The impact of digital and social media on the news consumption and democratic engagement of 25 to 35 year olds
In recent years, changing media consumption patterns, especially the increased use of interactive media, has fuelled optimism about the enhanced possibilities for democratic participation and active citizenship. For the news consumer, the advent of the digital media landscape has brought with it a whole new set of opportunities, yet for the news producers, finding an alternative to the traditional financial model for news production is an ongoing concern. The use of social networking sites to access the news has created a new paradigm as distribution platforms for news are increasingly being controlled by software companies whose primary interests are not rooted in strengthening public discourse and democracy. These and other concerns arising out of an ever-evolving digital media landscape and its role in re-shaping the nature of democratic engagement were explored in this mixed methods study of thirty Irish 25 to 35 year olds. Although most participants were active on social media, the majority was most likely to use social media sites (SNS) primarily for social purposes and did not display much interest in online participation. The most popular news category amongst participants was domestic politics and international news. Notably, many participants commented how their interest in the news is increasing as they grow older. Another notable trend was that many who expressed a minimal interest in news stated they now find the news “hard to avoid”. The level of interest in news displayed a promising level of engagement with the deliberative democratic process.
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