ARTICLE: Politicians influence news by selecting journalists they talk to

Interview by Kristin Wolff, licence CC BY 2.0

The most important way politicians influence news is by forging ties with ideologically compatible journalists, write Peter Maurer, of Norwegian University of Science and Technology, and Markus Beiler, of Leipzig University. The authors surveyed 177 Austrian political journalists, and interviewed 10 journalists and 10 politicians.

Maurer and Beiler asked the journalists about the interactions they have had with politicians, and how politicians have tried to influence them. Then the journalists were asked to assess the level of influence journalists and politicians have on the news.

Some forms of interaction were associated with politicians having more influence than journalists, while others seemed to tip the scales in journalists’ favour. Interactions falling under the category of “political alignment” appear to grant politicians influence over both the news agenda and framing. Conversely, networking and trust based interactions increased journalists’ influence over politicians’.

Journalists may be aware of the politicians’ agenda, making direct attempts at influencing them through friendliness ineffective. Instead, establishing contact with journalists that do not need to be influenced in the first place can be effective, Maurer and Beiler suggest.

The article “Networking and Political Alignment as Strategies to Control the News” was published by the journal Journalism Studies. It is available online from the publisher’s website (abstract free) or from ResearchGate (open access).

Picture: Interview by Kristin Wolff, licence CC BY 2.0.

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