The electoral model of democracy holds the ideal of citizens who are well informed about politics, and regards it as a task of news media to provide citizens with political information. Against this ideal, the quality of political news in online news outlets is highly contested. While pessimists point out the dangers of increased competition online, optimists emphasize the potential benefits of unlimited space and interactivity. To see which view holds true, this paper compares political news in popular and elite print newspapers and their respective online editions during the 2013 National Election Campaign in Austria. Findings show that online editions score better than paper editions regarding the amount of political news, (party) diversity, and emotionalization, but differences between newspaper types were notable. Whereas elite newspapers cover politics online more extensively than in print, the reverse is true for popular newspapers. Leader focus is also strong in popular papers online. We conclude that the gap in quality between political news in elite and in popular newspapers is larger online. This might contribute to a wider gap between a well-informed elite audience and a lesser-informed popular news audience, when audiences switch from print to online news.

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Digital Journalism
Department of History

Jacobi, C., Kleinen-von Königslöw, K., & Ruigrok, N. (2016). Political News in Online and Print Newspapers: Are online editions better by electoral democratic standards?. Digital Journalism, 4(6), 723–742. doi:10.1080/21670811.2015.1087810