How Media Inform Democracy: A Comparative Approach, 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

How Media Inform Democracy

A Comparative Approach, 1st Edition

Edited by Toril Aalberg, James Curran


244 pages

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In this timely book, leading researchers consider how media inform democracy in six countries – the United States, the United Kingdom, Belgium, the Netherlands, Norway, and Sweden. Taking as their starting point the idea that citizens need to be briefed adequately with a full and intelligent coverage of public affairs so that they can make responsible, informed choices rather than act out of ignorance and misinformation, contributors use a comparative approach to examine the way in which the shifting media landscape is affecting and informing the democratic process across the globe. In particular, they ask:

  • Can a comparative approach provide us with new answers to the question of how media inform democracy?
  • Has increased commercialization made media systems more similar and affected equally the character of news and public knowledge throughout the USA and Europe?
  • Is soft news and misinformation predominantly related to an American exceptionalism, based on the market domination of its media and marginalized public broadcaster?

This study combines a content analysis of press and television news with representative surveys in six nations. It makes an indispensable contribution to debates about media and democracy, and about changes in media systems. It is especially useful for media theory, comparative media, and political communication courses.


'The book is rich with interesting findings…a vital addition to both scholars and society.' – MichaelKarlsson, Global Media Journal

Table of Contents

Contents Lists of Tables and Figures Acknowledgements I: Introduction 1: How Media Inform Democracy: Central Debates, Toril Aalberg and James Curran 2: Research Design, Toril Aalberg, Zan Strabac and Tove Brekken II: How Media Provides Political Information 3: Media Systems and the Political Information Environment. A Cross-National Comparisons, Toril Aalberg, Peter van Aelst and James Curran 4: The Political Information Environment during Election Campaigns, Peter van Aelst, Kjersti Thorbjørnsrud and Toril Aalberg 5: News Substance: The Relative Importance of Soft and De-contextualized News, Tove Brekken, Kjersti Thorbjørnsrud and Toril Aalberg III: How Media Affects Public Knowledge And Perceptions 6: News Content, Media Use and Current Affairs Knowledge, James Curran, Sharon Coen, Toril Aalberg and Shanto Iyengar 7: Media, Political Trust and Political Knowledge: A Comparative Perspective, Kees Aarts, Audun Fladmoe and Jesper Strömbäck 8: Does Knowledge of Hard News go with Knowledge of Soft News? A Cross-National Analysis of the Structure of Public Affairs Knowledge, Kyu S. Hahn, Shanto Iyengar, Peter van Aelst and James Curran 9: Informed Citizens, Media Use and Public Knowledge of Parties Policy Positions, Anders Todal Jenssen, Toril Aalberg and Kees Aarts 10: The Financial Crises as a Global News Event: Cross-National Media Coverage and Public Knowledge of Economic Affairs, Jesper Strömbäck, Anders Todal Jenssen and Toril Aalberg 11: News Consumption and Public Opposition to Immigration across Countries, Zan Strabac, Kjersti Thorbjørnsrud and Anders Todal Jenssen 12: Conclusion, Toril Aalberg and James Curran Bibliography Index

About the Editors

Toril Aalberg is Associate Professor of Media Sociology at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology in Trondheim, Norway.

James Curran is Director of the Goldsmiths Leverhulme Media Research Centre and Professor of Communications at Goldsmiths, University of London, UK. He is the author or editor of 20 books about the media, some in conjunction with others. These include Media and Democracy (Routledge, 2011), Media and Society, 5th edition (2010, Bloomsbury), Power Without Responsibility, 7th edition (with Jean Seaton, 2010, Routledge) and Media and Power (2002, Routledge), translated into five languages.

About the Series

Routledge New Developments in Communication and Society Research

This series is devoted to innovative research in media and cultural studies. It will prioritize new directions of research, with an orientation towards work that is critical of contemporary media and society and that seeks to integrate theory and empirical research.

Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
LANGUAGE ARTS & DISCIPLINES / Communication Studies
POLITICAL SCIENCE / Political Ideologies / Democracy
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Media Studies