Past Program


The USA has never had so many sources with which to inform itself and the world. But while the options of how to consume news are broadening, consumers’ views are narrowing. The rise of 24-hour TV news channels, hyper-partisan advertising and social media is widening cultural, political and social divides in the United States.

At the 2019 SSASA symposium, academics and practitioners explored how the news media has developed an increased political role. In addition to its traditional communications goal of informing and shaping domestic and worldwide understanding, and alongside the three traditional branches of government – the executive, legislature and judiciary – the media has become a more active and significant institutional political part of an increasingly polarized America. What does the future hold?

No longer constrained to city morning papers, top-of-the-hour updates or evening newscasts, Americans now have more choice in when, how and where they access their news. In addition to the traditional newspapers, radio stations and TV channels, mobile apps, podcasts, blogs, online video channels, social media networks also capture conventional audiences. The producers and publishers of this news are just as varied, from global conglomerates to independent bloggers and malicious bots. 

Education, geography, race, political leanings and age have all long influenced how Americans access and consume their news. Aided by algorithms, social media platforms show content tailored to their users’ existing political views, homogeneous communities and specific demographics. 

Social media has also made it easier to publish and share content from news producers at all levels of professionalism and purposes, whether delivering objective reporting, serving niche audiences, advancing political viewpoints, or sowing deliberate discord. Many readers, however, lack the media literacy necessary to discern what news is “real” and what is “fake,” preferring instead to consume and share news that supports rather than opposes their view of “the truth.”

Trust in both news outlets and social media platforms is waning. Although freedom of the press is enshrined in the First Amendment, the US is sliding down the World Press Freedom Rankings – a slide that pre-dates but is accelerated by the current administration and its declaration of the media as the “enemy of the people.”

With today’s global access to news online, anyone can now read, watch and listen to America’s coverage of itself as well as that produced by their own countries’ and others’ correspondents. But shrinking revenues have reduced both the spread of national and foreign correspondents and the depth of local and international news coverage. Despite diversity initiatives and some gender advances, cultural issues remain a challenge for the media.   

Many of these issues are not uniquely American, but how the USA responds to these challenges will have wide-ranging implications for media markets around the world and how they in turn positively or adversely affect their own countries.


  • How has the American media landscape and the world’s news consumption habits changed in America and abroad in past decades? What have been the main drivers of these changes? 
  • What appears to be the motive and purpose of those who are producing and publishing the news? 
  • Why do many Americans appear to have lost trust in the news media an how can the industry regain trust and remain objective in an age of “alternative facts”?
  • How is the American media landscape influencing other countries’ media markets and the image of America abroad and how, in turn, is America being influenced by its image in the world
  • How can the American media fulfill its communication and emerging political role as an institution of American democracy and how are the executive, legislature and judiciary likely to react to this new political involvement?
  • What does the future look like for the US media, its consumers and its role in American culture and democracy?


The intensive four-day session included thematic presentations and panel-led discussions by distinguished speakers and participants, as well as small in-depth discussion groups to maximize cross-sector interaction with everyone present. The highly interactive session took place at Schloss Leopoldskron, the historic home of Salzburg Global Seminar.


Salzburg Seminar American Studies Association (SSASA) symposia are intended to connect scholars and professional leaders from around the world to build collaborative networks for research and debate. The 2019 meeting – the 17th SSASA symposium – brought together approximately 45 participants from more than 25 countries. Speakers and participants included individuals with expertise in the current American media landscape, as well as academics teaching about the United States in universities around the world.


View full set on Flickr

Credit: Salzburg Global Seminar/Herman Seidl