assigning of a limited role for the audience. Chilean journalists concentrate their use of these tools mostly in the production and distribution of news, with limited utilisation in the feedback/follow up of stories. A number of routine journalistic practices and assessments of newsworthiness highlight problematic aspects in the utilisation of user-generated content (UGC), ‘citizen journalism’, and user feedback and comments. This situation contributes to a limited digital interaction with audiences, which is focused on commercial considerations rather than ‘participatory’ ideals. A growth in entertainment stories and the increasing use of Web and social media metrics to inform editorial decisions in news selection support this argument, suggesting the formation of a ‘secondary gatekeeping’ process (Singer, 2013) that strengthens tabloidisation trends in the Chilean news media. Drawing on these findings, this thesis argues that the emergence of a ‘demotic turn’ (Turner, 2010) in news undercuts the social and political roles of Chilean journalism. This demotic turn is linked to a series of tensions in the Chilean media system originated in the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet, including neoliberal economic policies that were deepened by subsequent democratic governments. This thesis concludes with a number of recommendations and suggestions aimed at maintaining the integrity of Chilean journalism and news as the challenges of the digital age unfold.