The internet is having an impact upon election news but also, more broadly, on news journalism and political communication. There are several dimensions to this that need to be considered. There is the impact on citizens and audiences (regarding who accesses online news, which sites they visit and what they do there), but also on news production and content: in what ways is the internet changing how news is gathered, reported and disseminated and how does this affect the economic models that major news organisations rely upon? Finally, there are also important questions about whether the internet has changed the nature of public debate, including claims that it has radically altered concepts such as ‘audiences’, ‘news’ and journalism in ways that will have profound implications for society and democracy.
Too often, all of these different elements are conflated in a debate that sees researchers and commentators divided starkly along cyber-enthusiast and cyber-sceptic lines. As Turner (2010:4) argues:
To take a clear position on any of this material –… [but] particularly one that is sceptical about the discourse of emancipation, democratization and liberation that has become the default position for so many media and cultural studies' accounts of Web 2.0 lately – is to enter into a very testy debate.
As I plunge headlong into that debate, I should first identify myself as what the media industry calls a ‘heavy internet user’ – I rely almost entirely on the internet for my news.