Political Journalism: New Challenges, New Practices

By Raymond Kuhn; Erik Neveu | Go to book overview

Series editor’s preface

‘Blaming the messenger’ is an old and widely used trick. If increasing numbers of citizens withdraw from the realm of politics and more and more voters are no longer willing to cast a vote, uneasy discussions about the quality of public debates can be avoided by blaming journalists for the way they present political news. By now, the trendy opinion is to express concern about mass media ‘reducing’ politics to a ‘horse race’, to complain about an emphasis on ‘personal scandals’ and about the lack of attention to ‘serious issues’, and - of course - to point to the ‘Americanisation’ of political campaigning and the damaging role of the press. Decisions seem to depend on the activities of ‘spin-doctors’ and not on arguments. In modern democracies, political life is the victim of a ‘spiral of cynicism’, with hard-boiled journalists as the main villains and culprits.

Common sense is not the best source for sensible and balanced conclusions. Yet it is clear that both politics and journalism have changed tremendously all over the world in the last decades. Usually, the spread of television broadcasting and the rapid expansion of the internet are depicted as revolutionary developments. But journalists’ roles and styles might have changed even more fundamentally than these technical supports. Political journalists specially have been searching for new ways to define their tasks and responsibilities, and the consequences of these explorations are most visible for traditional news media like newspapers.

The contributors to this volume all accepted the challenge to move towards innovative approaches to the role and status of journalists in the political communication process. They differ clearly in their research interests, study designs, selected material, and the scope of their analyses, but they all cope with the rapidly changing position of political journalists and the consequences and challenges of this process for democratic decision-making. In their introduction to this volume, the editors summarise this common interest on the basis of what they call a plea for ‘Political Journalism Revisited’. This revision is based on a clear rejection of a single approach: ‘The study of political journalism does not have to choose between the ethnography of the newsroom, the statistical analysis of news content or the role of journalists as narrative-makers.’ The three major

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