The News Media as Networked Political Actors: How the Italian Media are Reclaiming Political Ground by Harnessing Online Participation

Cristian Vaccari

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Research on internet politics has found that digital media have contributed to a hybridization of the organizational practices of parties, movements and interest groups. Little attention, however, has been paid to how the news media employ online engagement tools to pursue political goals, as is the case when political parallelism is present. This study addresses this issue through an in-depth analysis of two Italian cases: the e-petition campaigns by the newspaper la Repubblica and the assemblage of a convergent media network to broadcast a protest rally organized by the television talk show host Michele Santoro. Online citizen engagement now constitutes a valuable political resource for journalists and news organizations that have historically been involved in the political battlefield rather than practicing objectivity and neutrality. However, these efforts are limited in their democratic potential to the extent that they constitute top-down leveraging of audience support by media elites rather than grassroots channels for citizens to set the agenda and voice their opinions. The relevance of these phenomena goes well beyond Italy, as parts of the media systems of most Western democracies are characterized by political parallelism.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)981
Number of pages997
JournalInformation, Communication and Society
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 2011


  • computer-mediated communication
  • e-democracy
  • politics
  • ICTs
  • media studies

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