Seth C. Lewis

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Now showing 1 - 8 of 8
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    Journalism in an Era of Big Data: Cases, Concepts, and Critiques
    (Digital Journalism, 2015) Lewis, Seth C.
    “Journalism in an era of big data” is thus a way of seeing journalism as interpolated through the conceptual and methodological approaches of computation and quantification. It is about both the ideation and implementation of computational and mathematical mindsets and skill sets in newswork—as well as the necessary deconstruction and critique of such approaches. Taking such a wide-angle view of this phenomenon, including both practice and philosophy within this conversation, means attending to the social/cultural dynamics of computation and quantification—such as the grassroots groups that are seeking to bring pro-social “hacking” into journalism (Lewis and Usher 2013, 2014)—as well as the material/technological characteristics of these developments. It means recognizing that algorithms and related computational tools and techniques “are neither entirely material, nor are they entirely human—they are hybrid, composed of both human intentionality and material obduracy” (Anderson 2013, 1016). As such, we need a set of perspectives that highlight the distinct and interrelated roles of social actors and technological actants at this emerging intersection of journalism (Lewis and Westlund 2014a). To trace the broad outline of journalism in an era of big data, we need (1) empirical cases that describe and explain such developments, whether at the micro (local) or macro (institutional) levels of analysis; (2) conceptual frameworks for organizing, interpreting, and ultimately theorizing about such developments; and (3) critical perspectives that call into question taken-for-granted norms and assumptions. This special issue takes up this three-part emphasis on cases, concepts, and critiques.
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    Actors, actants, audiences, and activities in cross-media news work: A matrix and a research agenda
    (2014-07-21) Lewis, Seth C.; Westlund, Oscar
    In contemporary journalism, there is a need for better conceptualizing the changing nature of human actors, nonhuman technological actants, and diverse representations of audiences—and the activities of news production, distribution, and interpretation through which actors, actants, and audiences are inter-related. This article explicates each of these elements—the Four A’s—in the context of cross-media news work, a perspective that lends equal emphasis to editorial, business, and technology as key sites for studying the organizational influences shaping journalism. We argue for developing a sociotechnical emphasis for the study of institutional news production: a holistic framework through which to make sense of and conduct research about the full range of actors, actants, and audiences engaged in cross-media news work activities. This emphasis addresses two shortcomings in the journalism studies literature: a relative neglect about (1) the interplay of humans and technology, or manual and computational modes of orientation and operation, and (2) the interplay of editorial, business, and technology in news organizations. This article’s ultimate contribution is a cross-media news work matrix that illustrates the interconnections among the Four A’s and reveals where opportunities remain for empirical study.
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    Thinking about citizen journalism: The philosophical and practical challenges of user-generated content for community newspapers
    (Taylor and Francis, 2010) Lewis, Seth C.; Kaufhold, Kelly; Lasorsa, Dominic L.
    This study seeks to understand how community newspaper editors negotiate the professional complexities posed by citizen journalism—a phenomenon that, even in the abstract, would appear to undermine their gatekeeping control over content. Through interviews with 29 newspaper editors in Texas, we find that some editors either favor or disfavor the use of citizen journalism primarily on philosophical grounds, while others favor or disfavor its use mainly on practical grounds. This paper presents a mapping of these philosophical-versus-practical concerns as a model for visualizing the conflicting impulses at the heart of a larger professional debate over the place and purpose of user-generated content in the news production process. Moreover, these findings are viewed in light of gatekeeping, which, we argue, offers a welcome point of entry for the study of participatory media work as it evolves at news organizations large and small alike. In contributing to a growing body of literature on user-generated content in news contexts, this study points to the need for better understanding the causes and consequences of journalism’s hyperlocal turn, as digitization enables newswork to serve increasingly niche geographic and virtual communities.
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    Journalism Innovation and Participation: An Analysis of the Knight News Challenge
    (USC Annenberg Press, 2011) Lewis, Seth C.
    In recent years, the Knight News Challenge has emerged as one of the most important forums for stimulating innovation in journalism and as a salient marker of the Knight Foundation’s influence in the field. However, scholarly literature has yet to discuss this contest’s design and execution, its applicants and winners, and the implications for the future of journalism that may be revealed in this process. This study examines content analysis data for nearly 5,000 applications to the Knight News Challenge, exploring the distinguishing features of its applicants, finalists, and winners. This analysis is presented against the backdrop of a key conceptual question for journalism in the 21st century: how does it reconcile the growing tension between professional control and open participation? Results suggest that finalists and winners more often use forms of participation and distributed knowledge (i.e., crowdsourcing and user manipulation) and other features not typically associated with journalism (e.g., software development). These findings are placed in the context of the Knight Foundation’s broader efforts to shape journalism innovation.
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    A Matter of Life and Death? Examining the Quality of Newspaper Coverage on the Newspaper Crisis
    (Taylor & Francis, 2012) Chyi, Hsiang Iris; Lewis, Seth C.; Zheng, Nan
    During 2008-2010, U.S. newspapers covered the financial issues confronting their own industry extensively. Such coverage drew attention to the state of the newspaper but also raised questions about whether journalists over-reacted to this market downturn. This study examines how the Wall Street Journal, USA Today, and the New York Times framed the newspaper “crisis.” Results show that coverage focused on short-term drama over long-term trends, lacked sufficient context, shifted blame away from newspapers themselves, invoked “death” imagery, and altogether struggled to capture a holistic portrayal of newspapers’ troubles. Implications for self-coverage and business journalism are discussed.
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    Normalizing Twitter: Journalism Practice in an Emerging Communication Space
    (Taylor and Francis, 2012) Lasorsa, Dominic L.; Lewis, Seth C.; Holton, Avery E.
    This study examines how mainstream journalists who microblog negotiate their professional norms and practices in a new media format that directly challenges them. Through a content analysis of more than 22,000 of their tweets (postings) on the microblog platform Twitter, this study reveals that the journalists more freely express opinions, a common microblogging practice but one which contests the journalistic norm of objectivity (impartiality and nonpartisanship). To a lesser extent, the journalists also adopted two other norm-related microblogging features: providing accountability and transparency regarding how they conduct their work and sharing user-generated content with their followers. The journalists working for national newspapers, national television news divisions, and cable news networks were less inclined in their tweets than their counterparts working for less “elite” news outlets to relinquish their gatekeeping role by sharing their stage with other news gatherers and commentators, or to provide accountability and transparency by providing information about their jobs, engaging in discussions with other tweeters, writing about their personal lives, or linking to external websites.
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    From Journalism to Information: The Transformation of the Knight Foundation and News Innovation
    (Taylor and Francis, 2012) Lewis, Seth C.
    Amid the digital disruption for journalism, the U.S.-based Knight Foundation has made a highly publicized effort to shape the nature of news innovation. This growing influence raises questions about what it’s trying to accomplish, for mass communication and society. This qualitative case study shows how and why the Knight Foundation has sought to change journalism by renegotiating its boundaries. Namely, by downplaying its own historical emphasis on professionalism, the foundation has embraced openness to outside influence— e.g., the wisdom of the crowd, citizen participation, and a broader definition of “news.” These rhetorical adaptations have paralleled material changes in the foundation’s funding process, typified by the Knight News Challenge innovation contest. In recent times, the foundation has undergone a further evolution from “journalism” to “information.” By highlighting its boundary-spanning interest in promoting “information” for communities, the Knight Foundation has been able to expand its capital and influence as an agent of change among fields and funders beyond journalism.
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    The Tension Between Professional Control and Open Participation: Journalism and Its Boundaries
    (Taylor and Francis, 2012) Lewis, Seth C.
    Amid growing difficulties for professionals generally, media workers in particular are negotiating the increasingly contested boundary space between producer and user in the digital environment. This article, based on a review of the academic literature, explores that larger tension transforming the creative industries by extrapolating from the case of journalism—namely, the ongoing tension between professional control and open participation in the news process. Firstly, the sociology of professions, with its emphasis on boundary maintenance, is used to examine journalism as boundary work, profession, and ideology—each contributing to the formation of journalism’s professional logic of control over content. Secondly, by considering the affordances and cultures of digital technologies, the article articulates open participation and its ideology. Thirdly, and against this backdrop of ideological incompatibility, a review of empirical literature finds that journalists have struggled to reconcile this key tension, caught in the professional impulse toward one-way publishing control even as media become a multi-way network. Yet, emerging research also suggests the possibility of a hybrid logic of adaptability and openness—an ethic of participation—emerging to resolve this tension going forward. The article concludes by pointing to innovations in analytical frameworks and research methods that may shed new light on the producer–user tension in journalism.