Call for Papers – special issue if IJPP on Populist (political) Communication


Call for Papers – special issue on Populist Communication

Special issue editors: Toril Aalberg, Frank Esser, Carsten Reinemann, James Stanyer and Claes de Vreese


Populism is a feature of contemporary politics across the globe. However, the communicative aspects of populism have been underexplored or often ignored. Yet—in light of the current social, political, and economic turmoil, and of the changing media environment—the study of populist political communication has perhaps never been more important.

Systematic knowledge is sparse on questions related to populist actors as communicators, the role of the media, and the impact of populist communication strategies on citizens. This scarcity is surprising since the populist zeitgeist, as signaled by Mudde (2004) more than a decade ago, was in part seen to be caused by the media’s preference for, and receptivity toward, populist actors.

As argued in the recent book by Aalberg et al (2017), as a working definition of populism, it makes more sense to talk about degrees and intensity of populism rather than a dichotomy. Following the suggestion by Jagers and Walgrave (2007), we can distinguish various elements of populism. They identify complete populism which includes reference and appeals to the people, anti-elitism, and exclusion of outgroups. Excluding populism includes only reference and appeals to the people, and exclusion of outgroups, whereas anti-elitist populism includes reference and appeals to the people, and anti-elitism. Finally, empty populism includes only reference and appeals to the people. Their definition, along with Moffitt and Tormey‘s (2014, p.394) definition of populism as “political style, a repertoire of performative features which cuts across different political situations that are used to create political relations” are good starting points for scholars addressing populist communication specifically.

In this special issue we look for submissions that explore the relationship and interactions between key actors: (a) political parties, (b) different kinds of media including both media organizations and digital media, and (c) citizens. Many key questions remain in the study of populist communication: these concern (non-)mediated representation of populism, rhetorical style adopted by populists, and message impact. What emotional, cognitive, attitudinal, and behavioral effect does the communication of populists have on (different groups of) citizens? Can communication styles help explain the electoral success of populist actors? What role does the proliferation of social media make? How are populist actors represented in mainstream news media across countries? Are these conditions for populists’ success?

These are examples of questions that we hope the submissions for the special issue will address. We particularly welcome comparative designs. Submissions should emphasize their wider contribution and substantial implications in addition to presenting individual analyses of examples of populist communication.

Range of papers to be considered

The CfP welcomes papers focusing on one or more of these interactions. The special issue is intended to be international and if possible comparative in nature.


Extended abstracts due (2 pages): October 1, 2017

Invited submissions due: November 1, 2017

Full papers due: February 1, 2018

Full papers will be invited to present at a special issue workshop, adjacent to COST Action conference, Madrid, April 2018. Partial funding for presenters will be available for a set of papers. The special issue editors will be at the conference and workshop and provide feedback.

Email submission of extended abstracts is submitted to:

Full paper submissions are handled though the journal’s online submission system. All submissions are due to external review and standard editorial decisions.

Please contact the special issue editors – Toril Aalberg, Frank Esser, Carsten Reinemann, James Stanyer and Claes de Vreese – with questions.


2017 Digital News Report

The 2017 Reuters Institute Digital News Report was published June 22. Covering 36 markets on 5 continents, it is the biggest internationally comparative study of news and media use across the world. I’m proud to be of the team behind it, including the lead author Nic Newman as well as Richard Fletcher, Antonis Kalogeropoulos, and David Levy.

The full report is available here, 161 slides with more detail here, and a 2:24 video with highlights here.

The best part of the report is always the chance to take it on the road and discuss the data and analysis with smart people from across the news industry, media research, technology companies, and policymakers.I had the good fortune to discuss it with an amazing panel including Melissa Bell from Vox, Mitra Kalita from CNN, Niketa Patel from Twitter, Jason White from Facebook, and Emily Bell from the Tow Center at our New York City launch event at the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism.

A full video of my presentation and our discussion is here.


You’ll find plenty of discussion on Twitter under #DNR17.

Below are my 5 top charts, but really, if you care about news, media, and politics, you should dig in youself.

1. Journalists, news media, and technology companies are all viewed with considerable skepticism by most people in most countries.


2. Social media very important for how people get news,but growth has stalled in many countries-while messaging apps are on the rise.


3. We live in distributed media environment. Across 36 markets, 1/3 of online news users say going direct to websites and apps is their main way of accessing news, 2/3 say various forms of distributed discovery (search, social, etc.) is their main way.


4. While distributed environments are associated with fears of filter bubbles, we find that using social media, search, etc to in fact drive more diverse news diets


5. Finally, the business of news is still challenging, with very competitive advertising market and limited progress on getting people to pay for news–but the good news for news organizations is that younger media users pay for news at least as often as older ones do, and in fact are far more likely to pay for digital content and services generally.



Reuters Institute 2017 ICA papers and participation

logoSo proud of the very strong line-up of Reuters Institute papers and participants for 2017 ICA in San Diego.

Robert G. Picard (Senior Research Fellow), Sarah Ganter (Research Associate) and James Painter (who directs our fellowship program), as well as most of our research team and myself, have been at the conference, listening, learning, and presenting some of our work, including a very strong set of papers — some titles and abstracts below.

Online News Video Consumption: A Comparison of Six Countries

Antonis Kalogeropoulos (Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, University of Oxford)


Online news video is becoming increasingly prominent in the websites of news organizations and social media platforms. Given that we have limited knowledge on online news video use, this study examines the consumption of online news video in six countries (Denmark, France, Germany, Spain, United Kingdom, United States), as well as how online video news use is correlated with other news behaviour patterns. Based a comparative survey of news consumption, we show that online news videos are becoming increasingly prominent in most countries. We also show that online news videos are seen both on the sites of news organisations but especially and increasingly off-site on social media like Facebook and video sharing sites like YouTube. This study is a first attempt in understanding the audience of online news videos. We argue that these findings reflect the power of social media platforms in influencing news consumption habits.

Public Service Media and News in a Digital Media Environment: A Study of Six Countries

Annika Sehl, Alessio Cornia, and Rasmus Kleis Nielsen (Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, University of Oxford)


In this paper, we examine how the public service media in six European countries (Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Poland, and the United Kingdom) are delivering news in an increasingly digital media environment. We aim to explain the demonstrably large differences between how they perform in terms of audience reach (e.g. why the German PSM ARD and ZDF are considerably less able than the British BBC to effectively match their offline reach online). The study is based on interviews conducted between December 2015 and February 2016, primarily with senior managers and editors at PSM in the six countries, as well as a secondary analysis of data. We use our empirical analysis of how a broad range of European PSM are dealing with the new digital developments to advance our understanding of the relative importance of the organizational, economic, and political factors in shaping how PSM are responding to the technological changes.

Incidental Exposure to News on Social Media in Four Countries

Richard Fletcher and Rasmus Kleis Nielsen (Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, University of Oxford)


People are exposed to news ‘incidentally’ if they encounter it while intending to do other things. Whilst the existence of incidental exposure to news on television has been demonstrated, the same cannot yet be said of social media. We use data from the 2015 Reuters Institute Digital News Report survey to examine incidental exposure on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube in four countries (Italy, Australia, US, UK). We find that (i) those incidentally exposed to news use more online sources, and engage with news more, than non-users (ii) the effect of incidental exposure on number of sources used is strongest on Twitter, followed by YouTube, then Facebook, and (iii) only those who intentionally use multiple networks for news use more sources, and engage more, than those incidentally exposed. Our findings suggest that the move to media environments characterized by selective exposure is accompanied by incidental exposure via social media.

Fragmentation and Duplication: A Cross-National Comparative Analysis of Cross-Platform News Audiences

Richard Fletcher and Rasmus Kleis Nielsen (Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, University of Oxford)


The move to a high choice online media environment has been associated with fears of audience fragmentation, and the end of a shared public agenda and common culture. Others have challenged this thesis by demonstrating high duplication among audiences for the most popular media outlets. However, this challenge has almost always been based on data from the United States alone, and has not fully accounted for cross-platform consumption. Using data from the 2016 Reuters Institute Digital News Report from six countries (Germany, Denmark, France, Spain, UK, USA) we address these shortcomings and find (i) that incorporating significance testing reduces the amount of cross-platform news audience duplication (ii) that cross-platform news audiences vary country-to-country, with audience duplication lower in Northern and Western Europe, and although in some cases the difference is not statistically significant (iii) we find no support for the idea online news audiences are more fragmented than offline audiences.

Lack of Resources or Lack of Relevance? How and Why People Avoid News

Benjamin Toff and Rasmus Kleis Nielsen (Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, University of Oxford)


In this paper, we take a grounded theory approach to examining the role that news plays—and does not play—in people’s lives. While previous work has lamented low levels of news use and knowledge of public affairs, the perspectives of those who regularly refrain from using conventional sources of information have rarely been captured. Previous surveys have shown news consumption patterns tend to be correlated with socioeconomic status, age, and education, and a range of explanations have been offered for limited news use among disadvantaged groups. These explanations include a lack of interest, efficacy, or sufficient contextual knowledge, as well as a failure of the news itself to address topics relevant to diverse populations. To better develop a coherent theory and assess attitudes toward news and journalism among those disaffected from it, we present results from in-depth interviews conducted in the United Kingdom with people in working class and disadvantaged communities. This qualitative data is supplemented by observations of group conversations, comparisons with quantitative survey data, and local news content analysis, which measures the correspondence between topics in the news and the issues and concerns raised by study participants. Questions we investigate in these data include: (1) What social function does news play even among those who typically abstain from using it? (2) How does the high choice media environment impact behavioural choices? (3) How do work rhythms and daily routines impact news use? And (4) how do attitudes toward news and the journalism profession affect tendencies to avoid news?Over the last several years, I have conducted a series of in-depth qualitative interviews with people who self-identified as “intentionally and significantly limiting media use,” people I call “media resisters.” Amongst those who specifically limit news, I’ve argued that news consumption hinders, rather than enhances, their willingness to participate in public life (Woodstock, 2013). For news resisters, diminishing their contact with news does not have the negative consequence one would assume, namely that they would be naïve and complacent about public policy and civic life. Rather, with admittedly limited time and resources, news resisters remain engaged citizens.


Congratulations to IJPP authors – ICA awards

Very proud that two articles recently published in the International Journal of Press/Politics were honored at the 2017 International Communication Association.

First, Claudio Mellado and Arjen van Dalen won a Top Faculty Paper Award from the Journalism Studies Division for their excellent paper on how journalistic role performance has evolved over time in Chile from 1990 onwards, published  in our April issue.

Mellado, Claudia, and Arjen Van Dalen. 2017. “Changing Times, Changing Journalism: A Content Analysis of Journalistic Role Performances in a Transitional Democracy.” The International Journal of Press/Politics 22 (2): 244–63. doi:10.1177/1940161217693395.
Second, Julia Lück, Antal Wozniak, and Hartmut Wessler were the finalist for the Wolfgang Donsbach Outstanding Journal Article of the Year, also given by the Journalism Studies Division, for their terrific paper on how reporters and sources co-produce climate change coverage at international summits, published last year.
Lück, Julia, Antal Wozniak, and Hartmut Wessler. 2016. “Networks of Coproduction: How Journalists and Environmental NGOs Create Common Interpretations of the UN Climate Change Conferences.” The International Journal of Press/Politics 21 (1): 25–47. doi:10.1177/1940161215612204.


Looking back on ICA preconference on normative theory

Together with Chris Anderson, Daniel Kreiss, Dave Karpf, and Matt Powers, I organized an ICA pre-conference on the role of normative theory in communication research May 25.

It made for a day of really interesting and stimulating conversation, thanks to the presenters, our discussants, invited panelists, and everyone who attended. (I was on a panel of journal editors along with Barbie Zelizer, Claes de Vreese, and Silvio Waisbord talking about the role of  normative theory in the journals we edit — photo below from  Erik Bucy.)

DAsz5JRXUAAwbLi.jpg large

I won’t try to summarize the many interesting points made, but instead highlight what I though were some of the most important and interesting disagreements where people held different views —

  1. At a most basic level, people embrace different traditions of normative theorizing, mostly deliberative democracy, liberal democracy, and radical democracy. Most of the traditions explicitly mobilized are (a) tied to democracy (and not other normative questions like, say, justice) and (b) are strongly tied to Western countries (with a few notable exceptions), something Barbie Zelizer has pointed out in the past.
  2. There is an implicit and rarely explicitly discussed tension between people who prefer what political theorists would call ideal theories and those who prefer non-ideal theories — illustrated elsewhere by the debate between for example John Rawls (as a strong proponent of ideal theory) and Amartya Sen (as a proponent of non-ideal theory). (I found Zofia Stemplowska’s book chapter a useful guide to the issue.)
  3. Considerable disagreement around what role question of what democratic realists like Bernard Williams call “realisability” should play in normative discussions. What some think of as what Ian Hacking calls “elevator words” that raise us to higher levels of discourse, others think of as being so abstract and distant from reality as to be near-irrelevant. (I have written about this issue here.)

So, the conversations, and the disagreements continued. In advance of the pre-conference, we drafted a reading list (here), ,and I’ll add some things to after the discussions we had.

2017 International Journal of Press/Politics Book Award to Katrin Voltmer

I’m happy to anVoltmer-MediaTransDemocnounce that Katrin Voltmer (University of Leeds) is the recipient of the 2017 International Journal of Press/Politics Book Award for her book The Media in Transitional Democracies (Polity Press, 2013).

Below is the official announcement of the award from the full award committee, which included Peter van Aelst (as Chair of the ICA Political Communication Division) Henrik Örnebring (as Chair of the ICA Journalism Studies Division), and myself (as editor of the journal).

2017 International Journal of Press/Politics Book Award to Katrin Voltmer

Political communication research and journalism studies has grown more international  and transnational in recent years, but the majority of English-language academic work still tends to focus on a small number of in a global perspective very unusual high income democracies, and many of our shared theoretical, methodological, and substantial assumptions are derived from research on these countries.

Everyone recognize that this – despite the evident progressive both fields have made – limits our ability to understand political communication and journalism more broadly, as it plays out in very different political, media, and social contexts across the world.

But pushing our shared understanding in a more truly international direction has often been left to area specialists and regional studies, and have not always been tied back to core underlying concerns about the relationship between media and politics.

Katrin Voltmer’s 2013 book The Media in Transitional Democracies marks a break with these implicit and explicit biases. The award committee, which this year consisted of Peter van Aelst, Henrik Örnebring, and myself, is proud to honor it with the 2017 International Journal of Press/Politics Book Award for its truly comprehensive synthesis of comparative politics, political communication, and journalism studies research on transitional democracies from across the world. The Media in Transitional Democracies develops an original and important argument about how media and politics develop in path-dependent ways depending on previous regime types, and provides a systematic overview of existing research that covers a broad set of case countries from all over the world.

The award was instituted by the journal in 2015 to honor “internationally-oriented books that advance our theoretical and empirical understanding of the linkages between news media and politics in a globalized world in a significant way.” It is sponsored by Sage.

Books published within the last ten years are eligible for the award, and we have again had a very strong field of candidates. This is a real testament to the theoretical creativity, methodological rigor, and growing internationalization of both political communication and journalism studies research.

The award committee agreed that Katrin’s book stood out as a particularly necessary work, a relevant book on understudied important topics, a book with a truly global orientation, and a book that combines synthesis and original argumentation with nuance and a humble recognition of how much remains to be done before our shared understanding of media and politics – as well as our theoretical, methodological, and substantial assumptions about how to study it – match the global nature of our objects of analysis and the importance of what we study.

I hope you’ll join me in congratulating Katrin for writing this book. The award is simply a way for the community to recognize and highlight her contribution.

Digital news as forms of knowledge

I have written a somewhat nerdy (but hopefully still interesting) book chapter that is basically a challenge to any kind of generalization of the type “digital news is like X” for Remaking the News, a terrific new book edited by Pablo Boczkowski and Chris Anderson.

The chapter is a “yes, but” response to people who associate digital news with “churnalism” that tries to take seriously that we are seeing a boom in superficial, instantly produced and published material (some of which is valuable) as well as more and more really detailed journalism that enrolls data visualizations, interactives, mapping, etc. to enrich both the content and the storytelling.

I play of Robert Park‘s classic chapter on news as a form of knowledge and argue that  what we see today is an increasingly diverse polarization of news that include both much more content that enable knowledge as what the pragmatic philosopher William James called “acquaintance with”, focused on impressions of the world as well as content that enables “knowledge about” that  help us understand relations.

Buy the book here, read a pre-publication version of my chapter here, and see the full abstract below.

“Digital News As Forms of Knowledge: A New Chapter in the Sociology of Knowledge”

Forthcoming, Pablo Boczkowski and C.W. Anderson (eds.) 2017. Remaking the News: Essays on the Future of Journalism Scholarship in the Digital Age. Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press.

What kinds of knowledge might news be said to be? And how is news as knowledge changing as the social practices, organizational forms, and media technologies that create and constitute it change over time? The purpose of this chapter is to address these questions and to offer a contemporary sequel to what Robert E. Park called “a chapter in the sociology of knowledge”. I am concerned with what changes in news content, the organization of news work, and the technologies involved in producing and disseminating news means for how we think about news as knowledge, and will discuss this more general issues on the basis specifically of past and present examples from the United States. I suggest that much news today is still frequently characterized by many of the traits Park identified, but that our increasingly digital media environment offers far more diverse forms of news and also includes a growing amount of substantially different kinds of news closer to the philosopher William James’ extremes of “acquaintance with” and “knowledge about”. Today, as we see simultaneously an increasing emphasis on presentist, minute-by-minute and second-by-second breaking news and the growth of various forms of long-form journalism, explanatory journalism, and data journalism designed to overcome some of the perceived epistemological shortcomings of older forms of news, new forms of news as knowledge that have greater staying power as content, but also because of certain affordances of digital media. Drawing on Park and his inspiration from James, I suggest we can think of digital news as involving at least three different ideal-typical forms of mediated, public knowledge today. First, we see the growing importance of forms of news-as-impression, decontextualized snippets of information presented via headline services, news alerts, live tickers, and a variety of new digital intermediaries including search engines, social media, and messaging apps. Second, a recognizable descendant of the archetypical late-20th century form of news remains important, news-as-items, published as in principle self-contained discrete articles and news stories bundled together in a newspaper, a broadcast stream, on a website, or in an app. Third, at the opposite end of James’ spectrum from acquaintance-with to knowledge-about, we see the rise of news-about-relations, combining elements of long-form “contextual” or “explanatory” forms of journalism well-known from some 20th century newspapers, magazines, and current affairs programs with new forms of data journalism, visualization, and interactivity afforded by digital technologies. Digital news may be associated with the rise of news-as-impressions and a potential hollowing out of inherited forms of news-as-items—with more transient information for what Park in 1940 called a “specious present”. Certainly many critics amongst journalists, academics, and other public figures complain about its “churnalistic” qualities. But digital news is far more than this and we should be suspicious of overarching generalizations about the nature of news today, which also involves a remarkable growth in news-as-relations more oriented towards providing what James called knowledge-about, and news that today is more accessible, more timely, and more detailed and data driven that probably ever before. Recognizing the properties of digital news as different forms of knowledge—rather than a form of knowledge—will help us understand how journalistic self-understandings, popular conceptions of journalism, academic hypothesis about journalism, and normative theories of journalism might require rethinking as the basic connection between news and knowledge they all implicitly rely on change over time.

Keywords: journalism, news, knowledge, sociology of knowledge, media