How are populist attributions of blame framed in the media? Michael Hameleers, Linda Bos and Claes de Vreese, of the University of Amsterdam, conducted a content analysis of 867 stories from six different national newspapers in the Netherlands.
News pieces were selected from non-election and election periods in 2002 and 2012. The authors identified three different reporting styles: neutral, conflict and interpretative coverage.
A small proportion of all coverage included populist attributions of blame. According to the results, blame attributions are more likely to be used with an interpretative style. Attributions were most likely absent when a neutral style is used. Tabloid newspapers are more likely to use blame attributions compared to journalists at broadsheet newspapers.
Interestingly, newspapers are not just messengers for populist politicians: news outlets themselves engaged in populist coverage and in creating a juxtaposition between the people and elites, the authors write. The blame was directed mostly towards the elite; societal out-groups were rarely blamed.
The article “Shoot the messenger?” was published in Journalism and is available as an open-access publication online.
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