Publication Date




Embargo Period


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PHD)


Communication (Communication)

Date of Defense


First Committee Member

Sallie Hughes

Second Committee Member

Juliana Fernandes

Third Committee Member

Shara Toursh Pavlow

Fourth Committee Member

Marvin Dawkins


This study examines the features of an emerging and increasingly popular form of news delivery to assess its potential to influence civic participation. The innovative digital media environment has changed the way that news is produced and consumed, and digital news is consumed primarily through handheld communication devices such as smartphones and tablets. Research has demonstrated that news is an important element in driving civic participation due in part to the ways in which users consume and share news and in part to certain characteristics and features that promote learning, recall, influential discussions, and deliberation among news consumers. This research used a content analysis to identify the unique characteristics of digital news and a series of online chat groups to understand audience engagement with those characteristics as well as with the medium itself. Findings show digital news publishers that originated after the rise of the internet (so-called digital native publishers) include characteristics in their digital news offerings that prior research has found promote higher levels of interactivity: providing multiple ways for users to share the news content and discuss the content with others; providing methods for users to directly contact the news editors or the story authors; and providing methods for sharing and discussion between users. Analysis of responses from participants in an online moderated chat group revealed limited and selective use of the interactive and multimedia features. Participants reported that the perceived level of toxicity in comment sections of social media and news sites was a deterrent from engaging with strangers online, but the ease of sharing news to private and direct messaging platforms drove discussion with relevant others. Participants also reported consuming news on social media sites but did not post news articles to their own social media profiles. This suggests that digital news media use can enhance civic participation by providing an interactive and collaborative environment that easily allows newsreaders to learn, share, and discuss.


Digital News; Digital Natives; Civic Participation; Multimedia News; News Consumption

Available for download on Thursday, December 10, 2020