The Relationship Between Journalism and Populism

As right wing populism has become more salient so too has the institution of journalism alongside social media. With this in mind, can we track the role that journalism has played in shaping the development of right wing populism? Moreover, can we distinguish between the role that specific journalists have played from the institution of journalism itself? 

In the case of Czech journalist’s depiction of roma peoples in the media as highlighted by Tess Slavíčková and Peter Zvagulis in their article “Monitoring Anti-Minority Rhetoric in the Czech Print Media: A Critical Discourse Analysis,” the media reported on Roma peoples in very derogatory terms. So much so that the Roma fight was ultimately put out of context. It takes the event out of context and provides fodder for racial tension. But is this reflective of the misgivings of actual journalists or problems in the institution of journalism in a broader sense? We ought to consider that journalists might not actual receive proper training to handle complicated events like the above mentioned. The article does pose this question, but maybe we can take it even further and ask if the institution of journalism itself is entrenched with racism that has not yet been addressed. 

The role of journalism and journalists is at the epicentre of “Populism and media policy failure” by Des Freedman. It addresses the way that the mainstream media affected the results and reactions to Brexit and the election of Donald Trump. Specifically, there was a shared atmosphere of shock and disbelief in response to the elections. However, these reactions failed to acknowledge the way that the media is often complicit, though not solely responsible for, the rise of right wing populism. The article particularly takes to task media “elites” and liberal news media who fail to represent these issues in a nuanced and diverse way. 

To conclude, while journalists and journalism should not shoulder the blame for the prevalence of right wing populism, it at least needs to be included in the conversation. In doing so, it can become a means with which to contest these movements.

One Reply to “The Relationship Between Journalism and Populism”

  1. I agree with your concluding argument that while not solely to blame, journalists have played an important role in the rise of right-wing populism.

    However, I’m not sure I would give journalists the benefit of the doubt. You suggest that journalists “might not actual receive proper training to handle complicated events.” Slavíčková & Zvagulis outline new racism may be presented by 1) journalistic skewing 2) over-representation of heroes and villains 3) absence of minority voices and 4) silencing of countering witnesses to events. While we may be tempted to believe journalists represent the facts the best they can and, if they don’t, it’s unintentional.

    Given these parameters new racism, I am tempted to believe that these negative stereotyping and use of emotive terms is a tactic used by journalists to get more hits and ultimately, sell more papers. Therefore, I’m inclined to agree with your later argument that, “the institution of journalism itself is entrenched with racism.”

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