Research

JOURNALISM & NEWS

We are interested in international comparisons of journalism and news cultures. Therefore, we examine news performance and editorial practices in different countries for print, television, online media, and social media. Emphasis is placed on content analyses of media content and the question of how news messages and story formats differ across countries and how these differences can be explained. In the area of political news, we examine news diversity, sound-bite news, metacoverage, negativity, interpretative journalism, hard and soft news, bias, personalization and game frames. An important objective of our efforts, furthermore, is the determination of criteria for evaluating journalistic quality, including in the growing online news sector. While we investigate news performance via long-term studies to track developments over time, our research traces new trends and developments in the news sector (e.g., fact checking, fake news, etc.).

 

POLITICAL COMMUNICATION

In the realm of comparative political communication, we analyze the role of media in the political process at different levels (parties, politicians, journalists, citizens, etc.). On the political stage, we are particularly interested in comparing election communication across national settings and thus study both the publicity strategies used by candidates and the news coverage by journalists. More recently, we have studied the relationship between political populism and media populism in 12 countries.  We ask how “old” and “new” media carry, shape and/or transform populist issues, frames, arguments, and communication strategies. We examine whether different news environments and societal polarization trigger different news media choices in accordance with or against personal political beliefs. We also study how young people use political communication in contemporary multi-media societies and how it affects their attitudes, knowledge and participation. Other projects focus on comparing consumption patterns and effects of political communication across larger sets of countries -- often in connection with polarization, selective exposure, political knowledge and attitudes.

 

MEDIA SYSTEMS & MEDIA CULTURES

Our research focuses on the similarities and differences between media systems, media cultures and media publics. So far, we have mostly studied Western industrialized countries, and this geographical focus has helped us to generalize and contextualize our concepts. Recently our focus has expanded, and we have entered selected collaborations with non-Western partners. Contemporary media systems are increasingly affected by meta-processes such as Americanization, Europeanization, Westernization or Globalization, which potentially challenge traditional understandings of nationally-bound media systems. This has motivated us to combine ideas of comparative research and transnationalization research. Our own empirical studies, however, show that national boundaries remain highly relevant, particularly in the area of news journalism and political communication.

 

METHODS OF COMPARATIVE RESEARCH

We are very interested in innovating the methodology of comparative research designs and are actively involved in the wider disciplinary debate on how current challenges can be overcome. We use up-to-date statistical methods to further develop existing approaches and instruments, in particular for the analysis of small country samples. This concerns both descriptive procedures for classifying cases and explanatory procedures for causal analysis, which combines quantitative and qualitative methods. A particular challenge is obtaining the relevant data from a wide array of media systems, ensuring their equivalence and comparability, integrating them in existing datasets and research designs, and analyzing them in original ways. We took the first steps toward comparative experimental research and cross-national survey studies. For this endeavor, we became familiar with relevant methods for analyzing complex multi-county datasets (SEM, Bayesian Statistics, Multi-Level-Modeling, etc.)

 

COLLABORATION & NETWORKING

The members of our unit are actively involved in leading academic associations and research networks in the field, such as the International Communication Association (ICA), International Association for Media and Communication Research (IAMCR), the European Communication Research and Education Association (ECREA), German Communication Association (DGPuk), Swiss Communication Association (SGKM), EU-funded ‘COST’ Network on Populist Political Communication in Europe or the Network of European Political Communication Scholars (NEPOCS). Team members are internationally recognized for their contributions to the field of comparative communication research, their involvement in division leadership positions of the abovementioned associations, and their membership in editorial boards of the field’s leading academic journals.