Ask a Journalist: Roles, Relations and Subjectivity in Online Reader–Journalist Dialogues
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Original versionHågvar YB: Ask a Journalist: Roles, Relations and Subjectivity in Online Reader–Journalist Dialogues . In: Fonn BK, Hornmoen H, Hågvar YB, Hyde-Clarke N. Putting a Face on it: Individual Exposure and Subjectivity in Journalism , 2017. Cappelen Damm Akademisk p. 159-183
If you could ask a journalist anything – what would it be? The Norwegian online paper VG.no was not sure what to expect when it launched its general “Question and Answers” forum in 2014 as an integrated part of a complex live studio. In this chapter, I examine which topics the readers raise and how the journalists respond to them in samples from 2014 and 2016. I also discuss which roles the journalists take on when acting as studio hosts, and to what extent these micro-dialogues contribute to a more open or even subjective kind of journalism. The analysis shows that the hosts throughout both periods alternate between four main roles: the neutral news oracle; the online pathfinder; the comforting psychologist and the like-minded buddy. The hosts mirror the styles and relationships suggested by the readers, unless the readers ask for their professional or private opinions. In that case, the hosts step back into a traditional news discourse. The relationship between each individual reader and the answering journalist therefore remains pseudo-intimate, as the host might get personal, but not subjective. However, the textual environment turns more hostile during 2015, and in the 2016 material the readers take a more critical stance towards VG.no’s journalism in general, and immigrants in particular. Consequently, the hosts increasingly act as verbal sparring partners, which constitutes a fifth and somewhat more confrontational journalistic role.