Javnost - The Public, Vol. 13 - 2006, No. 1
A growing source of literature within media sociology and journalism studies is focusing on the role and influence of the news media, originating from and around the political institutions of the European Union. However, there are particular challenges and problems with methodologies and research designs. A distinction should be made between two main perspectives: one developed within a political communication tradition, emphasising the role of the national news media and the practice of foreign or transnational news journalism as an important political institution within European democracy. The other perspective is mainly developed within a combined political economy and cultural studies approach, focusing on the power of the news media to further social and political change, usually in terms of increasing or decreasing Europeanisation. The two perspectives differ in several important respects and we are led in different directions when it comes to developing research designs and evaluating findings. This essay attempts to highlight these differences and discuss consequences for new research imperatives.
On the basis of three elections, covering a period of fifty years, the authors aim at testing the increasingly popular hypothesis that political communication is driven by media logic and by political and media system characteristics. In short: sooner or later, the modes and styles of American media will appear in Europe too. The complex and volatile relationship between media and politics in the Netherlands in the last half-century does show some, although not uni-linear signs of media logic. The strength of a public service tradition and a political culture of nonadversariality, however, seem to have stopped the developments short of a political communication style which is characterised by performance driven campaigning, horse race and poll driven reporting, orientation on the public as consumers, journalistic dominance, agenda setting and cynicism.
In this article we examine how, in newspaper coverage of the 2005 general election, journalists set out not only to connect with the political lives of “ordinary” citizens but to find an active role for them to play in news space. In recent years, the sharp drop in electoral turnout has made many news organisations rethink the style and nature of political programming and publications, having come under considerable attack – from journalists, political elites and scholars – for not informing and engaging readers, listeners and viewers. Journalistic assessments of media coverage of the 2005 general election suggested that news organisations improved the way they engaged the needs of the “average citizen.” Even to the extent where, according to one senior journalist, “getting closer to the real people got out of hand.” We enter this debate by looking systematically at the role citizens played in the 2005 general election in regional and local newspapers’ coverage. We examined every kind of source in election coverage – from police, politicians and pressure groups to citizens, business leaders and academics. Overall, we question the success of the regional and local press in achieving the type and level of engagement implied by many of the UK’s most distinguished journalists in post-election analysis. We conclude that finding ways to “get closer to the real people” remains a goal yet to be achieved despite journalistic protestations.
The paper describes a model developed for televised election discussion. The aim is to combine the elements of communication, culture and the political situation into a single model. Further, the ways in which these elements influence the nature of political discussion is considered. The main argument is that in the multi-party system of Finland the televised election discussion is indeed a discussion, not a debate. The basic elements of interaction are not attacks and defences as in a debate but rather expressions of agreement or disagreement. The other principal elements are political memory and discourses oriented to the past, future, or present situations.
Within research as well as policy debates, much effort has been put into analysing the Internet’s significance for democracy. These discussions have certainly contributed to progress in the area by, for instance, statistically pointing out the differentiated access to the new ICT among various social groups and – mainly theoretically – suggesting in what ways the Internet can become a tool for democracy. However, these analyses also hold a few blind spots, of which this article discusses two. Firstly, they have paid only minimal attention to the everyday users’ experience of new ICT. Secondly, they have usually focused quite exclusively on the Internet rather than looking at it as part of an already-established media environment. This article is an initial effort to compensate for these shortcomings. It departs from the concept ‘civic identity’ and analyses qualitative data on Swedish working class users’ use and perception of the Internet as well as ‘traditional media.’ For those who believe the Internet to be an inclusive medium and as such a tool for democracy, the article’s empirical results are somewhat discouraging. For instance, the empirical and analytical discussions reveal that the traditional media – TV, newspapers and radio – are far more important than the Internet to the working class users’ civic identities.