“Dark Participation” Without Representation: A Structural Approach to Journalism’s Social Media Crisis

Kaitlin C. Miller, Jacob L. Nelson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Social media platforms have become an integral part of journalistic work. These tools allow journalists to pursue stronger, more intimate connections with their audiences, to cultivate their own professional identities or “brands,” and to advocate for improved working conditions within their organizations. Yet, social media platforms have also created new risks and challenges for journalists, most notably in the form of dark participation, which refers to negative, selfish or even deeply sinister forms of online audience engagement. Although scholars have devoted considerable effort to exploring how this harassment unfolds and how it impacts journalists who face it, there is less research investigating the implications of this harassment for the future of journalism and its relationship with the public. To address this, this research uses interviews with a diverse group of 37 US journalists to propose larger structural changes to newsroom leadership and social media policy creation. The interview data suggest that newsroom leadership must become more diverse so that newsroom policy is assembled by a group of people that is representative of its staff—as well as the public at large. The authors conclude by observing that “dark participation” is not unique to journalism alone, and by discussing the implications of our findings for communication stakeholders invested in overcoming the current, global climate of populism that frequently results in hate, harassment, and hostility within social media.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalSocial Media and Society
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 2022


  • dark participation
  • harassment
  • journalism
  • representation
  • social media policy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • Communication
  • Computer Science Applications


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