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A Complicated Relationship: Right-Wing Populism, Media Representation and Journalism Theory

Kai Hafez | PDF-Fulltext

Abstract: The current upswing of right-wing populism in the United States and in Europe is a challenge not only for policy makers, but also for journalism theory. If and how to report on right-wing politicians, movements and issues is a delicate question that various strands of theory answer differently. Functionalist systems theory is in favor of large-scale coverage due to the stimulating news values of populist debates, although the precise character of the political integration remains unclear. In contrast, rational democratic deliberation theory is to be interpreted as a complete rebuttal of the irrational character of populism. The argument here would be that we must not allow the media be dominated by irrational debates. At the same time, democratic media theory is all but uniform in dealing with the phenomenon. While traditional rational public sphere theory is clearly anti-populist, paradoxically left-liberal and postmodern public sphere theory, anti-elitist and radically post-modern as it is, can be used as an argument for better representation of marginalized voices, including right-wing populists.

Who Justifies Questionable Reporting Practices? Answers from a Representative Survey of Journalists in Germany

Philip Baugut & Sebastian Scherr | PDF-Fulltext

Abstract: Based on a secondary analysis of representative survey data of journalists in Germany (n= 1536), this paper draws attention to two variables that are important when it comes to explain whether journalists accept questionable reporting practices, such as paying people to obtain information or using confidential government documents without permission. First, perceived role achievement is important, as journalists who do not feel able to achieve an active role tend to accept questionable reporting practices more often. Second, however, this relationship is only true for journalists having a moderate tendency to the political left. Findings are explained by means of the theory of cognitive dissonance.

Media Accountability Online in Israel. An application of Bourdieu’s field theory

Ronja Kniep | PDF-Fulltext

Abstract: Due to structural changes in journalism, such as deregulation, privatisation and the influence of new technologies, it has become increasingly important to study media accountability (MA). By applying Bourdieu’s theory of social fields, this paper proposes a new approach to do so: MA is defined as a function of both journalistic autonomy and influence in the media field. Here, online communication potentially widens the scope of action for media’s transparency, responsiveness as well as the articulation of media criticism by a variety of actors. In Israel, media criticism is driven by the agent’s struggle for interpretive authority over public discourse in a politically polarized society. Semi-structured interviews with Israeli journalists, media activists and experts suggest that journalistic agents who have yet to earn credibility and reputation exploit online communication to its full potential, while agents in the field of power tend to dismiss online criticism. The influence of the audience’s media criticism is not solely dependent on the technical ability of connecting and hearing the voices of the masses; it has to be in combination with symbolic or political capital. However, the demand for media’s social responsibility is also related to being more careful and less critical, which is very evident in Israel. Thus, it is important to critically reflect on what happens when media accountability practices become more efficient and a stronger sense for “being watched” develops.

The Western Way? Democracy and the Media Assistance Model

Daire Higgins | PDF-Fulltext

Abstract: International media assistance took off during a time where the ideological extremes of USA vs. USSR were set to disappear. Following the Cold War, international relations focused on democracy building, and nurturing independent media was embraced as a key part of this strategy. Fukayama called it the ‘End of History’, the fact that all other ideologies had fallen and Western style democracy was set to become the one common ideology. The US and UK led the way in media assistance, with their liberal ideas of a free press, bolstered by free market capitalism. America was the superpower, and forged the way around the globe with its beacon of democracy. Under that guiding light they would bring truth, accuracy, freedom of expression and independent reporting to the countries which had so long lived under the shadow of communism, or authoritarian media systems. This is what propelled and justified American foreign policy, and their media assistance, for many years. Much work was thus carried out in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet satellites, but many now question the impact and legacy of these projects. When the US and UK spoke of media assistance they seemed to mean ‘free market’. These days, the ‘democracy promoters’ focus has turned more to Africa and the Middle East. The ideology is apparently the same: to help establish and support democracy with a stronger and more independent media. But with western economies, and their media systems, in crisis, the relevance of this media assistance model is questioned. This essay looks at the history of media assistance and the ongoing debate on the impact of media assistance over the long term, its motives and the new balance of power appearing in international media development.

Living with Control, Working with Control: Reflections of Israeli Journalists

Miglė Bareikytė, Ingo Dachwitz, Lu Yang | PDF-Fulltext

Abstract: In this paper, liberal democracy is problematized by examining one paradox inherent to its conceptualization and practice: the possibility for those elected in to power to call out the state of exception, thereby implementing mechanisms of control through the system of law. At the same time, our assumption is that people are not only controlled by instruments of the state, but also by their self-imposed control and built-in processes of socialization and adaption. Thus we conceptualize a theoretical framework where the use of big words like “democracy” and “freedom” is changed into the analysis of external and internal control mechanisms in a democracy based on the idea of sovereignty.
To combine this theoretical groundwork with empirical practice, we conducted qualitative interviews with Israeli journalists. In doing so, we wanted to analyze their reflections on what could be considered the potential control of a professional group of media practitioners whose role it is to expose the misuse of power, and act as a watchdog in a democratic society. Israel is used as an intensified example, because it is a liberal democracy where the state of emergency has endured for over fifty years. This has affected its media landscape through control mechanisms, such as media censorship or gag orders. The reflections of these Israeli journalists did pave the way for our explorative research to question the extent of “freedom” in any democracy that is based on the idea of sovereignty and focus on the mechanisms which limit and control their actions.

Journalism’s Rewriting of History in Reporting the Arab Spring

Hanne Jørndrup | PDF-Fulltext

Abstract: Investigation of journalism’s role as writer and rewriter of the record of political episodes of world importance is central to this article, which takes an empirical approach in choosing the Danish press coverage of The Arab Spring as its starting point. The article analyses how a number of historical references to, in particular, European revolutionary history from Eastern Europe in 1989, are woven into the journalistic descriptions of events in Tunisia and Egypt. But the analysis also reflects on journalism’s own historical precedents in that field. Therefore, this paper takes the topics and circumstances that put Tunisia and Egypt on the Danish media’s agenda in the year before the Arab revolutions as a starting point. The central point of this comparison is to convey how journalism, while describing contemporary events of The Arab Spring, at the same time rewrites its own prior commentary on the region. Rewriting history in this way gives journalism a neutral and unassailable position as observer of events of world-wide importance, but it brings in its train other problems with staying true to both the readers and to unfolding events.

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