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Long-Term Trends in News Content  

Edda Humprecht and Linards Udris

The way news is produced and consumed has changed dramatically during the first two decades of the 21st century due to digitalization and economic pressures. In a globalized world, current events are reported in almost real time in various countries and are diffused rapidly via social media. Thus much scholarly attention is devoted to determining whether these developments have changed news content. Comparative research in the area of journalism focuses on whether news content across countries converges over time and to what degree national differences persist across countries. When studying the research on long-term trends in news content, four main observations can be made. First, theoretical assumptions are often rooted in different models of democracies, but they are rarely explicitly discussed. Second, many studies focus on the organizational level of news media, using theoretical concepts related to increased market orientation of news outlets, such as personalization, emotionalization, or scandalization. Furthermore, commercialization is associated with the effects of digitalization and globalization, namely, decreased advertising revenues and increased competition. A commonly expressed fear is that these changes have consequences for democracy and informed citizenship. Third, in recent years, there has been a steady increase of studies employing international comparisons as well as a growing standardization for measurements. These developments lead to more multicountry studies based on large samples but come at the expense of more fine-grained analysis of the way news content changes over time. Fourth, while computational methods have recently been on the rise in the overall news content research field, these methods have yet to be used for longitudinal designs.Finally, the vast majority of cross-national and single-country studies focus on Western democracies. Thus our knowledge about recent changes in news content is limited to a small set of countries. Overall, many studies provide evidence for constant changes of news content driven by social, political, and economic developments. However, different media systems exhibit a sustained resilience toward transnational pressures reflected in a persistence of national differences in news content over time.