Anticipatory News Infrastructures: Seeing Journalism’s Expectations of Future Publics in Its Sociotechnical Systems

Artificial Intelligence, Internet, Networks, the Internet, and Cloud Computing and Media and Content

Article Snapshot


Mike Ananny and Megan Finn


New Media & Society, Vol. 22, No. 9, pp. 1600-1618, 2020


The news media expects certain types of news and certain types of public life; these expectations can affect outcomes, if people cannot imagine alternatives to the futures described by the press.

Policy Relevance

The press can serve the public. This vision may conflict with our tradition of an objective press.

Main Points

  • In the past, the press expected to see news emerge from certain sources such as the White House or the stock market, and journalists were pre-positioned to access those sources.
  • Today, journalism is affected by algorithmic designs, social media platforms, and other computational systems of which we are often unaware; the networked press expects certain types of news and public life, creating "anticipatory news infrastructures."
  • Journalism scholars describe two types of time in news work:
    • “Inside-out time” is set by journalistic priorities, such as the decision to issue a breaking news alert or abandon a long-term investigation.
    • “Outside-in time” is set by external events such as a natural disasters or elections.
  • Five dynamics affect the systems that create, interpret, and circulate news:
    • Event sensing, as organizations like CityBeat use algorithms to monitor social media for newsworthy events.
    • Work structuring, as systems for human and non-human actors are established to fact check or reduce misinformation.
    • Traffic structuring, as predictive analytics are used to drive traffic and commodify news, and the priorities of firms like Google are seamlessly integrated with the expectations of journalists.
    • Shaping audience reactions, as platforms try to keep readers on site or to ensure that readers are satisfied.
    • Categorizing content, perhaps by continuously updating one news story, or by creating a stable archive of politicians’ tweets.
  • News infrastructure creates publics as well as news; by imagining certain futures, the press can make other futures less likely to be realized.
  • News organizations can serve the public by showing people which goods and challenges are shared, and which problems need collective action; however, these roles move journalism further from objectivity and distanced reporting.

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