Brexit-related othering was similar in broadsheets and tabloids

The study “Converging media-based othering in tabloids and broadsheets” by 

Stefanie Walter from University of Munich and Zoltán Fazekas from Copenhagen Business School used word embeddings to analyze how different groups of citizens in Brexit-related news coverage are othered.

The research on othering in media has looked at how the ingroup is portrayed or how the outgroup has been portrayed. When it comes to the portrayal of the outgroup, migration and migrants has been a studied topic. It has been found out that migrants are frequently presented in a negative light and as a threat to the ingroup, and this portrayal can foster negative attitudes.

In this study, the authors ask the question “What type of media outlets are more likely to contribute to media-based othering?” The main distinction here is between tabloids and broadsheet media. Tabloids are expected to be more populist and likely to contribute to ‘us vs. them’ worldview. In relevant addition to the topic at hand, tabloids are more likely to be Eurosceptic, while broadsheet media is more positive towards European integration.

For analysis, Lexis Nexis and Factiva databases were used to gather articles published in 2016 where the topic was Brexit. A total of 32,946 articles from 24 sources were analyzed. Citizen mentions, using a variety of words relating to UK citizens, EU citizens, and migrants, were searched for.

The approach was to look at how the groups were described in relation to each other. For that, word vector models (word embedding) were used to study the company the word keeps, that is, adjacent words and context.

When looking at how these groups were portrayed in tabloids and broadsheets, the coverage of these groups was quite similar. In both cases, UK citizens were presented as an ingroup, while EU citizens and migrants were outgroups. The main differences were that EU citizens were portrayed as quite similar to UK citizens in broadsheets in contrast to tabloids, and immigrants were less similar to UK citizens in tabloids.

In conclusion, the findings suggest that media-based othering extends not just to migrants but also citizens of other countries. Whether this is specific to UK or if similar pattern would emerge in other countries would require more study.

The article “Converging media-based othering in tabloids and broadsheets” by 

Stefanie Walter and Zoltán Fazekas is in Journalism. (open access).

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