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Submit a Manuscript to the Journal
Digital Journalism

For a Special Issue on
Meso news-spaces and beyond: News-related communication occurring between the public and private domains

Abstract deadline
20 December 2021

Manuscript deadline
15 June 2022

Cover image - Digital Journalism

Special Issue Editor(s)

Neta Kligler Vilenchik, Hebrew University of Jerusalem
[email protected]

Ori Tenenboim, University of British Columbia
[email protected]

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Meso news-spaces and beyond: News-related communication occurring between the public and private domains

Today’s digital media environment challenges traditional distinctions between public and private spheres, with news-related communication occurring in varied digital spaces that involve varying degrees of publicness. In this special issue, we are interested in understanding news-related communication that occurs neither in fully public or fully private realms, but between or across the two. While the increasing role of groups and locked platforms has received recent attention in relation to general digital communication—conceptualized as “below the radar” communication (Boccia Artieri, Brilli, & Zurovac, 2021)—here, our focus is on the use of such spaces for producing, sharing and discussing news-related contents. For example, recent work shows how a closed, yet large-scale, WhatsApp group was used by a journalist/blogger and her audiences to collectively source news material and to hold discussions around interpreting the news (Kligler-Vilenchik & Tenenboim, 2020), while creating norms that helped avoid the spread of misinformation (Kligler-Vilenchik, 2021).

To further understand this phenomenon, we have recently offered the concept of meso news-spaces: online spaces located between the private and public realms, where groups of people are involved in news-related processes (Tenenboim & Kligler-Vilenchik, 2020). Meso news-spaces often employ the varying degrees of publicness afforded by digital spaces such as Facebook groups, Twitter Spaces, group chats on WeChat, WhatsApp, Telegram and more. Meso news-spaces are a significant phenomenon for journalism studies and practice to consider. Groups active in meso news-spaces combine aspects that have long drawn participants to online communities—sociability, a sense of intimacy, and creative expression—with an engagement with the news. They thus have the potential to promote a deeper engagement with news and more meaningful relationships between and among news workers and audience members (see Wright, 2012). Yet meso news-spaces have also been theorized as potential “breeding grounds” for concerning phenomena, such as the spread of misinformation (Malhotra, 2020) or incitement toward violence (Horwitz, 2021). Indeed, the unique dynamics that build up in semi-private spaces may later make significant impacts in the public realm.

As previously argued (Tenenboim & Kligler-Vilenchik, 2020), the dynamics of meso news-spaces are contingent on the platform where the space is located, the topic/s on which it focuses, its set of participants, and the rules and guidelines for participation. Examples may include political actors disseminating propaganda through encrypted messaging apps (Gursky et al., 2020), educators promoting learning in a news-related discussion group (Neill al., 2021), journalists’ use of messaging apps for sourcing (Belair-Gagnon, Agur, & Frisch, 2018), or users engaging with news on closed platforms such as WhatsApp (Masip et al., 2021).

Importantly, context matters to understand the dynamics of different meso news-spaces, stressing the importance of research across different national, social and linguistic contexts. Factors like the popularity of different platforms in different geographical areas, type of political regime, or different political periods, may all shape dynamics within meso news-spaces. Methodologically, the activity in meso news-spaces may in some cases be more difficult (ethically or practically) for researchers to study (Abidin, 2021). On the other hand, such spaces can also be used in creative ways as a site for research (see Kümpel, 2021).

This special issue of Digital Journalism aims to offer novel insights into communication in meso news-spaces; as well as the dynamics and processes in other news-related digital contexts that lie between the public and private or move across spaces of varying degrees of publicness. We are interested in communication related to journalism and news broadly defined, including diverse actors (journalists, political actors, everyday citizens) and stages (from access/observation through consumption) involved in news processes. We invite submission of empirical as well as theoretical contributions. We also encourage authors to consider and address methodological and ethical questions.

Topics of interest include, but are not limited to:

  • What kinds of news-related contents do actors produce, share, or engage with in digital spaces or contexts between the public and private realms?
  • What kinds of dynamics and norms are established in meso news-spaces, or in moving across varying degrees of publicness? How are these related to various characteristics and affordances?
  • How are such spaces used for news production or sourcing, among journalists or between journalists, their sources, and their audiences?
  • What are the implications of engagement in such spaces, e.g. for trust, reciprocity, knowledge building, democratic participation?
  • What are areas of concern in such spaces (e.g. misinformation, hate speech, incitement to violence) and how may these be addressed?
  • Comparative research – what are differences and similarities between meso news-spaces across audiences, platforms, or contexts?
  • Methodological aspects - what are some of the ethical and methodological challenges of accessing and studying meso news-spaces, and how can they be addressed?
  • Theoretical work - what concepts, typologies or models can help us better understand meso news-spaces, or communication across varying degrees of publicness? How do such spaces challenge traditional boundaries of public vs. private, and with what implications?

Submission Instructions

Information about submitting

Proposals should include an abstract of 500 words (not including references) as well as a full list of author(s) with
affiliation(s) and abbreviated bio(s). Please submit your proposal to [email protected] as one file (PDF) with your names clearly stated on the first page.  Article submissions should target a length of 7,000-9,000 words.

Extended abstract submission deadline: December 20, 2021
Notification on acceptance of abstracts : January 30, 2022
Article submission deadline: May 30, 2022

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