Project 1: Spaces of News

New communication technologies present several challenges to the role of the journalist in society.

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New communication technologies present several challenges to the role of the journalist in society.

The functions of inquiry, observation, research, editing and writing have had to adapt to the vast array of information available on-line; digital video footage, wire photos, amateur pictures taken with camera-enabled cell phones or digital cameras, the blogosphere, as well as the speed of 24/7 cable news.

Investigating the impact of new media on the news, Spaces of the News has found that news media, and newspapers in particular, are in crisis. With newspaper circulation declining sharply and advertising revenue migrating to online classified sites and search advertising, the newspaper industry is without a workable business model. 

Digitisation has increased the speed of news reporting, while the websites created by newspapers to fend off competition require more space to be filled. Cuts by news organisations have reduced staff, leaving fewer people to file more stories in less time. The outcome has generally been journalism that is shallower and faster. Meanwhile, in the blogosphere, other actors have made their views known and added to an abundance of comment and analysis. However, these voices have found it increasingly difficult to be heard. As a result, far from extending the range of voices and debates, news in the digital age is increasingly homogenous. 

The project's research has informed recommendations to mainstream news industry and those concerned with media policy. Our work is cited extensively in the Parliamentary Select Committee Report on Media Ownership 2008 as well as in the Ofcom Report on the BSkyB/News Corp buyout. We have given evidence, both written and oral, to different phases of the Leveson Inquiry.

Our research has also had a direct outcome. We set up Eastlondonlines – a successful local community news website run out of the Department of Media, Communications and Cultural Studies. We also made recommendations for a more collaborative relationship to develop between news organizations and civil society associations.

Professor James Curran, Project leader

Professor Natalie Fenton

Professor Nick Couldry 

Dr Des Freedman 

Peter Lee-Wright 

Angela Phillips

Dr Tamara Witschge 

Joanna Redden

January 2013
On 11th January 2013, Professor James Curran gave a plenary keynote address to the ‘Spaces and Places of Culture’ Annual Conference of the Media, Communication and Cultural Studies Association (MECCSA) in Derry/Londonderry. His address was entitled 'Mickey Mouse Squeaks Back'. It can be viewed online, along with the address of the other speaker, Terry Eagleton.

November 2012
Professor James Curran presented a public lecture on 'Citizenship, Internet and Democracy: A New Public Sphere?' at the Barcelona Centre for Contemporary Culture, 12 November 2012.

October 2012
Dr Des Freedman presented a paper on 'Profits of the New Media Economy' to the ECREA Conference in Istanbul in October 2012 and was invited to present on a similar topic by the Media, ICT and Cultural Policy Research Group at the University of Bergen in November 2012.

Dr Des Freedman was invited to speak to the International Symposium on 'Communication and Global Power Shifts' at the Communication University of China in Beijing, October 2012.

May 2012
Professor James Curran gave a master-class on 'From the Rise of Media Entertainment to Misunderstanding the Internet' at the International Communication Association Conference in Phoenix, USA on 26 May 2012

April 2012

On 19 April, Professor James Curran delivered the opening keynote address 'Demystifying the Internet' at the Identity, Culture and Communication Conference in Madrid.

February 2012
Professor James Curran gave a keynote address on 'New Communications Technology and Societal Change' at a Centenary Conference at the University of Lisbon, 28 February 2012.

On 22 February, Professor James Curran was at Dublin City University presenting a paper on 'Reassessing the Impact of the Internet 'to the Social Media and Journalism Conference.

December 2011

Dr Des Freedman and Professor Natalie Fenton spoke on media reform at the Bank of Ideas on 19 December 2011.

November 2011
On 25 November, Professor Natalie Fenton presented a paper to a conference 'Trust. Revisited' at Edinburgh University titled 'Press, Politics Power and the Public Interest'.

Professor Natalie Fenton gave a keynote lecture to a conference at Bergen University on 4 November 2011: 'New Ways of Telling Truths or Tales: Journalism and Democracy in the Digital Age'.

October 2011
Professor James Curran gave expert public presentation to the Leveson Inquiry on 21 October 2011.

On 12 October 2011, a new book by Toril Aalberg and James Curran (eds) was published, entitled, How Media Inform Democracy (Routledge, New York), in which James Curran co-authored four essays.

September 2011
On 17 September, James Curran gave a keynote address at Lingnan University Conference in Hong Kong on 'Impact of the Internet: An Historical Perspective'.

While on 21 September, Professor Curran was in Sydney giving a public lecture on 'Internet: Prophecy and Reality' at the Police and, which was broadcast by ABC in its 'Big Ideas Series' on October 16, 2001. Listen to the broadcast here.

July 2011
Mapping Digital Media: United Kingdom, written by Des Freedman and Justin Schlosberg, now available online. The Mapping Digital Media project, funded by the Open Society, examines the global opportunities and risks created by the transition from traditional to digital media. Covering 60 countries, the project examines how these changes affect the core democratic service that any media system should provide: news about political, economic, and social affairs.

May 2011
Professor James Curran became the first winner of the Edwin C. Baker Award for the Advancement of Scholarship on Media, Markets and Democracy awarded by the Philosophy of Communication, Law and Policy Divisions of the International Communication Association in recognition of his long-term research in this field.

November 2010
Projects Team submission to the Ofcom Public Interest Test on News Corp and BSkYB 19 

Dr Des Freedman submission to Ofcom BSkyB/News Corp public interest consultation

October 2010
James Curran gave a paper on 'Media and Democracy: Key Issues and Relevant Concerns' at the European Communication Conference in Hamburg

August 2010
Natalie Fenton, Des Freedman, Monika Metykova and Justin Schlosberg have recently completed a research project on 'Meeting the News Needs of Local Communities' where they recommend the creation of Local News Hubs. The research was funded by the Media Trust. 

July 2010
James Curran gave a paper on 'The impact of the internet on journalism' in
the Axess Future of Journalism Conference in London

On 13 July, James Curran gave a paper on 'The Press and New Technology: Continuity, Rebirth or Abyss? (1950-2010)' at The Historiographyof the UK Media Conference at Kings College, London

May 2010

Des Freedman, Natalie Fenton and James Curran's submission to the BBC Trust in relation to the BBC Strategy Review consultation.

March 2010
James Curran, Natalie Fenton and Angela Phillips spoke at a pre-election event at Westminster on 'Democracy Without Journalists- The Crisis in Local News'. Other speakers included: Jeremy Dear (General Secretary of the NUJ); Steve Hewlett (R4 The Media Show and Guardian columnist)and Professor Stephen Coleman (University of Leeds). More information.

February 2010
Natalie Fenton, Des Freedman, James Curran and Nick Couldry recently submitted a document to the DCMS outlining their views on the IFNC pilots. 


Natalie Fenton presented the Spaces of News research at Middlesex
University on 2 Feb. and Leicester University of 10 Feb.

November 2009

Democracy has published an article based on Natalie Fentons speech at the seminar

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A book release was held for the Media Research Centre: New Media,Old News. Journalism and Democracy in the Digital Age'. Published by Sage.


6 November 2009
On 6 November a entitled,
A Media Manifesto for the Digital Age was held. The seminar was a great success, with interesting
contributions from the panel.

October 2009

Natalie Fenton presented major findings of the project- released in the latest publication: 'New Media,Old News:Journalism and Democracy in the Digital Age'- on 'The Media Show', BBC Radio 4.


James Curran gave a paper on 'Media and Democracy' at the Rustat
Conference, Jesus College, Cambridge


September 2009

Natalie Fenton and Nick Couldry give a Keynote address to the ECREA Transforming Audiences Conference, Westminster, entitled 'From Consumer/Producers to Actual Politics? Social Media and the Practice of Dems been arranged by the Projectteamocracy'

In this joint plenary Natalie Fenton and Nick Couldry addressed the critical question of participation in 'actual politics' in the digital age through the lens of digital activism and considered what researching media not only as texts or structures of production but as practice' can contribute to that analysis. Can new media can bring about a new form of political activism? If so, what are the consequences for how we conceive of and carry out our political citizenship? How and to what extent have changing media technologies and the shift towards a central role for information and information technologies transformed our ability to engage in political life? If a digital context destabilises the old dichotomy between the audience and the producer, how is our understanding 'the political' in media studies changed?

See the video of the event:


Angela Phillips presented 'Transparency and the New Ethics of Journalism' at the Future of Journalism Conference in Cardiff.

Professional journalists rate investigating, fact checking, and standards of accuracy, high among the qualities that set them apart from amateur journalists and bloggers (Kovach, and Rosenstiel, 2001 Fenton and Witschge 2009). This paper addresses the spread and the implications of news "cannibalization", (taking material from other news organisations, without attribution). It asks how the loss of exclusivity is impacting on practices of reporting and on standards of "accuracy" and "sincerity" (Williams 2002) and suggests that establishing new standards of transparency could help protect professional reporting in the new, networked era, as well as improving ethical standards in journalism.

This paper has been commented on in the blog.

July 2009
Natalie Fenton presented two papers at the IAMCR conference in Mexico on 25 July 2009:

- 'Cloning the News: NGOs, New Media and the News' - abstract

- 'Comment is free, facts are sacred: Journalistic ethics in a changing mediascape' (co-authored by Tamara Witschge)

Please e-mail the author(s) for full papers.

June 2009
A paper was published:

Witschge, Tamara and Nygren, Gunnar, 2009. Journalism: a profession under pressure? Journal of Media Business Studies, 6 (1). pp. 37-59. ISSN 16522354

This article explores how the changing nature of journalistic work and organization are affecting the profession, the way it is perceived by personnel, the roles played by journalists, and autonomy of journalists. It finds that the technical and economic changes are disrupting the established professional status, roles, and practices of journalists, removing professional control that previously existed.

May 2009
James Curran, Director of the Goldsmiths Leverhulme Media Research Centre gave the opening address ‘Crisis in Journalism’ at the Westminster conference ‘Crisis in Journalism.’ The conference was held on 19 and 20 May. Watch the video of James’ keynote.


Tamara Witschge, Research Associate on the Spaces of News project, also gave a presentation at the conference (on 20 May). The presentation was entitled: The tyranny of technology? Examining the role of new media in news journalism. See a brief video summary of the presentation.


On 7 May, Des Freedman presented findings from the Leverhulme Spaces of News project at the international symposium 'Online Territories: Globalization, Mediated Practice and Social Space', Dept of Media and Communications, University of Karlstad, Sweden, He presented his paper “News spaces in the digital age” on 7 May 2009.This presentation summarises some of the conclusions of the 'Spaces of the News' project, carried out as part of the wider research of the Goldsmiths Leverhulme Media Research Centre investigating the relationship between digital technologies, media institutions and public space.

The presentation focused on two particular areas: the economic forces that underpin the emergence of online news and the extent to which online news is able to take advantage of the speed, space, polycentrality and interactivity of the internet through an analysis of online news content. The research aims to uncover the distinctive characteristics of new media spaces and to reflect on the consequences of technological change for a vibrant democracy.

April 2009
Street journalists versus 'ailing journalists'?

The internet is currently the fastest growing news platform (Ofcom, 2007). New media technologies have changed and multiplied the ways in which news can be accessed, but the promise of greater diversity in news seems elusive. "Street Journalism" projects, like Demotix, the recent winner of the Media Guardian's 2009 award in the "Independnet Media" category want to change that. In justifying their place, these crowd-sourcing projects are needing to transform the theory of media's place in democracy. It is no longer enough to be informed to fully enjoy citizenship; you now need to be an information producer. But do we?

March 2009
A Goldsmiths panel debate - Changing Journalism - For Good or Ill?- with leading figures from the world of print and broadcast journalism, in the Small Hall (Cinema) at 5 p.m. on Wednesday 25 March. This event was streamed live over the internet.

As journalism undergoes widespread systemic change, have its practitioners retained their values and objectivity, or have many lost perspective along with power and position? Are the opportunities of serving 24-hour multimedia platforms extending choice and range, or is it more a case - as the late Bill Cotton said of the BBC - of morale perpetually at 'an all-time low'? Do recent failures in economic journalism indicate a wider malaise, with correspondents too closely embedded with their sources, or are 'green shoots' detectable in the industry as well as in the economy?

As the Goldsmiths Leverhulme Media Research Centre completes its research programme on New Media and its effects in Changing Journalism, the academics invite the journalists to argue whether their trade is in rude health or terminal decline.

February 2009
James Curran speaks at Cambridge Seminar: New Media and Old Communication On February 13, James Curran gave a paper to a staff/student sociology seminar at Cambridge University in which he summarised three of his recent studies - an historical examination of new media forecasts, a case study of the international e-zine, openDemocracy (conducted with Tamara Witschge) and a comparative study of media reporting and public knowledge in four countries (with Iyengar, Lund and Salovaara-Moring).

January 2009
Members of the Spaces of News team have presented their work at a seminar of the Communication and Media Research Institute at the University of Westminster on Wednesday 28 January. (More information) Please contact the individual authors for access to the presentations.

New Media and the internet in particular, are seen by many as the route to reinvigorated democracy. By ridding journalists of the top-down hierarchy and professional/normalised values that come from the learned routines the internet is claimed to change the institution of news. The reportorial act of data collection is dispersed and with data collection potentially taking place at any node on the net, editorial control is diminished. The network of news is fragmented, participatory, non-hierarchical and de-centred. Others see the internet as merging into existing routines, resulting in a normalisation of the web where traditional concepts of labour reflect those in the non-virtual commercial world. This seminar considers these debates in light of the findings emerging from the first large scale UK study into new media and the news funded by the Leverhulme Trust. The discussion will centre on issues relating to the news and democracy in a digital age. Drawing on their data, a team of researchers from Goldsmiths will explore the question: has new media revitalised the public sphere or become the tool of commerce for an increasingly un-public, undemocratic news media?

January 2009
Dr Tamara Witschge, research associate on the project Spaces of News, has presented the paper 'All that remains is change? News journalism cultures and new media technology'. She spoke at the MeCCSA 2009 conference organised by the University of Bradford (14-16 January). The paper examines the responses of journalists, editors and financial managers to technological change and discusses the changes in news culture that result from the discourses on technology.

For more information on the conference, please visit the MeCCSA conference website.

If you are interested in a copy of the working paper, please send an e-mail Dr Tamara Witschge.

November 2008
The Goldsmiths Leverhulme Media Research Centre was well represented at ECREA's second European Communication Conference (Barcelona, 25-28 November). Natalie Fenton, Des Freedman, Peter Lee-wright, Angela Phillips and Tamara Witschge presented works from the forthcoming book 'New Media, Old News: Journalism and Democracy in the Digital Age'. The session was very well attended with over 90 people filling the room and a lively debate followed the presentation. The coverage of the session (in Spanish) is available.


Angela Phillips participated in a discussion on the future of newspapers. 


A seminar entitled, New Media, Old News: Journalism and Democracy in a Digital Age, was held on 19 November 2008 at the British Academy. The seminar attracted an impressive range of news professionals and academics and stimulated a wide ranging discussion. The debate was split largely between those who celebrate the potential of new media to increase the range of news and information available to all and increase user participation and those who point to the problems brought about by new media in an environment of increased competition, increased investment in technology and a decreasing investment in journalists. The discussion will inform the future research of the Centre. [More information]


On 7 November Natalie Fenton gave a staff sociology seminar at Cambridge University based on a general overview of the findings of the project to date. The seminar was entitled, Drowning or Waving? New Media, Journalism and Democracy. The seminar was well-attended and the work was enthusiastically received with much discussion relating to the potential social and political implications of the study.

October 2008
Dr Tamara Witschge, research associate on the project Spaces of News, has presented the paper 'Comment is free, facts are sacred: journalistic ethics in a changing mediascape', co-authored with Dr Natalie Fenton at the conference of The End of Journalism? Technology, Education and Ethics Conference 2008 organised by the University of Bedfordshire in Luton on 17-18 October 2008. The paper discusses the how newsmakers view, appropriate and evaluate citizen journalism in the changing mediascape.

For more information on the conference, access to papers presented there, please visit the End of Journalism website.

If you are interested in a copy of the working paper, please send an e-mail to Dr Tamara Witschge.

July 2008
Dr Tamara Witschge, research associate on the project Spaces of News, has presented some of the first results of the empirical research. She spoke at the conference of the International Association for Media and Communication Research held in Stockholm from 20-25 July 2008. Her paper discussed how there currently seems to be at once a fading of journalism as a trade, and at the same time a return to the values of that trade. The fading of journalism as a trade lies in the apparent increase of administrative tasks in journalism and the marginal role of original, investigative, journalistic activities. At the same time, however, the empirical material suggests that for journalists the main difference between traditional and new (online) sources of news, such as citizen journalism online, lies in journalistic ethics and values: the practice of the profession.

If you are interested in a copy of the working paper, entitled 'Recycling journalism: The return to professional ethics in times of administrative news cultures', please send an e-mail to Dr Tamara Witschge


Angela Phillips and Tamara Witschge represented the Spaces of News project at a meeting organised by the Media Management and Transformation Centre (MMTC), Jönköping Business School, Sweden in April. The meeting gathered experts to explore work and work processes in news organizations and how they have been affected by the integration of new media. The results will be published as a special issue of the Journal of Media Business Studies in 2009.

Participating in the seminar were (left to right) Peter Gade, University of Oklahoma; Angela Philips, Goldsmiths, University of London; Gunnar Nygren, Stockholm University; Tamara Witschge, Goldsmiths, University of London; Ben Hartmann, MMTC; Elena Raviola, MMTC; Patrik Wikström, MMTC; Robert G. Picard, MMTC; George Sylvie, University of Texas; and Lee Becker, University of Georgia.


We are delighted to announce the following publications:

“Media System, Public Knowledge and Democracy: A Comparative Study” (published by March 2009) [ media-system]

A new article has been published in the Spaces of News project: " Lee_Wright_article_july08" by Peter Lee-Wright, Goldsmiths College, UK.

June/July 2008
As part of his visit to Goldsmiths as the first International Visiting Professor at the Centre for the Study of Global Media and Democracy (director Professor Nick Couldry), Professor Bruce Williams of the University of Virginia, USA, held research discussions with members of the Spaces of the News team in late June and early July 2008.

Discussions were focussed around the current Spaces of the News fieldwork and drafts of Professor Williams’ forthcoming book with Michael Delli Carpini of the Annenberg School for Communication, University of Pennsylvania on the shifting boundaries between news and entertainment in the USA. Many common issues and areas of interest were identified, as well as significant differences between the changes to news production currently under way in the USA and UK.“

In September 2009, the team submitted DCMS Consultation on Sustainable independent and impartial news.


The seminar, British Academy, 19 November

This page featured the draft versions of the chapters of the book by the New Media, Old News: Journalism and Democracy in a Digital Age. The book is the first major publication arising from the Leverhulme funded research project 'Spaces of the News', designed to investigate the nature of news production in a digital age.

The book was focus of discussion at the invite-only 'New Media: Old News' seminar held on 19 November and attended by key people from the field of journalism as well as academia. The highly lively debate has informed the final version of the book which will be published by Sage (due to come out in late 2009.

The seminar on 19 November attracted an impressive range of news professionals and academics and stimulated a wide-ranging discussion. The debate was split largely between those who celebrate the potential of new media to increase the range of news and information available to all and increase user participation and those who point to the problems brought about by new media in an environment of increased competition, increased investment in technology and decreasing investment in journalists. The discussion will inform the future research of the Centre. Two further books that will pick up on many of the issues discussed in the seminar are currently planned.

Coverage of the seminar:

Journalism is rubbish: new report 

Three steps to rubbish journalism

Disagreement among Guardian journalists to influence new book on changing news standards

New Media, Old News: Journalism and Democracy in a Digital Age

Edited by Natalie Fenton

Table of contents:

Introduction: Drowning or waving? New media, journalism and democracy (Natalie Fenton)

Chapter 1: Technology foretold (James Curran)

Chapter 2: The political economy of the ‘new’ news environment (Des Freedman)

Chapter 3: An ethical deficit? Accountability, norms, and the material conditions of contemporary journalism (Angela Phillips, Nick Couldry, Des Freedman)

Chapter 4: Culture shock: New media and organizational change in the BBC (Peter Lee-Wright)

Chapter 5: Old sources: New bottles (Angela Phillips)

Chapter 6: Liberal dreams and the internet: A case study (James Curran and Tamara Witschge)

Chapter 7: Politics, journalism and new media: Virtual iron cages in the new culture of capitalism (Aeron Davis)

Chapter 8: New online news sources and writer-gatherers (Nick Couldry)

Chapter 9: NGOs, new media and the mainstream news: News from everywhere (Natalie Fenton)

Chapter 10: A new news order? Online news content examined (Joanna Redden and Tamara Witschge)