ARTICLE: The US news system as “polarized liberal”

Picture: North America satellite orthographic by NASA, public domain, cropped and modified

While many of the changes in United States’ media are discussed in relation to the 2016 election and Donald Trump’s presidency, “they are the symptoms of broader systemic dynamics that have been fermenting years before Trump first announced his bid”, a new study by Efrat Nechushtai of Columbia University, argues.

The article uses Hallin and Mancini’s 2004 typology of news systems to analyse the current American news system. Nechustai argues that the system is drifting away from the Liberal model into a hybrid category of ‘Polarized Liberal’.

Following the 2004 typology, the author analyses research from the past decade based on development of the media industry, political parallelism, professionalism, and the role of the state.

The analysis shows the extent to which US news have drifted from the 2004 designation of Liberal towards the model more common in Mediterranean news, Polarized Pluralist.

This change is evident as news markets are becoming fragmented, news contents and funding are increasingly politicized, professional practices and norms are diversifying, and even the limited role of the state is increasingly reconsidered, the author states.

The author continues that digitalization has changed and weakened the commercial basis of a Liberal model, challenging what is possibly the most fundamental characteristic of the Liberal qualification.

Market for national news have also become more centralized. “This renders large parts of the news system closer to a classical European geography of news production and distribution, in which the capital transmits diverse national products to the provinces, than the classical American model of decentralized regional hubs”, Nechustai concludes.

The article “From Liberal to Polarized Liberal?” was published in The International Journal of Press/Politics and is available on the publisher’s website (free abstract).

Picture: North America satellite orthographic by NASA, public domain, cropped and modified

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