Public Journalism Without the Public: Problematizing the Public Sphere and Press Credibility in Academic Journals, 1991–2018

Burton St. John, University of Colorado Boulder
Kirsten A. Johnson, Elizabethtown College


A review of public journalism journal articles from 1991 through 2018 revealed significant gaps in (a) conceptualizing the public sphere, and (b) ascertaining the credibility of public journalism efforts. These gaps have implications for a press that is becoming increasingly challenged in an era of self-curated news selection and polarization. This work offers conclusions regarding how journalistic engagement efforts can better consider audience perspectives and thereby examine more sustainable footings for a citizen-engaged press.