Jacob L. Nelson

Jun 15, 2021

Imagined Audiences

How Journalists Perceive and Pursue the Public

Oxford University Press, USA 2021

Many believe the solution to ongoing crises in the news industry — including profound financial instability and public distrust — is for journalists to improve connections to their audiences. Conversations about the proper relationship between the media and the public go back to Walter Lippmann and John Dewey and through the public journalism movement of the 1990s to today and what's come to be known as engaged journalism. 

In Imagined Audiences: How Journalists Perceive and Pursue the Public (Oxford UP, 2021), Jacob L. Nelson examines the role that audiences have traditionally played in journalism, how that role has changed, and what those changes mean for both the profession and the public. The result is a comprehensive study of both news production and reception at a moment when the relationship between the two has grown more important than ever before.

Beyond the arguments in Imagined Audiences, Nelson talks with New Books in Journalism host Jenna Spinelle about how journalism researchers and practitioners can work more closely together, as well as how Nelson's students perceive engaged journalism in relationship to their own media habits. This conversation is also in many ways a companion to the recent episode with Andrea Wenzel on her book "Community-Centered Journalism." Nelson and Wenzel work together on the Engaged Journalism Exchange, a series of gatherings aiming to bridge the divide between journalism scholars and innovators.

Nelson is an assistant professor at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University. Spinelle is an instructor in the Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications at Penn State and host of the Democracy Works podcast.

Jenna Spinelle is a journalism instructor at Penn State's Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications. She's also the communications specialist for the university's McCourtney Institute for Democracy, where she hosts and produces the Democracy Works podcast.

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Jenna Spinelle

Jenna Spinelle is a journalism instructor at Penn State's Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications. She's also the communications specialist for the university's McCourtney Institute for Democracy, where she hosts and produces the Democracy Works podcast.
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