Journalism, public communication and democracy

Program leaders


Digital technologies are now enabling new ways for the public to be addressed and represented. There is a crucial need to better understand the ways in which this is occurring and the impact this has on the nature of public communication and journalism, as well as what this means for notions of democracy and political authority.

Important considerations include the changing nature of public communication processes, changing definitions of what constitutes journalism, and the impact of these changes on the democratic activity of citizens, institutions, political actors and well-established media industries.

Our program focuses on the impacts of established and emerging digital technologies on the form, content and function of categories of communication deemed central to good governance and democratic process. It draws on our existing research strengths in:

  • journalism
  • political communication
  • communication for disaster and crisis management
  • innovation in social media and big data analysis methods.

Research projects

We deploy quantitative and qualitative analysis of relevant content in journalism, political communication, and social media. Major projects include:

  • an analysis of journalism beyond the crisis with an in-depth analysis of its emerging forms, practices and uses (funded by an ARC Discovery grant)
  • a detailed study of intermedia information flows in the Australian online public sphere, which observes how the nation responds to the news of the day, how themes and topics unfold, and how interests develop and decline over time (funded by an ARC Future Fellowship).

Further work engages with questions around the expansion of the Australian public sphere into non-traditional forms in aiming to better understand and respond to critiques that see a decline in the quality of the political public sphere as a result of economic, social and digital transformations.

Student research projects

Our vibrant research culture draws on a range of PhD projects, which investigate issues such as:

  • change in newspapers organisations
  • racism and social media
  • uses of social media in emergency management
  • the relationships between new media and government in Indonesia
  • comparative studies of social media in China and Australia
  • young people and digital activism in Indonesia.


We work closely with a range of national and international partners from across the university sector and industry stakeholders. We’re also undertaking research into journalism education in China, with participation from ten leading Chinese journalism schools, with publications pending.