Imagined audiences: How journalists perceive and pursue the public

Jacob L. Nelson

Research output: Book/ReportBook

74 Scopus citations


The news industry faces profound financial instability and public distrust. Many believe the solution to these ongoing crises is for journalists to improve their relationship with their audiences. This raises important questions: How do journalists conceptualize their audiences in the first place? What is the connection between what journalists think about their audiences and what they do to reach them? Perhaps most important, how aligned are these “imagined” audiences with the real ones? Imagined Audiences draws on ethnographic case studies of three news organizations to show how journalists’ assumptions about their audiences shape their approaches to their audiences. In doing so, it examines the role that audiences traditionally have played in journalism, how that role has changed, and what those changes mean for both the profession and the public. It concludes by drawing on audience studies research to compare journalism’s “imagined” audiences with actual observations of news audience behavior. The result is a comprehensive study of both news production and reception at a time when the connection between the two has grown more important than ever.

Original languageEnglish (US)
PublisherOxford University Press
Number of pages222
ISBN (Electronic)9780197542590
StatePublished - Jan 1 2021


  • Audience
  • Chicago tribune
  • City bureau
  • Engagement
  • Ethnography
  • Hearken
  • Journalism
  • Metrics
  • News

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Social Sciences


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