Imagined Journalists: New Framework for Studying Media–Audiences Relationship in Populist Times

Ayala Panievsky*, Yossi David, Noam Gidron, Lior Sheffer

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

These are challenging times for journalists’ relationship with their audiences. Attacks against “the media” and the increasing weaponization of social media to harass journalists have drawn the attention of scholars worldwide. In the current climate, journalists are not only distrusted but also hated, which creates a series of distinct ramifications. In this article, we suggest a new framework to study journalists–audiences relationship, particularly in times of hostile populism: the imagined journalists approach. A mirror image of the much-studied concept of imagined audiences, imagined journalists refers to the entirety of ideas, feelings, stereotypes, and imaginaries that audiences hold regarding their imagined news producers. It brings together the research on media trust, audiences’ perceptions, antimedia populism, and the emotional turn in journalism—to generate a comprehensive understanding of people’s criticisms, narratives, and priorities. We demonstrate the potential of this approach by analyzing 1,215 responses to an open-ended question regarding journalists’ traits in Israel in 2021. Employing qualitative and quantitative analyses, we find that: (a) right-wing and pro-populist voters hold more negative views of journalists, as expected; (b) voters express three different types of criticism of journalists (professional, personal, and national)—only one of which directly relates to their professional conduct; (c) different types of voters express different types of criticism; and (d) while objectivity and bias remain main concerns, democracy is not a dominant factor in respondents’ thinking on journalists. These findings contribute theoretically and methodologically to future research in the field, as well as to urgent attempts to improve our information environment.

Original languageAmerican English
JournalInternational Journal of Press/Politics
DOIs
StateAccepted/In press - 2024

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2024.

Keywords

  • antimedia populism
  • audience research
  • imagined journalists
  • Israel
  • journalism
  • media trust

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