Pub. date: 2009 | Online Pub. Date: December 16, 2009 | DOI: 10.4135/9781412972048 | Print ISBN: 9780761929574 | Online ISBN: 9781412972048| Publisher:SAGE Publications, Inc.About this encyclopedia
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 ...