Why (my) research matters: Gabriela Gruszynski Sanseverino

Our ESRs try to answer the hardest question that plagues a PhD: why their research matters. And mostly, why you should care about it. Today we look at my work – Gabriela Gruszynski Sanseverino.

I became a part of the JOLT project joining the University of Toulouse III – Paul Sabatier, in the work package of Politics, Values and Ethics, with challenge of not only quickly learning French (at which I failed miserably!), but specially finding a new angle to talk about the Politics & Ethics of User-Generated Content (in which I like to believe I succeeded).

My work focuses on user engagement in 80 news sites, spread across 8 different countries, from digital natives to legacy news media, in order to understand what spaces are concretely created for public participation today, 20 years after the internet hype began and tools for interactivity like comment sections became a standard for journalism online. So: why is participation in journalism still worth talking about? To go straight to the point, participation is worth discussing and, to for that matter , studying, because the public is the core of journalism. Journalism would not exist without an audience! Well, to be fair, it might… but what would be its point?

While interaction with the audience is always good for the bottom line (we all know clicks means money and money means financial survival) and that is essential for any company; we have also seen great examples that show us that there is a way to give the public a voice in the news process. Each organization can choose the best way to engage the public that works for them and their proposal of journalism. We are not raising a flag here for unfettered participation here, but what our research has shown is that when you open the doors to your public, you listen, and give them a voice, you can produce plural, inclusive and relevant and all around great journalism. And if that is not the point….

I am always glad to discuss participation in journalism – and even if we should be referring it more widely as engagement online as opposed to what might constitute actual participation online, specially if it over a beer. A fun fact about me is that, as my Brazilian roots have never left me, I have found there is no subject that is not better discussed at a bar table over a cold one.

Also, fair to say that the JOLT project affected my life far beyond the opportunity to do (well funded!) research about a subjected I am passionate about, as between the other ESRs I also happened to find the love of my life. Marc, who is a PhD out of DCU and BBC, will be known as my husband too after July 2021. This is to say that accepting a research fellowship will always change your life (hopefully for the best!), and not only on your views in your work topic.

Project Members


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This project is funded by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Sklodowska Curie grant agreement No 765140