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IP 12 (Phase I): The strategies and processes of issue selection and construction

Democracy requires citizens to make reasoned and informed choices. This in turn necessitates that the media enable citizens to stay informed about politics at a reasonable cost and level of effort. However, it is highly unlikely that all citizens obtain sufficient information for decision-making. They receive not only information per se from the media, but also informational shortcuts and heuristic cues, the impact of which hinges on the quality of the media. Since media are also driven by commercial considerations, the credibility and political relevance of the information they provide cannot be taken for granted. Nevertheless, the media play a key role in all political campaigns. As gatekeepers between political actors and the public, they have the power to either magnify or minimize the impact of a campaign.

This project analyzed the role of the mass media in political campaigns. The key questions here were whether media coverage simply reflects political campaign rhetorics or whether the media actively construct campaign rhetoric on their own. Moreover, the project also examined how far the media takes the expectations of the citizen audience into account. It was closely interlinked with the two other projects in Module 4 on the dynamic interplay between political actors (IP 11), the general public (IP 13) and the media. Specifically, the project aimed to explain:

  • how and to what extent decision-making processes within media enterprises are influenced by political actors and the general public
  • how the media deals with political information as a credence good
  • how normative media standards are reconciled with the profit imperative of a commercialized media system.
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Project leader:
Prof. Gabriele Siegert, University of Zurich

PD Dr. Urs Dahinden, University of Zurich
Matthias Gerth, University of Zurich
Patrick Rademacher, University of Zurich