D. Charles Whitney
Three important generalizations can be made about the collective entity known as “the audience.” First, in journalism, the audience is sine qua non : the audience is king. Second, despite its primacy, the defining characteristic of the mass media audience is its uncertainty, unpredictability, and “unknowability”; indeed, the very notion of “the audience” is elastic. Third, in contemporary journalism, the audience is changing at a pace surpassing that of any prior era, as the number of competitors for audience attention has proliferated. To say that the audience is king begs an extraordinarily important question: In what sense is this true? Is it because democratic theory presumes that the rationale for a free press is informing the public so that it may make reasoned civic judgments? While journalists' sense of their relationship with their readers, viewers, and listeners most often conforms to a public service ideal of informing the audience The ...