Media criticism often evolve – and grow in strength – during times of media change with new forms of journalism, new media formats, new media markets, new ways of addressing media markets and new media technologies. Different stakeholders may pursue their interests by formulating a media critique that protect their positions and promotes status quo. It is not difficult to find critics who in the name of the citizens formulate criticism against journalism and the media. It is more difficult to find and study representative examples of criticism expressed by the citizens themselves.
The technological develoment on the internet has paved the way for a number of new communicative tools that enable users to interact with each other and publish content in a way that changes the conditions for citizens to act as media critics radically. This is an aspect of the internet’s democratic and participatory potential – and a key point in the rhetoric surrounding the concept “web 2.0”. In this paper we analyse and compare media critical debates during two periods of media change in Sweden: A) the debate caused by the launch of the tabloid Expressen in the 1950’s, and B) the critique against the new, commercially driven participatory news- and debate forum called Newsmill, launched in 2008. These historical and contemporary cases are used to enlighten a theoretical discussion about participatory online media’s potential for improving the conditions for citizens to act as media critics in a fruitful way.
Both Expressen and Newsmill represent examples of journalistic innovations that affect surrounding media considerably. Findings suggest that there is much to be gained from analyses of criticism of new media phenomena from different times – for finding critical aspects for continued discussion as well as perspective on the contemporary debate about new media.