Measuring Conversational Journalism: An Experimental Test of Wiki, Twittered and "Collaborative" News Models

Doreen Marie Marchionni
2013 Studies in Media and Communication  
Journalism-as-a-conversation has become a catchphrase for audience participation in the news. Largely missing from the literature, though, are clear conceptual and operational definitions of conversation that allow theory building for purposes of explanation and prediction. This exploratory study sought to help close that gap by theoretically indentifying a way to measure conversation"s features in terms of the audience experience, then testing the model on outcome measures of perceived
more » ... ity and expertise in three online contexts: twittered, wiki and "collaborative" news. Conversation"s proposed features: coorientation/homophily (perceived similarity), social presence, friendliness, informality and interactivity. Findings suggest the features of perceived similarity to a journalist and online interactivity are key. Somewhat problematic is the conversational feature of informality with an audience. Results suggest journalists can easily come across as too casual with readers to the detriment of trust. Despite conversation"s growing popularity, though, little empirical research followed to help people understand what precisely it is in terms of measureable features and how best to apply it to journalism"s most treasured values, credibility and expertise. Audience-centered literature on public/civic journalism, "interactive journalism" and "participatory journalism" is replete with references to conversation but often as little more than a buzzword. As a result, the literature is wanting on clear operational definitions that allow theory building for purposes of explanation and prediction, a key goal in science. From a practical standpoint, such theoretical clarity could also help journalists determine how best to tap audiences to tell more complete, human stories. This Study's Response to the Problem This exploratory study attempts to correct the above problem and is part of a larger research program designed to explicate journalism-as-a-conversation. That program includes two prior studies by the author. The first identified a half dozen variables that appear to theoretically index the concept in the audience experience: coorientation/homophily (perceived similarity), social presence, friendliness, informality and interactivity . The second study tested that theoretical model in a controlled experiment by comparing traditional, Associated-Press style stories with what Thorson and Duffy (2006) describe as "collaborative" news, Studies in Media and Communication
doi:10.11114/smc.v1i2.260 fatcat:vstuwlcrvnacjlpdg7jj6cutiy