LASICS .::. Open Conference Systems, IAMCR 2010: Communication and Citizenship

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Citizen´s Agenda: Journalism and civic participation in the Portuguese regional media

António José Rosas, João Carlos Ferreira Correia

Last modified: 2010-06-28


Communications and the media are central to democracy and development. Normatively, media must be closer to their audiences and their interests. In this presentation, we will discuss “Citizen´s Agenda”, a research project on public journalism that will be implemented during the next three years in Portugal with the partnership of some of the most relevant regional media. Its general goal will be to analyse the limits and the prospects of some practices developed by public journalism in order to articulate journalism and civic participation in the context of the Portuguese regional press.
The field of journalism has being deeply enriched, in the last decades, by some theoretical contributions and experiences that aim to improve the relationship between the public and civic life, mainly in order to stimulate them in the debate of the questions that are of collective interest. Under the influence of theoretical approaches coming from deliberative democracy, the communitarian agenda and pragmatism, public journalism implies the reinforcement of public participation and citizenship.
Simultaneously, public journalism has been affirmed as a movement that aims to bypass some contexts of crisis that have made harder the relationship between journalism and civic life, such as the traditional mass media´s quasi-exclusive orientation for the market, the rise of infotainment and soft news, and the press extreme dependence on institutional sources. Citizens Agenda core idea is to analyse the possibilities of substituting an agenda determined mostly by primary definers (institutional sources, for instance), by an agenda that also gives visibility to the issues of public interest and are identified as such by the audiences. Thus, the project´s operational objectives are:
1) To identify the practices of news making by the regional media – one by each selected district. The project will include a selection of Districts, covering in a reasonably balanced way the Interior and the Coast of the country;
2) to collaborate with the media, so that they construct a “Citizen’s Agenda”, through the identification of issues considered with priority by their publics;
3) to promote the journalistic coverage of the issues detected as priorities by the publics;
4) to promote citizen’s participation on the debates over the issues that they identify as important.
Our presentation will continue with a description of the general goals of the project. Citizen’s Agenda will try to achieve the following:
A) To reflect critically on the relationship between journalism, democratic deliberation, public sphere and civil society, through a case study, a theoretical approach and a comparative analysis with similar experiences;
B) to analyze the potentialities and prospects for “public journalism” in the Portuguese regional media.
The presentation will end with a summary of the methodologies that will be used, discussing why, when and how we will employ longitudinal surveys, text mining and in-depth interviews to achieve our objectives.

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