When Can Governments Shape the News?: Insights from Social Network Analysis
25 Pages Posted: 13 Aug 2009 Last revised: 16 Sep 2009
Date Written: 2009
This paper is part of a larger project that sets out to explore the utility of network concepts for political communications research. In recent years there have been efforts to develop the theoretical basis of political communications research using approaches from institutionalist sociology and Bourdieuan field theory (Cook 1998, Sparrow 1999, Benson and Neveu 2005). I would argue that a network approach offers advantages over these in its ability to link a sophisticated theoretical language to a rigorous methodological approach. The paper is organized in four sections. In the first I outline some of the challenges facing political communications research, in the second I explore the various elements of network analysis and how they differ from other ‘network’ approaches. The third section offers an example of how network analysis concepts can be used to investigate the way in which network structure shapes the news in Anglo-American liberal media systems and in Northern European media systems. I explore this question from a micro level, looking at the way network configuration shapes the exchange between journalists and their sources and then at a meso level using the Dutch case as an example of how the embedding of media organizations within a broader set of social relations can shape the news. This section demonstrates that network approaches can both account for standard research findings and generate new hypotheses. The final section of the paper introduces some additional implications of a network perspective for political communications research.
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