Beyond the Informed Citizen?
Narratives of news engagement and civic experiences among Danish news users
AbstractThis article presents an in-depth analysis of the narratives of everyday news engagement, and examines what news users perceive as the ideals, values and normative expectations surrounding their orientation to the “public world”. While many studies have examined this orientation related to media consumption in the broad sense, fewer have investigated how public connection and civic experiences are related to a news users’ normative ideals of news engagement. Through such a focus, this study shows the multiple and complex ways in which subjective experiences of news are related to civic experiences, here understood as how audiences articulate and understand their role as citizens in democratic societies. Based on an analysis of semi-structured interviews with, and in-depth media diaries by, 17 Danish news users between the ages of 21 and 65, we find that the often-implied ideal of the informed citizen in democratic theory is very strong among the participants. This is expressed through a narrative of news engagement as a moral obligation to be informed, resulting in what we label dutiful public connection. Secondly, we see a narrative of news consumption as socially expected, which is related to civic experiences such as taking a stand and debating societal issues with other people. In this narrative, the public connection is interpretative. Lastly, the study identifies a narrative of news engagement as genuine interest in news content and a wish to critically evaluate the news and its consequences, resulting in what we have termed a self-actualising public connection.
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