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Keywords:

  • Social media policies;
  • networked journalism and news production;
  • online press freedom;
  • ombudsman;
  • press-public relations

Abstract

This paper analyzes how mainstream, online news organizations understand press autonomy in their relationships to audiences. I situate the press in terms of neo-institutional sociology, seeing its autonomy as a distributed, field-level phenomenon involving “boundary work” among distributed actors. I then trace press-audience relations through two historical examples (letters to the editor and ombudsmen), showing how the press has historically both separated itself from and relied upon audiences. Examining eight news organizations' social media policies, I analyze the “inside-out” and “outside-in” forces through which the press distinguishes itself from audiences, concluding with a discussion of how such guidelines structure the types of control that news organizations have, or might have, as they use social network sites in their news work.