Summary and Keywords
“News ecology” and “news ecosystems” are two terms often used in journalism studies. They are, however, different concepts that draw from different lines of research and are used by different groups of scholars rarely connected to one another.
The notion of “news ecology” stems from media ecology, a branch of media theory that aims at understanding the effects that mediated technologies have on communication and social interactions. Media ecology has challenged traditional media research by focusing on how communicative technologies impact media consumption on a daily basis. Specifically it argues that communicative technologies encompass a set of implicit rules that affect how humans see, understand, and think about the contents that are being mediated. Building on these principles, “news ecology” is a relevant notion to reflect on how citizens get acquainted with the news as well as the diversity of technologies involved in news use. The notion aims at capturing the fact that news products exist in a diversity of formats, are consumed in diverse manners, and take place on different sites and platforms. Out of all the economic, social and technological changes of the last decades, the popularization of the Internet is often seen as the keystone of this change. However, most recent reception studies mention the terms “news ecology” without relating it to media ecology.
The use of the “news ecosystem” metaphor in journalism studies is more recent and focuses on the diversity of actors involved in news production and diffusion. If some scholars use a restricted definition of ecosystems (i.e., the ecosystems of blogs, websites, or social networking sites), others give it a more organic and composite meaning (i.e., the ecosystems of actors, technologies, and contents produced in a specific area or regarding a specific topic). Using the first definition, one can analyze the configuration of news ecosystems online, the diversity of actors involved in news production and their relationships, as well as how news circulates through diverse technologies. Using the second definition forces researchers to consider news as a complex social practice in which a diversity of actors competes to influence the news narrative through mediated and unmediated practices.
The two research traditions rarely intersect, as media and news ecology focus more on the reception side of news (i.e., the impact of mediums on people) and the study of news ecosystems has so far paid more attention to the production and diffusion of news. However, they share similarities—such as the facts that they both analyze media as dynamic processes are not normative in nature, or focus on complexity and change more than structure and stability—and could inspire one another in an effort to break the production/reception dichotomy in journalism studies.
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