Sam Mejias Published August 13, 2018 in Journalism:

Article information 

Young people and the future of news: Social media and the rise of connective journalism, Lynn Schofield Clark & Regina Marchi, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2018. 305 pp. ISBN 9781316640722

How has social media changed journalism? This lively and engaging book by Lynn Schofield Clark and Regina Marchi revisits a familiar question by exploring young people’s news seeking, sharing and making practices, linking these highly mediated and dynamic processes to the development of their civic and political identity and participation. The authors draw on 10 years of ethnographic research with American young people of high school age to investigate questions of news consumption, dissemination and production in the digital age that – while particularly relevant for young people whose formative media environments have been shaped by the emergence and supremacy of digital platforms – also speak more broadly to the reality of contemporary news media ecologies across generations.

Following Bennett and Segerberg’s (2012) popular concept of connective action logic, Clark and Marchi propose extending this collective action frame to the field of journalism through the notion of connective journalism. Explicitly adopting the radical user perspective advanced by Ike Picone in order to ‘help understand what journalism is, [and] what it could (or should) be in relation to the lived experiences of all of our young people’ (p. 7), the authors argue that the affective and networked possibilities of social media have decentred the primacy of legacy media for news curation, creation and political influence. The result is connective journalism, a new form of journalistic process and practice that foregrounds the role of individual sharing, self-insertion and news making in shaping the consumption, circulation and production of news by young people. The theoretical basis for this argument relies on framing journalism primarily in two ways: in terms of its users and in terms of their sharing practices, linking these practices to the formation of what Zizi Papacharissi has termed affective publics. Connective journalism moves past traditional journalism’s ‘telling of the story as the final step in a communicative process’ (p. 54) to an ‘emotionally driven sharing’ (p. 199) that focuses on a ‘solutions-oriented outcome to storytelling: now that we know this story, what should we do about it?’ (p. 54).

The book, which is expertly written and draws on a wide range of theory and research in media and communications, sociology, citizenship and democracy, is structured with a nod to the essential selectivity the authors foreground in youthful news consumption and distribution, offering non-linear ways to dip in and out of discrete areas of interest according to individual preference. Chapters 1 and 2 outline the theoretical and empirical arguments underpinning the book, reviewing the trajectory of journalism in the social media age and articulating a connective journalism conceptual framework. With a particular focus on the widening gap in trust between young people from marginalized populations and legacy media, Chapter 3 shares young people’s stories of frustration and aspirations for a more inclusive and productive journalism with salience to their lives. Chapter 4 reviews notions and practices of ‘youth-oriented’ news, identifying structural barriers to youth participation in the news, before turning in Chapter 5 to explore case studies of youth engagement in news sharing through self-insertion (via witnessing and outrage), leading to the formation of affective counterpublics. Chapter 6 presents findings from the research highlighting youth citizen journalism practices suggestive of connective journalism’s influence on political participation. The book concludes in Chapter 7 with a range of helpful, if familiar, recommendations for supporting the development of young people’s media and journalistic competencies and opportunities, including through enhanced media literacy education and through a shift in focus by legacy media on engaging young people as active citizens.

At the heart of Clark and Marchi’s argument is the idea that what individual and collective groups of young people do within contemporary media spaces and across the diverse platforms on which news is shared has significant implications for their future civic and political engagement. Young People and the Future of News is therefore not simply intended to map the changing nature of youth encounters with journalism in an era of identity- and social-network-driven information communications. It seeks also to assign a sense of political agency and momentum to the choices young people make about news sharing and making, as a way of acknowledging and supporting the renewal of democratic participation through new forms of journalistic practice. The book argues that connective journalism represents ‘an important avenue through which individuals can recognize what is socially shared and decide when, how, or whether to pull together to achieve collective goals’ (p. 195). Thus, Clark and Marchi are keenly aware of the close links between young people’s individual and socially mediated interactions with news, the communities and contexts in which their encounters with news are embedded and how the choices they make about what to do with that news – share it, comment on it or remix it – are an important part of a community building process, which the authors believe ‘creates a way for us to think about who we are as a community and as a public, and how we might want to go forward together’ (p. 5). In a media ecology in which information overload has led to both structured and organic forms of agentic news consumption and circulation, Clark and Marchi offer a significant and persuasive contribution to knowledge with their theory of connective journalism, which points the way towards a future where journalism’s contribution to an emancipatory and democratic politics is both expanded and renewed.


Bennett, WL, Segerberg, A (2012) The logic of connective action. Information, Communication & Society 15(5): 739–768. 
Google Scholar | ISI


planning board

Colorado has found itself in the middle of an extraordinary journalism experiment. And now, members of the Colorado Media Project, an interdisciplinary team of students and faculty at the University of Denver’s Project X-ite, the Gates Family Foundation, and the Boston Consulting Group, are joining others in brokering a fast-paced summer conversation about it.

We’re living through this experiment in Colorado because we’re arguably the first of the large and economically strong U.S. capitol cities to witness the demise of a primary daily newspaper after that paper’s purchase by a hedge fund. And the Denver Post made national news in the spring of 2018 when the Post’s own Editorial Board launched the headline News Matters in their expose of owner Alden Global Media’s layoffs and business-over-civic life approach.

Colorado was a two-paper region until the former Rocky Mountain News closed its doors in 2009, just months shy of its 150th anniversary.

Today, Colorado is home to many journalistic ventures, of both the for-profit and not-for-profit kind. The latest of these is The Colorado Sun, which launched its daily newsletter June 20, joining the Colorado Independent, Denverite, and those with a longer news history including the Denver Post, Westword, High Country News, the venerable Colorado Public Radio and the in-depth news reporting arm of Rocky Mountain PBS. 9News tops the TV ratings, as 7’s The Denver Channel and CBS4 champion the community while Fox31 cleans up with the senior demographic.  Also on the scene are the longtime Denver Business Journal and relative newcomers Chalkbeat and Colorado Politics, the Spanish-language LaPrensa and La Voz, as well as several noteworthy (and, noteworthily consolidating) community news outlets such as  North Denver News and Denver Metro Media.

And so to help the Colorado Media Project, I spent the morning curating research about journalism’s audiences and consumers, looking into various journalism experiments and research efforts going on both here and around the world. I’d like your help in expanding my list as those in Colorado think through what can help address our current unfolding experiment and what can help as we take a design thinking approach to problem-solving and prototyping. We need your insights, from wherever you’re working and whatever you’re thinking.

So please head over to the collective brain dump that I’ve started for our conversation. Let me know if you have a link to that study that explored the connections between the closing of the Rocky Mountain News and the decline in Denver civic engagement, for instance, as I’ve lost track of it. Drop me a line if you have something else I need to see and share with others, and let me know if you’d like to be involved in other ways. I’d love to hear from you:


Hannah Lippe
Design Strategist Hannah Lippe facilitates a discussion about why people seek news.


Dave Denverite
Denverite Editor Dave Burdick discusses ideas for apps that could be useful for Colorado news consumers.






“People want to see more local news,” Mark Zuckerberg explained today in his announcement of Facebook’s latest change to their algorithms. If a Facebook friend shares a local story on their timeline, it’s now more likely to show up on your timeline. Facebook is doing this, Zuckerberg explains, because local news helps people to understand the issues in our communities, and knowing more helps people to get engaged in addressing those issues. In other words, according to Facebook, the corporation is once again seeking to give us what we want, and moreover, according to Zuckerberg, this is going to be good for our society and probably even for our democracy. But this announcement leaves at least two important questions unanswered.

First, what will happen once Facebook and my local news sources find that I’m less likely to click on a story about the mayor’s budget report than on a story about my neighbor’s cute cats? Well, here’s what could happen. Local news will need to maximize their reach on Facebook, so they will offer us more clickbait: more local cats, all the time.

Second: who gave Facebook the authority to decide what local news we’ll see in our feeds, anyway? You could argue that we grant them that authority every time we log on to the site. And Facebook itself has said that they’re leaving it up to us to decide which sources are trustworthy or not. But I don’t think you or I ever consciously decided to grant Facebook the right to make decisions about our news landscape. We didn’t elect officers to Facebook, or set up a commission to decide which algorithms will best serve the public interest, or ask our government officials to appoint a board that could hold Facebook accountable if they don’t deliver news that will improve the quality of our communities.

Facebook didn’t set out to be a news distributor, let alone a vetter of news. Zuckerberg has repeatedly denied that Facebook is a media corporation or a news outlet. But when 67% of U.S. adults say that we get most of our news from Facebook, it’s time for us to deal with the fact that Facebook is, indeed, a major news distribution system. We may not have granted them the authority to make decisions about our news landscape but they are in a position to exercise that authority. Facebook has effectively replaced the distribution system of local news that preceded it. And as ad money that once supported local news now goes to Google and Facebook, who shift the cost of content creation elsewhere while reaping the benefits that come with distributing that content, we shift even more authority to Facebook to shape our news ecosystem.

This isn’t the first time that Facebook has adjusted its algorithms in a way that affects the news you see. Last October, Facebook conducted an experiment in six countries, moving publishers’ posts to a secondary feed and leaving you with more content from friends.  Overnight, engagement with Slovakia’s media Facebook pages fell by 60%. What’s more, we know that Facebook’s data science team, when faced with evidence that the news feed curation algorithm modestly accelerates the polarization that makes it less likely for us to encounter diverse news sources, framed its findings as what Christian Sandvig has termed the “it’s not our fault” study. So we can guess what they’ll say about what happens when our access to quality local news is negatively affected by their algorithms.

Maybe our expectations regarding our social media are finally changing. According to a report on CBS News, the 2018 Edelman Trust Barometer survey found that trust in social media platforms is down, but trust in journalism has risen. Maybe regulators in Brussels and London will figure out a way to hold Facebook accountable for its role in undermining national elections, as some are hoping.  Following a suggestion from the Center for Economic and Policy Research’s Dean Baker, we could find ways to fine Facebook and require them to notify all affected users who might have seen unverified news. Or maybe we in the U.S. will finally have the political will to demand that our platforms become more transparent and governed by public rather than private entities. If not, I have some great photos of cats that I know one of my local news organizations would love for you to see.






Cambridge University Press has released the book! Here is a news release:



Lynn Schofield Clark


Young people trust friends on social media over news organizations, according to new book

Young People and the Future of News finds that in a time of declining news industries, young people are informing one another through social media—for better or worse

DENVER, September 30, 2017 — With social media, young people are finding out about news events from friends. When they are outraged or drawn into what is happening in current events, they are not only reading and viewing, but also sharing, immersing themselves in, and sometimes even creating news. And, it is changing the way young people define news. That’s according to the authors of Young People and the Future of News Lynn Schofield Clark and Regina Marchi, two journalism professors who studied diverse U.S. young people and their news habits for 10 years.

“Rather than relying on news organizations to tell them what is newsworthy, they’re deciding for themselves—and usually that decision is influenced not by where the news came from, but who told them about it,” says Clark, professor and chair in the media, film and journalism studies department at the University of Denver.

Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube have skyrocketed as locations for news among young people during the past decade, according to numerous national and international studies. Meanwhile, local newspapers and television news have been laying off staff—and struggling to survive.

The shift from trusted journalistic sources to social media as young people’s main source of news isn’t good news for the organizations of traditional journalism, the book acknowledges.  But members of immigrant communities and communities of color have long felt unheard by and underrepresented within those organizations, according to those interviewed in the book. The book also traces ways that young people in these communities are sharing the news that matters to them outside of formal news channels and away from public scrutiny.

“We used to think of newspapers as playing a central role in informing people of the news needed to participate in a democracy,” Clark says. “But what we found is that now young people are socializing one another into politics. This happens as they draw on the connective capacities of social media as well as on practices we once associated with journalism, like holding people in power accountable.”

“This means that we will need to rethink journalism industries as well as the ways that we educate people both for journalism and for democratic engagement more generally,” says Marchi, professor in the Department of Journalism and Media Studies at the Rutgers University. “Across the country, funding for high school journalism clubs and civics classes has been slashed, but students need opportunities to explore the relationship between journalism and democracy now more than ever,” she says.

Clark and Marchi interviewed more than 200 young people and several dozen parents, educators, and other adults working with youth in four U.S. urban areas and compared their findings with national studies on related topics from several research centers. They also considered the platforms that are delivering the news to most young people.

“News is different today,” Marchi said. “And our news distributors—namely Facebook, YouTube and Instagram—need to be held accountable for shaping what’s available and for helping young people and all of us to evaluate it.” The book offers a number of suggestions on this.

The authors praise recent efforts to alert communities to untruths circulating in social media, such as Facebook’s “disputed” tag that indicates that and Politifact have vetted certain information and found it questionable. But they also note that the public needs greater transparency from the social media platforms to counteract the tendency for such platforms to make decisions that benefit them commercially but that may be harmful to public interests. Young people need greater awareness both of the ways that the algorithms of social media platforms work, and of how to be actively involved in shaping the emerging media and political environment, they argue.

“Young people don’t consume news the way adults did (or do), but this doesn’t mean that they’re uninterested in what’s going on,” Clark says. “In fact, research is suggesting that overall, this is a very engaged generation.” The book’s findings confound prior theories that presumed that casual online sharing by youth might be dismissed as mere ‘slactivism.’   “In contrast,” says Marchi, “we suggest that such casual sharings and even observation-only participation can serve an important role as a form of early civic engagement.”

Young People and the Future of News: Social Media and the Rise of Connective Journalism is set for publication on September 15 by Cambridge University Press. For more information, visit

About the Authors

Bio of Lynn Schofield Clark

Clark is Professor and Chair of the Department of Media, Film and Journalism Studies and Director of the Estlow Center for Journalism and New Media at the University of Denver, In addition to Young People and the Future of News, she is author of The Parent App: Understanding Families in a Digital Age (Oxford UP, 2013), and coauthor of Media, Home and Family (Routledge 2004). Her first book, From Angels to Aliens: Teenagers, the Media, and the Supernatural (Oxford UP, 2005), was named Best Scholarly Book by the Ethnography division of the National Communication Association. She teaches courses on diversity in news and media studies.

Bio of Regina Marchi

Marchi is Associate Professor in the Department of Journalism and Media Studies at the Rutgers University. Her first book, Day of the Dead in the USA: The Migration and Transformation of a Cultural Phenomenon, won the 2010 James W. Carey Award for Media Research and an International Latino Book Award in the category of “Best history/political book.”


A new study from the Pew Research Center’s Journalism & Media group finds that 74% of people of color get news on social media sites, up from 64% in 2016.

The study also finds that 67% of US adults get news via social media, and for the first time, more than half of Americans over age 50 (55%) say that they get their news on social media sites.

Facebook dominates as the site for news: about 45% of all in the US get news there. 18% now get news from YouTube.

A quick shout-out to those journalists who are placing themselves in harm’s way to cover the devastation in Puerto Rico, as Frances Robles and colleagues at the New York Times have done, and to those who earlier covered the evacuation of the western coast of Florida, as Tampa’s Fox 13 journalists did, and as the Houston Chronicle ‘s journalists continue to cover the devastation in and around south Texas and Louisiana. Journalists are creating helpful resources such as CNN’s stormtrackers and the Orlando Sentinel’s infographic that describes what a hurricane is. And then of course there are those journalists who are doggedly following the daily machinations of the Trump administration at The Washington Post, those finding innovative ways to use data at USA Today to reveal how power and influence operate on Trump’s golf courses, and those who are fact-checking rumors at the New York Times, among other places. There are also interesting innovations such as Buzzfeed’s Outside Your Bubble feature that directs your attention to the ways that various audiences across the internet are responding to the same stories. Let’s hope that stories like these both inform and encourage all of us to act as we can to address overwhelming problems and call our leaders to account.


It’s hard to talk about journalism’s positive contributions today without recognizing the imbalances that are shaping our experiences of news. What do we do about the fact that there are large swaths of the U.S. population who seem to live in a universe where facts, and even fact-checking, is met with resistance because those facts contradict their worldview, causing cognitive dissonance and a backfire effect? What about the reality of a hybrid news system in which there are so many purported sources for news today that the young, and indeed many of all ages, have difficulty separating fact from fiction, as one study by the Stanford Education group suggests? Today it’s easier than ever for us to practice what social scientists term selective exposure. And after all, we engage in selective exposure because, as anthropologist Pascal Boyer is quoted as explaining in Julie Beck’s article on facts in The Atlantic, “Having social support, from an evolutionary standpoint, is far more important than knowing the truth about some facts that do not directly impinge on your life.” This means that we are predisposed to seek out facts that support the worldview that we hold and that those most important to us also hold – and it’s a threat to our very identity to try to deal with facts that challenge that worldview.

All of this leaves me with more questions than answers when it comes to the topic of how today’s young people are participating in changing the definition of “news” through their uses of social media. Yes, it’s a problem that they aren’t relying on traditional sources of evidence and verification and are instead tending to trust what their friends say rather than what is said by (fill in the blank with your own preferred source of news, recognizing that adults don’t agree on this, either). But for me, it’s important to begin with the recognition that this reliance on friends and those we trust for information verification is not a new situation, since social scientists say that as humans we’ve always been inclined to seek confirmation for the way we see the world.

The implications, then, are twofold: first, we need to help to create more support for cultures that value an evidence-based reality. This entails teaching young people how to evaluate information as well as how to grapple with ambiguities, such as when facts contradict their world views. Because dealing with contrary information can threaten deeply-held identities, it involves doing the kind of teaching and dialoguing that is sensitive and empathic and seeks to widen circles of identification rather than harshly reinforcing identity barriers. Also, based on my experiences in working with young people, such conversations involve trying to link new information with what young people know to be true from their own life experiences – especially when that lived knowledge itself is related to injustices that they and their family members and friends know about first hand. We as educators and leaders have to learn to find points of agreement and commonality so that we can support some aspects of what another person takes as truth even as we may also present information that challenges. But we have to do this while also recognizing and acknowledging former and present shared pain.

The second implication is related to the first, and it has to begin with a mind-bender: part of the reason that we think that there is so much support for an “alternative facts” universe is that it makes for a great news story. So many of us are craving information about what is going on that journalists and commentators are obliging our curiosity – as they should – by researching the topics of fake news and alternative facts. Some of this is highly entertaining, like The Guardian’s Top Ten Alternative Facts for a Post-Truth World that highlight films and books such as 1984 and Wag the Dog that seemed to presage today’s strangeness. But all of this attention feeds the sense that this is a large and influential trend that says something about what people actually believe.

Thus, the second implication actually grows out of the slim margin of good news that’s related to journalism. The fact that we are experiencing a dramatic resurgence of interest in and support for high quality journalism, as well as surging interest in emergent voices that are speaking from evidence of their lived realities, is evidence that many, and probably even the majority of people in the U.S., prefer an evidence-based reality to a reality that’s manufactured in support of a worldview. This then reframes the question of the future of news from one focused on human failings to one of system failure. How is it that our systems are making it so that those of the minority are threatening those in the majority?

And this is where we have to turn to questioning things like the rise of Facebook as a news distributor and propagator of fake news, as well as an electoral college system and a media system that inescapably favors coverage of the latest new political crisis instead of coverage on boring topics like laws and policies that for decades have been quietly yet effectively restricting voters from exercising their right to vote, or on how various groups and people are working outside of the spotlight to address those discrepancies in access to democracy. And those are topics for future blogs.