Authors: Martin Eide
Abstract: The concern of this paper is a media format that involves a particular active audience participation in public discussion. The genre in question is one that simulates Parliament- or court proceedings.
Two Norwegian cases are considered: The first from a popular newspaper in the 1970s, the second from a popular TV-station in 2008.
The journalistic interventions in the two cases are conceived of as creating an impression of a strong public, or simulating empowerment of a weak public into a strong public where authoritative decisions are made.
In the newspaper’s own coverage, the debate among the chosen delegates is presented and interpreted in the most flattering ways. A common sense of the people is celebrated in opposition to the elitist-oriented political reason. Correspondingly, the later TV-version claims to “bring the debate where it belongs,” and to “provide a platform for ordinary folks”. A central ambition is to produce a live confrontation between the people and those in power. Popular ideas of discussion topics, in every respect of the term ‘popular’, were welcomed by e-mail and on digital discussion sites.
The paper explores similarities and differences between the two instances of orchestrations of popular participation and discusses how they might be linked to a celebration of professional journalistic ideals in a traditional print context and in a new digital TV-context, respectively. Of major concern in the comparative analysis of the two cases are (i) journalistic conceptions of the audience and the participants in the debates and (ii) the accompanying journalistic legitimation and self-presentation.
Keywords: popular journalism; debate format; audience participation