As long as there has been news media, there has been audience feedback. This book provides the first definitive history of the evolution of audience feedback, from the early newsbooks of the 16th century to the rough-and-tumble online forums of the modern age. In addition to tracing the historical development of audience feedback, the book considers how news media has changed its approach to accommodating audience participation, and explores how audience feedback can serve the needs of both individuals and collectives in democratic society. Reader writes from a position of authority, having worked as a "letters to the editor" editor and has written numerous research articles and professional essays on the topic over the past 15 years.
"Bill Reader traces a remarkable history of reader comment and feedback, bringing the phenomenon full circle from anonymity and partisanship through balance and restraint to today’s faceless, nameless and full-throated digital free-for-all." -- Frederick Blevens, Florida International University, USA
"This book provides a revealing look at the public’s conversation shared via the press. It lets readers know that even though technology has changed, today’s ability for the individual to reach a mass audience has much more in common with the press before the 20th century than we might imagine." -- David Copeland, Elon University, USA
Introduction 1. Audience Comments, the Spice of History 2. "Packets of Letters": Audience Comments before Freedom of the Press 3. "A Sure Sign of Liberty, and a Cause of It": Audience Feedback and the Emergence of the Free Press 4. Commodification of Comments: Professional Bias and Gatekeeping of Letters to the Editor 5. Professional Journalism's Transformation of "A Quaint Tradition" 6. The Concerning "Crackpots": The Media's Love-Hate Relationship with Feedback 7. "In my opinion …": Commenting as Individual Agency 8. "We, the people …": Commenting as Collective Action 9. Conclusion: Gatekeeping in an Age without Fences
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