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Lisa Merten Winner of the 2021 Digital Journalism Outstanding Article Award

Lisa Merten Winner of the 2021 Digital Journalism Outstanding Article Award

Lisa Merten wins the award for the best article of 2021 in the top-class journal Digital Journalism! She is also one of the top 3 nominees for the Bob Franklin Award, the joint award of Digital Journalism, Journalism and Journalism Practice for the best article of the year.

The award-winning article is Block, Hide or Follow - Personal News Curation Practices on Social Media, published in issue 8/2021 of Digital Journalism. It is based, among other things, on data from the Reuters Institute Digital News Survey, whose German sub-study is carried out annually at the Leibniz Institute for Media Research.

Lisa's article was also nominated for the Wolfgang Donsbach Outstanding Article of the Year Award of the ICA Journalism Studies Division.

And thanks to the award, she became the first person to join the editorial board of Digital Journalism without a PhD title yet (but soon to come, Lisa defended her dissertation summa com laude on March, 21st).

Congratulations, Lisa, we are very proud of you!

Interview with Lisa in the Newsletter of Digital Journalism V10 Issue 3 International Edition

We are delighted to feature Lisa Merten as the winner for the 2021 Digital Journalism Outstanding Article award. Lisa received an impressive number of nominations and excellent comments about her rigorous and innovative study!

What inspired your focus on the topic?

In my first project as a junior researcher at the Hans-Bredow-Institut, together with my colleagues Jan- Hinrik Schmidt and Uwe Hasebrink, I carried out qualitative interviews that explored the role of information intermediaries in our processes of opinion formation. During these interviews participants described different practices of personal news curation on social media. They talked for example about having two different Facebook accounts to separate their social newsfeed with details from their friends from their information newsfeed with content from accounts they followed. Or how they would “weed out” certain content from their Instagram feed. I have always been fascinated by the (non-)serendipitous nature of our media diets and the research on selective exposure. Kjerstin Thorson and Chris Well’s fantastic and inspiring conceptual piece on curated flows and how they shape our digital media exposure (Communication Theory 2016) provided me with a truly useful framework to further explore the practices described in the interviews. I did so by running a secondary analysis of the survey data that the Reuters Institute generously made available.

Can you tell us how this particular article in Digital Journalism came about?

I conceptualized an article on practices of personal news curation as part of my PhD on practices of social media news use. The manuscript was already starting to take shape when I became aware of the call for a special issue on engaging news audiences by Sora Park, Yoonmo Sang, Jaemin Jung, and Natalie Jomini Stroud on engaging news audiences. The special issue editors and the DJ staff and reviewers were very helpful and patient during the whole process.

In your own view, what is your article's main contribution to digital journalism studies?

In the article, I described the prevalence of personal news curation practices and identified predictors of news-limiting and news-boosting news curation. Individuals who limit their social media news exposure intentionally report general news avoidance in their day-to-day news diet. However, even those users who limit their social media news exposure report a higher quantity of news sources online as well as a more diverse repertoire of sources compared to users who do not engage in social media news curation at all.
I am thinking about these results in two different ways: First, maybe we can understand acts of news-limiting news curation as practices of general repertoire management. Maybe we can consider individual citizens to some extent as editors of their own information diets through the customization features and affordances provided by social media platforms; in essence, taking into their own hands the hitherto professional roles of editorial staff. This interpretation may offer journalism researchers an additional track to explore when investigating how practices of personal news curation shape trust and appreciation for the acts and processes of professional journalistic curation.
Secondly, based on these results I will continue to examine how best to differentiate between the varying levels of incidentality or intentionality of social media news exposure. If individuals curate ten journalistic sources into or out of their newsfeed I would not quantify their consequent (lack of) news exposure as strictly incidental. As we assume at the moment that more intentional social media news exposure leads to higher benefits in terms of knowledge acquisition and learning, we might want to start incorporating measures of news curation practices in our studies on the effects of social media news exposure.
I think integrating curation practices and other acts towards more intentional news exposure in the empirical designs could be a step forward in our understanding of often contradictory research on social media news exposure where recent studies have on the one hand conceptualized social media as a low choice media environment with beneficial network effects while other studies theorize social media as a high choice media environment with strong selectivity effects regarding exposure to political information.

What is the type of study you are most keen to see others developing in this space?

Recalling practices of personal news curation or news exposure is challenging for participants, especially on social media platforms. So I am very excited to see more studies that combine digital trace data on media exposure with qualitative and quantitative interviews that contextualize and enrich data gathered from web tracking or social media histories.

Any words to share with those interested in submitting their work to Digital Journalism?

This is probably not the most original tip but at least in the case of this manuscript, perseverance paid off. While I was preparing my manuscript submission in early 2019, Francis L. F. Lee and colleagues published a great paper with a very similar research question utilizing the same Reuters dataset I had been working on. Every PhD student’s nightmare. It took me many, many months of reworking my manuscript, adding thirty-two additional countries and running new analyses before I felt comfortable submitting the article. Even though I would not have chosen this scenario, being compelled but also being able to build on the work of Lee et al. improved my paper a lot and gave me a chance to publish in Digital Journalism



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