Frameworks of journalism

After having completed this weeks lecture on Wikileaks and international political relations at an open event, on behalf of Peace- and Conflict Studies, at Malmö University, I have received some feedback which allows me to reflect upon dimensions within a larger discussion on not only Wikileaks but the journalistic framework in which the organization operates.


Releasing classified material through both and selected traditional newspapers (after highly sofisticated co-operation and negotiations) gives the information a wider spread a possibly a greater impact.  The role of the press is crucial for Wikileaks due to the effectiveness of the combination of output channels. When information is being narrated to gain old media credibility and online publishing in full text, it puts the citizen in a position to make judgement of and discover the editors possible blind spots, hence a more active involvement from citizens.


And this chain of distribution and co-operation between the press and Wikileaks, illustrate a specific new form of power balance. The state (holding secrets however powerless to prevent releases) – Wikileaks or stateless news organization (basically in full control over how to release) – and finally the national newspaper in the middle (trying to negotiate some sort of legitimacy between both the state and Wikileaks, but also towards the citizens. Within this chain, the management and control varies and the impact thereafter. Perhaps the most intriguing question here would be: where do citizens fit in and what do their relation to the State, Wikileaks and the press, say about contemporary information society?


The journalistic intermediary function can be seen from mentioned structural perspective, but also in media texts where it often becomes visible how journalism represents (or portrays itself) as a non biased link between state, organization and citizen. Of course this is based on traditional news media reporting. When entering the world of forums, blogs and tweets, a completely different image of the role of journalism is uttered. Now, this image requires more than some short lines here to comprehend, however when analyzing the usage and expressions within social media platforms, it is fascinating to see a paradoxical approach towards traditional journalism and media channels. And this paradox will be explained and explored in my next contribution here.

New theoretical trajectories on political journalism

At the moment I’m doing the final editing of my article on political journalism in which I use the theoretical discussions in my Ph D thesis and try to enhance them and create new theoretical trajectories. Thoughts from this forthcoming article is presented below.


Discussions on public sphere and public discourse in relation to the role of media and journalism in a democratic society, is basically discussions on how we communicate in the social world and the role the media plays in this communication. Without a doubt, the thoughts of sociologist Jürgen Habermas have formed the basis for desired journalistic ideals such as objectivity and diversity, as well as created a critical point of departure for understanding the role and influence of mass media in social communication. A central part of the public sphere is constituted by journalism in general and news journalism in particular.


As democracy tend to embrace several scholary discussions and debates, both in Social Sciences and in Humanities, the need for a mutual and shared understanding of its premises is necessary. Within Political Science the focus sometimes highlights the governmental function och democratic values. However this is seldom a valid point by itself, since governing and governmental include so many more factors than just political systems or parliamentarism per se. For example, the role of the media (including both pr-industry and lobbying) needs to be included in conceptual understand of governmental systems. For me, as a researcher which derive from both Human Sciences and Social Sciences, it is a rather incomplete view on politics and the governing function which often reaches and is put forward in the academic sphere. Rather than spending effort on discussing the particular system at hand, one should emphasize its actual components and its concequences on society and democracy.

Approaching democracy from the standpoint of Media- and communication studies, recent contributions have developed an integrated view on the participatory function of the media in relation to civic society and citizens. The parametres for understanding the role of media and communication in democratic societies have altered and former ways have been disawowed. The aim with my forthcoming article is to make a new alteration of parameters for integrating theories on democracy, media- and political spheres in order to discuss how political journalism and its modes of representations play an important role for the stability and enhancement of democratic ideals.


As should be obvious, these are all issues in the field of political communication. And to be a researcher and privileged to teach and analyze the rapid development (not only media technology but also socio-cultural changes) in this field, I consider a tremendous joy. We are currently experiencing exciting political and technological changes. The term of interactivity broke new ground as we entered the digital era of ”new media” and the relationship between citizen, media and political spheres was no longer functioning from a one-way communication perspective. The hierachial condition between producer and user shifted and the earlier clear boundaries was now transgressed.


In a political communication context this development has put traditional journalism on the spotlight and brought forward new dimensions of both media and political spheres. Concept like impression management and news management have entered political discourses and the actual impact of external actors in the chain of political communication cannot be neglected. For politicians to be able to engage voters, contemporary social and political climate requires a form of second-hand construction of ideology and message. By internalizing media messages, identities and beliefs are aquired and this process is mainly due to the work of impression managers (insiders) and journalists (semi-insiders). But the internalization also includes citizens in their interpretation of media texts.

In the present digital era of information, as citizens are co-producers of information and have become major components in the chain of political communication, this is more vital than ever. The interplay  between journalists, politicians and citizens has been radically transformed into a more complex, and more intriguing, web of strings where former social institutions of power has been challenged by a growing civic culture. And it is very interesting to try and grasp these developments in a time where democracy and the role of the media, is being discussed more than ever.


Media education

Currently, in the midst of anxiety (and excitement) with article and book project, I am taking part in the development of a new Bachelor program in Media and communication studies, focusing on media activism, strategy and entrepreneurship. It will start this fall and constitutes a very interesting challenge. Together with other lecturers and researchers at School af Arts and Communication (K3), Malmö University, I am looking forward to contribute to an exciting and innovative approach to media education. To use media activism, strategy and entrepreneurship as entrance points into the world of media practices, I believe is a promising take on the challenge to encourage new critical understanding of media- and communication studies.


Both the concepts of media activism and entrepreneurship have a clear action based reference.

For example, media activism refers to the mobilization linked to social movements and other organizations. Structures and forms of contemporary media landscape are constantly changing and in recent years media activism has become a common mean for both organizations and individuals to express themselves in alternative media spheres, such as social media platforms or other networks. I believe it is of great importance for media students to be able to navigate through several forms of media technology and combine practical knowledge with critical analysis, in order to be well prepared for a media industry in which they can explore ideas and thougts on how to write their own professional history and future.


Media, social movements and democracy

At the moment I´m planning a book project on the significance of media in relation to social movements and democratization of society. Below you can find my initial idea and cases for sketching a history and contemporary discussion on how significant political changes and developments in society correspond to media strategies and technology .

My idea is to start in the emergence of feminist movement’s in 1968 and early 1970’s when most feminist writings / books were published. The book as a medium dominated the movement’s output at first but soon feminist organizations and women’s movements got access to the public sphere of television, thus heightening the possibility of communicating political messages with greater speed and distribution than ever before. The search for representatives with strong media skills quickly became a key for the movement’s own strategies to participate in and create the media discourses, mainly through television and newspapers. In pace with a changing social climate with strong left wind spreading across Europe, feminism emerged as a clear reference point for other organizations and social actors to relate to.


The environmental movement was also an emerging social reference point for activists and politically active in the 1970s who had a paradoxical relationship with the media and a gradually increased cultural significance. In truth, however, the 1950s and the actions in opposition to nuclear explosions must be considered as an operating starting point. At that time, the image of the “global environment” established itself as a relatively unambiguous notion. But it wasn’t until the early 1970s that the Carpathian ecological discourse emerged and by mid-decade, environmental issues had seriously been brought up on political agendas across the Western world. Just as in the parallel-growing women’s movement, a number of significant writings were published from an environmental perspective that contributed to Time magazine early naming the environmental movement as somthing that would dominate the decade’s political scene.


Then we enter the 1980 – and 1990’s, the fall of communism and the role of the media (mainly western media) in the process. Here are some interesting issues and cases that I want to address and highlight. Above all it is exciting to see the 1 / western media reporting on the closed states (the perestroika-era is an important part here since western media during this time had a completely different approach and access to Soviet citizens than ever before) and 2 / Western media intrusion into and significance in the closed states. The latter reference to radio stations such as Voice of America and Radio Free Europe and how they managed to reach in and got people to take part of very different values and new cultural material than what the government used the media to spread. According to many critics and observers, this had a large impact on the uprising that began and ultimately led to the several communist systems fell. Moreover, it was during the Reagan era a strong focus on the shortcomings and failures that existed in communist states and the contrast was clear to the liberal pro-American reporting that dominated in the western media.


All of this, the feminist movement’s emergence, environmentalism and breakdown of communism, can then be compared and discussed in relation with two modern and contemporary examples: Wikileaks and the Arab World’s restructuring / democratization.


Wikileaks illustrates how news production has changed dramatically in comparison to just a few years ago. Previously, journalists were those who dug up news, put them together and reported to a general public. What Wikileaks does, which have also been prominent ever since blogs and other social media became popular on the Internet, is to turn the traditional news production chain upside down. This has changed to the extent that leaks from and through the alternative media sphere now more and more forms the basis of previous critical and research emphasized in the business of journalism. Everything from facts to gossip leaks into newsrooms where journalists with unprecedented different conditions than before (greater time pressure, increased competition) certainly may feel compelled to publish and disseminate information that was not always the most reliable sources.


Finally, the recent momentous events in the Arab World. In countries such as Egypt, Tunisia, Jordan, Iran and Libya, the people in 2011 rebelled against regimes that for decades have controlled their citizens. The dictators attempts to control the information flow, for example by shutting down the internet in the country, have encouraged people to engage, mobilize and carry out protests and actions that had an impact on a global basis, through media technology and social media platforms.

To conclude, this project will be a challenging one and anyone with an interest of the subject are welcome to contact me on:

Media activism and democracy

I have just completed an article on the recent events in Libya, Iran and Egypt. In this article I connect the struggle for democracy with media activism and try to intersect the work of Thoreau (civil disobediance) with contemporary examples of citizens’ use of media technology. A short extract:

An important dimension of these events is the attempt of those in power to control technology and limit the flow of information, thus to try and minimize the risks of a diversified historiography. In a society where media technology often seems to be regarded as evil or good in itself, the nuances of the relationship between individuals and societal structure need to be taken seriously. It is obviously far too simple to explain for example the Egyptian people’s mobilization and the overthrow of president Mubarak as a result of frequent use of Twitter. But it is certainly a central aspect of the debate on social media as a platform to claim alternative external lighting on democracy and political activism.

The fact that governments have long tried to control the national self-image based on different objectives is nothing new. Nor is it a daring assumption to say that the conditions for this control have changed radically in line with that media technological development has accelerated.

  The difficulty to control these self-images and the external interpretation of them has recently been highlighted in several high-profile political upheavals in which media forms and channels have played a crucial role. And it’s specifically the media as a platform, in the sense that people can interact, mobilize and inform on the basis of subjective positions while reaching out globally, that is emerging as a clear reference point in the discussion of a more vibrant democracy. The expansion of media platforms not only allows for faster transmission of information but it also has greater social and political significance and impact.

This is clearly connected to the media’s visual expressions in which symbolic messages are constructed in accordance with the sender’s objectives. Social movements for instance, work extensively with new media and constantly tries to create a simulated experience that portrays themes of the movement itself. This contributes to a transformation of political discourses, while social and cultural contexts are built on new meanings and interpretations.

  These political discourses and governmental powers, in any form or personal character they may have been revealed in, are currently discussed in the context of information management, disclosure and shifting power balances. The specific conduct that triggered the discussions during the last year bottomed out in the forms of civil disobedience, the conscious resistance to the states, policy makers and statutory regulations. Everything from the organization Wikileaks to individual citizens’ use of social media have been focused upon as applicable examples. Amidst all this, there is reason to reflect on how we can understand media activism as tool for embracing democracy and supply citizens with knowledge and capability to navigate and act in a mediatized world.  

Feminist theory and intersections

Yesterday I had a lecture on feminist theory and intersectionality and started thinking of the ways intersectionality can be used as a theoretical and analytical concept to deepen sociological explanations for the impact of power-structures on individuals and societies. By relating social factors such as class, gender, ethnicity and sexuality to each other and not regard them as isolated, a deeper understanding of the reproduction of power can be reinforced. In addition, the intersectional approach leaves us with an opportunity to understand the intersections and crosspoints between these factors.

  In media studies, feminist theories constitute a necessary and important element in the understanding of how the media contributes to the reproduction of these power-structures. But I believe that we much more often have to focus our critical attention on everyday life, work and leisure, and the individual’s own actions. The intersectionality perspective connects power and inequality to the actual framework of opportunities, within which individuals are to act as subjects in social structures, institutional practices and prevailing ideologies.

  Every citizen earns the freedom to define the terms of identification, with what type of ideological approach and in which paradigm best suited for the individual. But nevertheless, we as citizens are obliged to critically question both the structures of our society and from this set limits and frameworks for our lives. Human beings cannot remain like shadows, always following and never dare to break away. On the contrary, we should be leading the way.

Changing contexts and discourses

Life is a journey through not only time and space but also through meetings, choices and actions. Everywhere we turn, we always have an environment to relate to. It looks different depending on the social context we are in. People come and go, environments, contexts, discussions and actions change constantly and every day a plethora of choices await us.

Depending on how we view ourselves and how we reflect upon our social status and location, we are acting accordingly, forcing those around us to relate to us. We move through different discourses, common ways of talking and thinking about the world in a social context, which in themselves can be constituted as well as constitutive. Thus, recognizing that we as individuals constantly are contributing to the shaping and reshaping of the reality that surrounds us.

It is through language and interaction that this is achieved. In a large part of both social- and human sciences, a social constructionist approach to discourse and communication is taken for granted, and here there is no reason to contradict its existence. However, what is extremely necessary is to ask ourselves questions like: how does the individual experience her own self in these discourses and contexts? How does she position herself along the norms and values that characterize a culture in both large and small contexts? Who are the competitors in the same social platform and what consequences may this competition have for both the individual and the larger social structures?

All this is about the construction and re-construction of identities. There is no lack of theoretical explanations. In disciplines such as sociology, psychology, social psychology, media and communication studies and many more, there are numerous different perspectives on the topic. It is also from mentioned perspectives that reasonable theoretical assumptions about the world for us to understand this issue from a contemporary perspective, can be retrieved.

Knowledge and understanding

Suggestions for strategies on how society face terrorist attacks against innocent people continues as new events occur. Authorities are always and will always be challenged by more or less nuanced positions. Governments’ actions and pragmatic policies are also often challenged in relation to recent attacks. But far too often it seems to be a discussion about society to actually act and not as much how to act. Is more surveillance and intelligence the right way to proceed, with embedded implications for privacy and freedom? Is it tougher restrictions, hence a more closed society, that is the price for security? No.

Notice how the first sentence in this post is deliberately filled with three words that are defined in entirely different ways depending on who speaks them. Terrorist, attacks, and innocent. These are synonyms that easily transform when people with completely different devotion and cultural provenance than how we in the West choose to define the world around us, claims them.


Understanding and knowledge of the differences is what is missing, not stricter laws. It’s the same thing to invent the helmet after we carried out activities that require it. Instead of stopping these activities, we choose to create a device that allows us to proceed with these activities, clearly hurting us.


Why can not resources be given to information and knowledge, the foundation to achieve understanding, rather than to expand an already heavily monitored society as a result of surrender to that which exists?


Since September 11, 2001, for example, Global Islam has become a hallmark of how a fragmented western world often sees the Muslim population affinities based on a simplified view that all the world’s Muslims are to merge under one roof. This simplification has not only proven to be extremely dangerous but also the result of a predominantly American willingness to support their own religious beliefs that good and evil exist, and if the U.S. is good it is necessary to have a clear enemy.


When it, in the direct aftermath of the attacks, proved difficult to personify this enemy, a sophisticated collaboration between political power and the Western media began. The aim was to convince, at best, the global public, but above all the domestic U.S. population, that there was an enemy and that he represented the entire Muslim world.


A symbiosis between political elites and media institutions can be regarded as an ideological position, while this position is often marked by skepticism and ignorance to things that are criticized. Since terms like dedication, faith and knowledge are often far apart, there is always a hotbed for this type of simplification and it is devastating. Without knowledge and understanding, no restrictions or legal changes will ever prevail. Rather, the opposite effect will expand and society continues to face one of its biggest challenges so far: how to turn a political and social condition dominated by fear and uncertainty.

Journalism and global financial crisis

I´m currently writing two articles on contemporary journalism in relation to political and financial spheres, and I´d like to present and reflect on my aims for the latter.

The financial crisis that recently swept over the world caused, among other things, that the total fund assets for swedish citizens at year-end from 2007-2008 to 2008-2009 has decreased in value by more than a third, from 415 billion to 262 billion. In conjunction with the financial turmoil in the world stock markets, the banks’ personal financial advice for any fund and share trading were to be subjected to harsh criticism.

One of the banks in Sweden which was hit hard by the distrust of the media and in public discourse, was Swedbank. The development has led to the fact that an unusually high number of customers have chosen to leave the bank, placing Swedbank in a difficult financial position and above all, in need for trust among customers. And it is in this gap between bank and citizen, that my interest for the media and financial journalism, is emphasized.

With a point of departure in the ongoing western political and financial transitions, whether on global economy, environmental negotiations or parliamentary politics, there is still a need for reflection on the actual upbringing of these issues as well as its consequences. In between lies an essential informative dimension, deeply rooted in contemporary diversified media society. How journalism relates to this informing ideal embedded in the journalistic profession, is always in need for academic attention.

Hence, motives for this article rests upon a keen interest in and a notion of the media as an increasing force of general advisor to people, an ethical and pragmatic guide in the jungle of complicated political and financial realities. It is my hypothesis that journalists nowadays have taken the self inflicted responsibility to advise and pedagogically interpret events for the audience, especially in time of crisis such as the recent financial breakdown in global economy.

It is particulary interesting to apply this thought on public service media since the fundamental idea of public service rests upon a press ideology of social responsibility. What ideological statements are made when news media takes on this advising role? How does this affect the power balance and relations between politicians, journalists, financial experts and citizens?

So, the overall purpose of the study is to identify and correlate the discursive constructions and mediated reproductions of the financial breakdown in the world economy during the late 2007 to the spring of 2009, using swedish public service media newsreports. By focusing on the interplay between involved actors’, constituted by journalists, politicians, financial experts and citizens, experiences and notions around the finacial crisis, the aim is to create a new theoretical understanding based on concepts like democracy, ideology and media representations.

Hopefully, I will finish this before summer 2011.

Vital leaks and citizens – Wikileaks

Cyber warfare. Wikileaks. Counterattacks.


It almost sounds like a videogame. But what lies beneath is a definite expression of how power balance in society has altered form . The political establishment, meaning parliamentary politics, has a rhetorical ground in ”representing the public” due to western definitions of democracy. Patent for this claim is now out in the open and Wikileaks doesn´t even have to express the claim, it is embedded in its whole idea of helping ordinary citizens to gain access to backstage activities, to reveal and make abuses of power, and recently also diplomatic classified material, public.


However, when going through the latest weeks of news reports, weblogs and forums, discussing Wikileaks – it seems as if the spotlight is increasingly on the need for and handling of sources; the leak for Wikileaks. Let me put the importance of leaks in a theoretical argument.


One can apply a simplified version of thought from Darwin’s theory of survival of the fittest, on to present society. If today’s motives, reasons for survival are often expressed through financial discourses and there are economic and political interests behind developments, it automatically rises a distance between citizens and the political power. The paradox is then only that Darwin’s ”strongest” literally become synonymous with political powers, while the symbolic strength lies in the people, the citizens. One bridge between selfmade political elites and the public can be terms of transperancy and flow of information.

For every journalist the relation and usage of sources is fundamental.  Leaks, individuals who supply information with different purposes, have often had to pay a steap price for their actions, and political power often express the danger of this.


But what if no one told? What if the freedom of speech is not appropriated as the free democratic sociey expects? When political powers are in position to define what is true or not, and journalists have to rely on their truth claims – we have taken a step back in the history of information and communication.


Human leaks, as being widely discussed recently surrounding Wikileaks, can of course be both controlled and influenced by other interests. But it may also be people placed at the bottom of society, which rises and calls for transparency of power, the power that is so far away at first sight. It doesn’t necessarily need to be so.

But in order to reduce this distance between rulers and citizens, it requires an audit, scrutiny, transparency, and a willingness and trust in the word. The truth, namely the will to find it, will then be the trigger mechanism for every individual to experience their own survival as a strong and vital citizen.