Facebook as an alternative public space: The use of Facebook by Ukrainian journalists during the 2012 parlimentary election
Dariya Orlova and Daria Taradai
(National University of Kyiv-Mohyla Academy, Ukraine)
ABSTRACT: As the social media increasingly proliferate and shape media consumption in the present-day world, journalists growingly turn to them in search of direct access to their audiences. Under conditions of restricted media freedom, such access suggests a great asset both to journalists who can engage into an open discussion with a wider public and to the very public. In Ukraine, both trends had been vivid in recent years proceding the Euromaidan: on the one hand, media freedom had been deteriorating, but on the other hand, journalists had been utilizing social media more actively. The article examines how Ukrainian journalists communicated with their audiences via Facebook. In particular, it analyzes patterns of interaction during the 2012 parlimentary election campaign. The results of the study show a substantial level of confusion among Ukrainian journalists regarding the role of public debate on Facebook in 2012-2013. While journalists tended to dismiss users’ comments as mostly irrelevant, the did consider themselves to be providers of important information or viewpoints for the formation of public opinion. Although such interaction between journalists and other users does not satisfy the normative criteria of the public sphere, analysis of content and interviews with journalists showed that Facebook did suggest an evolving alternative public space in Ukraine, in contrast to the ever more controlled space of mainstream media during the presidency of Yanukovych.