Media Coverage of Politicians' Participation to Religious Events

Article excerpt

Abstract: Politics and religion are two concepts that have constantly intertwined throughout history and continue to do so at the start of the third millennium. Previous studies show that religion plays an important part in the political life and the concepts of state and church are connected. Although there are also certain discursive manners in which the Church adapts to political and socio-economical contexts, it is much more often that the connection between the two spheres of communication (political and religious) comes from the part of politicians. The article deals with notions such as pseudo-events, media spectacle, political marketing and using religion as a tool for political positioning. The current research is based on an analytical descriptive method: the media content analysis. The focus of the analysis is on the highest rated daily print media and it covers the period from 2007 to 2010. It checks the prevalence of politicians in the media coverage of religious events on the most important religious holidays of the year: Easter, St Mary and Christmas. The most relevant results of the study show that the intertwining of politics and religion is often negatively reflected by the media. The results are a necessary addition to previous studies (Iancu and Balaban) that had only focused on a quantitative analysis of politicians' media coverage during religious festivities.

Key Words: religious events and politicians, media coverage, image, agenda setting, pseudo-events, media spectacle, religion and politicians

Political communication

Political communication is best defined by first looking into Wolton's ideas on the political field, which is the concept that offers the formal context where political debate can take place. This formal context regulates the political life through norms, laws and values, and it is also responsible for giving voters the possibility to compare political parties and politicians. These comparisons are to become attitudes and opinions, and finally they contribute to the decision to vote for one politician or the other. At its basics, according to Ghilezan, political communication is "a planned and sustained action meant to ensure a climate of goodwill and understanding between the organization and the public."1 A definition that further develops the previous is that it is "a form of communication that refers to the transmission of intentional and targeted messages with political content, messages that are mediated by means of mass communication or by other means and actions; an informational transfer and counter-transfer that is attained in a field of action that is well defined, at a given moment in time, using techniques and methods of political actors' image building, which has the purpose to make a positive connection between politicians and the public opinion."2 Denton and Woodward also insist on the fact that the content and purpose of the message is what defines political communication.3

Political communication can be defined as "purposeful communication about politics"4 or "as a space where diverse means of persuading the public intersect"5.

Political communication takes place in a space where three key actors share a contradictory debate, each of these three having a legitimate position that allows them to publicly express their point of view on politics: the politicians, the journalists and the public opinion, through opinion polls (cf. Wolton6). In each case, we are talking about a different kind of legitimacy:

* the representative legitimacy - for political parties and politicians

* the statistic or scientific legitimating - for the public opinion (opinion polls)

* the information possession and usage legitimating - for the journalists (media).

Franklin7 does not include public opinion in the debate and notes that "the field of political communication studies the interactions between media and political systems, locally, nationally, and internationally". …