Political Journalism in Transition—new book officially out

Political Journalism in Transition—Western Europe in a Comparative Perspective, a new book I’ve edited with Raymond Kuhn, is now officially out in the Reuters Institute book series published by I.B. Tauris.

Pol JourThe book is what it says on the tin—it takes stock of how political journalism operates today and how it has changed over the last decade in a range of different Western European countries.

The first chapter and index is available here, the book is for sale on Amazon here.

We are lucky to have in the book both great country case studies and a number of chapters dealing with cross-cutting themes.

In our introduction, Raymond and I make clear that there are several examples of both change and continuity in political journalism that are similar across most of Western Europe.

Continuity includes the enduring centrality of legacy media organizations like newspapers and broadcasters both in terms of (1) news production and (2) news dissemination, across both digital and non-digital platforms, as well as (3) the “legitimist” vision of political journalism which generally operates within a sphere of “legitimate controversy” that is marked out by electoral politics (and sometimes does not even fully include all of electoral politics as when elected representative of far-right and far-left populist parties are treated quite differently from more “mainstream” politicians).

Changes common across Western Europe includes an (1) accelerated news cycle (driven by 24-hour rolling television and increasingly social media), (2) a shifting balance of power between a reduced number of journalists producing more content for more platforms and an (3) increased number of communication professionals servicing top political actors, and of course the increased importance of digital media.

But though these are clear, shared trends, there are also pronounced, consequential, and enduring national differences, as shown by the countries analyzed in the book, where we have chapters on the specificities of political journalism in France (Raymond), Italy (Alessio Cornia), Germany (Carsten Reinemann and Philip Baugut), Denmark (Mark Blach-Ørsten), and the UK (Aeron Davis).

In terms of cross-cutting themes, we cover changes in coverage of the European Union (Oliver Baisnee), the role of public service broadcasting (Stephen Cushion), differences and similarities between political journalism in the United States and Western Europe (myself), long-term trends in political reporting (Andrea Umbricht and Frank Esser) as well as the evolution of international news coverage (Kevin Williams).

Throughout the book, we show that political journalism in Western Europe is characterized by similarity and differences as well as change and continuity, and most of our authors argue there is no underlying convergence on one “Western European” model of political journalism. Of the countries we cover, especially Italy continues to stand out from Northern Europe, but differences between the UK and for examples Germany and Denmark are also pronounced.

We hope the book will be useful for scholars and students interested in Western Europe in particular, but also more generally for an international audience interested in cross-national and cross-regional differences and similarities in the workings of political journalism, and in how it is changing in part due to internal professional dynamics, but also in response to changes in the media industry more broadly, and changes in our political systems.

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