Yemenity2010's Blog

Manufactured Destiny – Introduction and Executive Summary

Posted in Blog Entry in English, Tema: Politik by yemenity2010 on 01/05/2012

Fair and balanced reporting – what exactly does that mean today? And is it even what we want from political news coverage anymore? These are some of the issues I tried to deal with a few years ago in a University essay. And the conclusions? Coming up – but not right away…

The race is on again. The American people have started the process to elect their next president and the outcome will probably have an impact on us, the rest of the world, as well. It usually does. Roughly four years ago, Barack Obama became the chosen one. The following spring, 2009, I finished my Media and Communication Studies with an investigation into how that election was covered in the Swedish press, using quantitative techniques while delving into the coverage from three of our biggest and most well-known newspapers during the last weeks of the campaign. What did they write? Who did they cover the most and whom did they seem to prefer between Obama and his Republican opponent John McCain? That and a lot of other issues became the basis for my Bachelors’ Degree presentation, called ”Manufactured Destiny”.

As I said, it’s on again. And for some reason I figured I would publish an abridged version of the paper I wrote in 2009, translated (except for the Executive Summary which was written in English to begin with) and do so in portions, now and then in the coming months while the present presidential campain in the US unfolds. Here it begins:

Executive Summary

Can Swedish Media representatives be considered ”fair and balanced” when reporting from important political events, and are all views taken into account? The Institution of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Gothenburg have conducted investigations on this topic for 30 years, with the emphasis on the treatment of Swedish Parliamentary elections. Wishing to extend the research to the international scene, they expressed the need for a pilot study on how Swedish journalists from the most influential media conglomerates chose to cover the Presidential election in The United States of America last autumn, A. D. 2008.

That is what I have been trying to accomplish this spring, through analyzing the material found on the subject in three major Swedish newspapers, more precisely their printed editions published during the last weeks of the campaign. The methodology used was that of content analysis, the quantitative variety. By cataloging the entire spectra of articles written with visible references to said election process and documenting the tendencies on certain angles of the content, I have reached a number of conclusions; some more obvious than others, and quite a few observations that could motivate further academic excursions on this particular subfield of the media/politics-related science arena.

It is clear that journalism today depends to a large extent on the instincts and values shown by the individual reporters; that reporting and analysis tend to walk hand in hand; and that sheer objectivity just for the sake of showing both sides in equal manner is not the first priority for these newspaper editors. There is a good deal of subjectivity taking place in this analyzed material. The next question would be: is that necessarily a bad thing, and is it what we should demand of them? Which reality is the most ”real” one anyway?

Also, the same expectations that apply to Swedish media covering elections on their own home ground might not carry the same weight when they’re off shore reporting from a political process where the majority of their readers don’t have the right to vote anyway. Or do they? It could be argued that while politicians in a democratic society ideally don’t have more power than the electorate are willing to provide them with, the media – especially when privately owned – don’t really have more influence or power than the consumers of their product allow them. But what also comes into account are different democratic models and the normative role of the media within them, as discussed by researchers like for example Jesper Strömbäck.

Yes, democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama is at the point in time covered, generally described as the more popular and strategically gifted campaigner than his republican counterpart John McCain and his charismatic but polarizing sidekick Sarah Palin. As it turned out, Obama also came out a clear and undisputed winner on Election Day, november 4th. A lot of the material published in these papers would in hindsight look undoubtedly more questionable, or at least less than successful in its analysis of the current political atmosphere, if he hadn’t.

Johan Lindahl, May 29th , 2009

To Be Continued…

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  1. […] en förkortad upplaga av den uppsatsen, uppdelad i olika kapitel. Sammanfattningen (formellt Executive Summary och skriven på engelska) publicerades här redan för ett par månader sedan och det börjar väl bli dags för […]

  2. […] the coming months while the present presidential campain in the US unfolds. I started out with the Executive Summary. Here’s the beginning of the […]

  3. […] en förkortad upplaga av den uppsatsen, uppdelad i olika kapitel. Sammanfattningen (formellt Executive Summary och skriven på engelska) publicerades här redan för ett par månader sedan och det börjar väl bli dags för […]


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