More power for one-sided commentators in media hunts
Media keep getting more room for interpretation in different political scandals, claims Lars Nord, Professor of Political communication at Mid Sweden University, in a new book. The latest example of the shift of power is the media hunt of the previous leader of the Social Democratic Party of Sweden, Håkan Juholt.
– The statements of the politicians are given less and less space on TV, radio and in newspapers. Mostly, short parts of statements are shown and commented upon by the commentators. This has a huge influence on how society perceives what has happened. The question whether Håkan Juholt should be able to stay in his position as the leader of the party or not, for instance, was pursued by media. This means great power, says Lars Nord, Professor at the Mid Sweden University Center of Media and Communication Science, DEMICOM.
When the media hunt is on, there is a great need among the editors to publish the next development of the event. Often, there is some factual news to develop, which puts the commentators in a central role. An issue initialized by another member of the party can be extended by an explanatory interview with the commentator. After a while, the issue develops a life of its own in the media, says Lars Nord.
– When nothing happens, this gap is filled with speculations to keep the interest alive. You can say that media creates the story by commenting upon it. Quite often, a development is exaggerated and conclusions of resignation are added. In addition, the comments keep getting more superficial and one-sided.
In one chapter of the book ”Scandalous! The Mediated Construction of Political Scandals in Four Nordic Countries”, Lars Nord claims that the stories of the commentators in these contexts give them the role of the judge and of the prosecutor at the same time. Their comments remain uncontradicted, which in many cases makes their power absurdly great. This is problematic, according to Lars Nord.
– They always have the last word, which makes every commentator interpretation very exclusive. They must deliver in a hurry and are expected to be provocative to stand out. There is too little discussion about this and how it affects politics and democracy.
In addition, more and more often, the coverage or articles are interpretive. In the election campaign of 2010, 40 per cent of all coverage was of this type. Factual and objective news text is mixed with the reflections of the commentator. This applies to all types of media to varying degrees.
– Generally, the reflexions of the commentators are being given more and more space in relation to the statements of the politicians, says Lars Nord.