It is a truism that political journalism is not the same everywhere at all times. Political journalism is constantly developing; it has a reciprocal relationship with politics, it is highly responsive to changes in society, and it is itself responsible for social changes. Our starting point in Chapter 1 was that different conditions lead to differences in the content of political journalism, and these differences in content are likely to have different effects on different segments of the population. This starting point may seem tautologous, but our actual knowledge about the relationships between conditions and content, and content and its effects, is limited – particularly regarding the dynamics of these relationships.
In this book we investigate political journalism cross-nationally and test, reassess, and further develop a set of key propositions regarding the influence of news media on the general public, at a time when the nature of political reporting has changed. We refused to join a vocal chorus of pessimism and negativity about the quality of political journalism a priori. Instead, we expected that some types of journalism would be conducive to political knowledge, audience satisfaction, and engaged citizenship, whereas other types of journalism would have either less positive or no effects.