‘Legacy’ election coverage in Australia and the United States

Political journalism traditionally holds a privileged place in democratic societies. In particular, elite ‘legacy’ news organisation are expected to provide citizens with the materials they need to make informed political decisions. Their ability to do so has been challenged, in the last two decades, by a range of pressures: a ‘crisis’ in business models for journalism which has led to the loss of resources in newsrooms; the demands of a 24-hour, globalised and networked news environment; and the technological developments which have influenced journalistic routines, content, and dissemination.

Political journalism now competes with emerging digital-first or digital-only providers of political information. This comes to the fore during election campaigns, where coverage of politics takes on a new urgency. This project undertakes comparative analysis of campaign coverage in the United States and Australian 2016 elections to explore how ‘legacy’ news organisations enhance their online reporting in response to the emergence of digital competitors. It explores the role of professional journalism in its endeavour to reclaim its central role in providing citizens with the materials they need to make informed voting choices in a functioning democracy.

The project seeks to foster public engagement and incorporate practitioner responses, deepening industry and public understandings of key trends in Australian campaign coverage.

Chief Investigator Dr Stephanie Brookes

Funder Journalism Education and Research Association of Australia

Date of Award 2016