The thesis is written by Henrik Skovmark Larsen and Dennis Christiansen.
This thesis focuses on the relationship between news media and democracy. More
precisely it asks the question: what role is it possible for the internet to play as a
news media in democracy?
Answering the main question we examine three theoretical questions: What is
democracy? How is the media’s role in democracy to be conceptualised? What
are the communicative characteristics of the internet and which democratic
potentials do the internet represent as a news media?
The first question is answered through a politological examination of the concept
Answering the second question we turn to media science.
Addressing the social responsibility theory, the libertarian theory, the
democratic-participant theory and the theory of the public sphere we examine how these
theories expect the mass media to function in modern, western democracies.
Question three is first answered through a definition of the internet. We then go on
to see how the communicative characteristics of the internet affect news media on
the internet and where they – compared to the traditional mass media – represent
new democratic possibilities.
We end this part of the thesis by concluding, that the internet as a news media
represents a theoretical possibility to realise the deliberative democratic ideal of
the democratic-participant theory and the theory of the public sphere.
In the second part we turn to an empirical analysis of how news users and the
news media use the deliberative democratic possibilities of the internet.
In our case study we analyse the web site and online debate forum of the Danish
daily newspaper Politiken. In this part of the thesis we want to answer the
question: does the online debate on www.politiken.dk utilise the deliberative
democratic possibilities of the internet?
Our analysis shows, that the online debate at Politiken.dk does not utilise the
deliberative democratic posibilities of the internet – paradoxically due to its
dialogical news group communication structure, which creates a non-public debate
dominated by personal insults.
We argue that the concept of deliberation should be widened to include individual
articulation and exposure of political opinion in a public forum, and that online
news media should use the dialogical communication characteristics of the
internet to create such public forums, rather than provide the means for non-public
conversation between its users.
Herein lies the primary democratic role of online news media. We end the thesis
by concluding that although online news media have the possibility to fulfil virtually
every democratic role described in the theoretical part of this thesis, they currently
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