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Political Journalism  

Jesper Strömbäck and Adam Shehata

Political journalism constitutes one of the most prominent domains of journalism, and is essential for the functioning of democracy. Ideally, political journalism should function as an information provider, watchdog, and forum for political discussions, thereby helping citizens understand political matters and help prevent abuses of power. The extent to which it does is, however, debated. Apart from normative ideals, political journalism is shaped by factors at several levels of analysis, including the system level, the media organizational level, and the individual level. Not least important for political journalism is the close, interdependent, and contentious relationship with political actors, shaping both the processes and the content of political journalism. In terms of content, four key concepts in research on political journalism in Western democratic systems are the framing of politics as a strategic game, interpretive versus straight news, conflict framing and media negativity, and political or partisan bias. A review of research related to these four concepts suggests that political journalism has a strong tendency to frame politics as a strategic game rather than as issues, particularly during election campaigns; that interpretive journalism has become more common; that political journalism has a penchant for conflict framing and media negativity; and that there is only limited evidence that political journalism is influenced by political or partisan bias. Significantly more important than political or partisan bias are different structural and situational biases. In all these and other respects, there are important differences across countries and media systems, which follows from the notion that political journalism is always influenced by the media systems in which it is produced and consumed.

Article

Press Subsidies  

Mart Ots and Robert G. Picard

Due to its function as a watchdog or fourth estate in democratic societies and a variety of commercial challenges, policy-makers have undertaken initiatives to support the production and distribution of news. Press subsidies are one such policy initiative that particularly aims to provide support to private news producers. Paid as direct cash handouts or indirect reduced taxes and fees, they exist in some form in almost every country in the world. Subsidies are not uncontroversial, their effectiveness is unclear, and their magnitude, designs, and areas of application, differ across nations and their unique economic, cultural, and political contexts. After periods of declining political and public interest in media subsidies, the recent economic crisis of journalism, and the rising influence of various forms of click-bait, fake, native, or biased news on social media platforms, has brought state support of original journalism back on the agenda.

Article

Reading “Asian Values” into Journalism Practices in Asia  

Eric Loo

Discourse of “Asian values” in journalism is commonly contrasted with non-Asian or Western/Occidental libertarian values. This dualistic treatment of Asian versus Western journalism implies a professional and cultural dichotomy when in actuality the forms and methods of journalism are two sides of the same coin. Regardless of cultural contexts, journalists essentially address the who, what, where, when, why, and how questions in their reporting. Journalists react to events and issues. They source for credible reactions, fact check, and construct their news narratives in the interests of the general public. Reporting fairly, accurately, and truthfully are universal journalism principles. The issues that journalists in Asia confront daily are not radically different from journalists in the West. There are, nonetheless, variations of emphases in the goals, motivations, methods, and content in journalism as practiced in the West and parts of Asia. These variations are manifested in the practice of development-oriented journalism, which media scholars in parts of Asia deem to be more in line with the nation-building priorities of developing economies. It is worth revisiting the debates for a New World Information and Communication Order in the 1970s when responses to the normative theories of the press by media institutions and agencies in developing countries led to the conceptualization of “development journalism,” which, as an alternative to the adversarial journalism practice of media agencies in the West, was theoretically more reflective of the “Asian values” for social harmony, collective well-being, and deference to authority. Even as the binary perception of journalism practices by media scholars in the West and parts of Asia remains contentious, it is less about Asian cultural values per se that influence the methods, form, and substance of journalism but the political system, stringent media laws, public expectations of the media, role perception of the journalists, and power relation structure that ultimately shape journalism practices in Asia.

Article

U.S. Freedom of Information Act and Democratic Accountability  

Michael Schudson

In the 1950s and 1960s, the U.S. Congress, with allies in the news media, created legislation that came to be known as the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). It was designed to help hold the federal executive accountable to the public. It became law in 1966. Its significance can be understood in several contexts: (1) in connection with a special relationship of journalists to the operation of the FOIA; (2) in terms of arguments that transparency in government is necessary for citizens’ informed participation in democracy and that, on the other side, there are strong democratic arguments that transparency should be limited in the pursuit of other legitimate values, some of them recognized in the language of the FOIA itself that government agencies may deny a citizen's request for information on the grounds that honoring the request could endanger national security, personal privacy, the integrity of internal government deliberations, or other significant objectives; and (3) that freedom of information law are one institution within a wider web of institutions and practices dedicated to holding government accountable. In this regard, the U.S. Freedom of Information Act can also be seen in a broad context of a cultural shift toward “openness” and a political shift toward what has been called a “monitory” model of democracy.