The programme group Political Communication & Journalism addresses the information function of communication. The research studies how, and under which conditions, news and other communication with informational purposes is produced.
The programme investigates the contents of this information, how audiences use and process it, and what effects it has. A central question is how citizens, organizations, and institutions use media and communication to become informed about public affairs and to participate in them. It is a starting point that citizens have become ‘critical consumers' also in the realm of politics and this affects their information seeking behavior as well as the use and effects of new information. Research in this program often has an internationally comparative orientation. Our theories address the core of democracy so a major task of the program is to develop and test theories that help improve democratic processes.
Special attention is paid to the contents of political news and its effects on knowledge, attitudes, political participation, and electoral behavior. The program is organized in two research lines: 1) Contents and effects of political communication, and 2) changes in journalism.
The first research line focuses on the contributions of media and communication to citizens' perception, knowledge, and understanding of political issues and political and social groups, as well as citizens' participation in the political arena and their electoral behavior. Researchers investigate the role of (changes in) different information channels and contents for public-opinion formation and expressions of citizenship. An integral part of understanding the consequences of communication is to systematically assess - often in large scale content analyses - how the media cover political issues in terms of e.g., the visibility of issues, actors, the tone of news, and news framing. Issues of particular importance include the coverage of contested topics such as immigration, religion, extremist and populist parties and politicians, and European integration.
In terms of effects, our efforts are focused on knowledge, attitudes, political trust and cynicism, and civic behavior (such as political participation and vote choice). We pay attention to effects of entertainment features in political communication in particular. The effects of political communication on political actors are also an important topic of the program. Also, the dynamics of change are in the foreground of our interest as well as differential effects as a consequence of individual, media content, and contextual factors.
The second research line focuses on developments in journalism. It looks at changes in the legal and financial context of journalism, at new forms of interactive and participatory journalism, and at online modes of political communication providing alternatives to institutionalized journalism such as citizen journalism, blogs, and the use of social network media by political actors. The research considers how journalism and other (public) communication systems evolve over time, and we look at sensation and entertainment as elements in journalism and public information provision. Our research also addresses normative implications of the changing role of journalism, in particular the journalistic approach to and coverage of politics.