Participation through letters to the editor: Circulation, considerations, and genres in the letters institution

Rasmus Kleis Nielsen

Publikation: Bidrag til tidsskriftTidsskriftartikelForskningpeer review


This article analyzes who participates in newspaper-mediated debate through letters to the editor, how they come to do it by passing muster under six editorial considerations, and what the three genres (storytelling, criticism, and appeal) of letters allow them to participate in. The starting point is a sedimented ideal of media that citizens can use — an ambition for media that are not only watchdogs, sources of information, or entertainers, but also enablers of participation. The contemporary incarnation of this ideal in printed newspapers is what is here identified as the ‘letters institution’. Its patterns of circulation and contribution, editorial considerations, and narrative genres constitute a fragmented contentious zone between politics, the media, and the private life of the limited number of citizens who get a chance to express themselves through the concrete operations of one of the institutions that gives the abstraction ‘the public debate’ whatever reality it has.
Udgave nummer1
Sider (fra-til)21-35
StatusUdgivet - 2010
Udgivet eksterntJa

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