Welcome to the website of the joint project “Journalists and their Audience in the Digital Age. Mutual Expectations and their Consequences for Journalism-Audience Relations and Public Opinion Formation” of the Universities of Münster, Erfurt, and Kempten (BMBF funding line: “Kleine Fächer – Zusammen stark” / “Small Disciplines – Strong Together”, funding period: May 2021-April 2024).

Journalism-Audience Relations in Focus

The increased mutual visibility in the digital age has fundamentally changed the relationship between journalists and their audience. The modified relationship can both foster participatory and deliberative processes of public opinion formation and reveal polarization and media hostility. In light of this, a question that emerges is how reciprocal expectations and their (non)fulfillment influence journalism-audience relationships. Finding an answer to this question is the focus of the joint project funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF).

The aim of the project lies on better understanding the relationship between journalists and their audience in digital contexts and to find explanations for its functioning or failure. In this way, the joint project is intended to contribute towards strengthening the role of quality journalism in our society.

Theoretical Modeling and Five Empirical Sub-Studies

In the initial step, the interplay of mutual expectations of journalists and recipients as well as the consequences of fulfilled or disappointed expectations are being described in a theoretical model. Findings from journalism studies, interpersonal and strategic communication research serve as a basis. In a next step, the model is being put to the test. This is being achieved in five empirical sub-studies that build on one another: The communication researchers are exploring which mutual expectations exist and what significance is attributed to them with the help of (1) qualitative interviews with journalists and (2) recipients as well as a (3) so-called Q-sort survey of both sides. On the basis of surveys of (4) journalists and (5) recipients the impact of the fulfillment or disappointment of expectations is then being investigated. Specifically, the following questions are being addressed: Can fulfilled expectations of journalists, for example with regard to audience participation, lead to an increased engagement in the interaction with the audience? Under what circumstances do disappointed audience expectations lead to aversion to journalistic media offerings or media hostility?

Knowledge Transfer and Strengthening of Journalism Studies as a “Small Discipline”

The project aims to increase the national and international visibility of the small discipline of journalism studies and to strengthen it in the long term, both at the three partner universities and in the German university landscape. Among other things, publications in specialized media are planned as well as a close exchange with experts from science and journalistic practice. On this website, current findings are continuously presented for application in research and teaching, in the professional field, and for general information.