Detached or Interventionist? Comparing the Performance of Watchdog Journalism in Transitional, Advanced and Non-democratic Countries

Mireya Márquez-Ramírez, Claudia Mellado, María Luisa Humanes, Adriana Amado, Daniel Beck, Sergey Davydov, Jacques Mick, Cornelia Mothes, Dasniel Olivera, Nikos Panagiotu, Sergio Roses, Henry Silke, Colin Sparks, Agnieszka Stępińska, Gabriella Szabó, Edson Tandoc, Haiyan Wang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

56 Scopus citations

Abstract

This study proposes the interventionist and the detached orientations to watchdog journalism through the conceptual lens of journalistic role performance. Based on a content analysis of 33,640 news stories from sixty-four media outlets in eighteen countries, we measure and compare both orientations across different countries using three performative aspects of monitoring: intensity of scrutiny, voice of the scrutiny, and source of the event. Our findings show that the interventionist approach of watchdog journalism is more likely to be found in democracies with traditionally partisan and opinion-oriented journalistic cultures or experiencing sociopolitical crises. In turn, the detached orientation predominates in democracies with journalistic traditions associated to objectivity. Although both orientations have a lower presence in transitional democracies, the detached watchdog prevails, while in non-democratic countries the watchdog role is almost absent. Our results also reveal that structural contexts of undemocratic political regimes and restricted press freedom are key definers of watchdog role performance overall. However, the type of political regime is actually more important—and in fact the most important predictor—for detached than for interventionist reporting.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)53-75
Number of pages23
JournalInternational Journal of Press/Politics
Volume25
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2020

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The author(s) disclosed receipt of the following financial support for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article: The authors wish to thank the following funders: Conselho Nacional de Desenvolvimento Científico e Tecnológico in Brazil; Hong Kong University Grants Council GRF Grant 12406914; Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF); Dirección de Investigación de la Universidad Iberoamericana Ciudad de México; and Chile’s National Fund for Scientific and Technological Development (FONDECYT) Grant 1150153.

Funding Information:
The authors wish to acknowledge the investigators and research teams participating in the first wave of the Journalistic Role Performance project, to which this study adheres. They were in charge of conducting the content analysis in their respective countries: Adriana Amado, Universidad Argentina de la Empresa; Daniel Beck, University of Fribourg; Sergey Davydov, Higher School of Economics (HSE), Moscow; Wolfgang Donsbach, Dresden University of Technology; Regula Hänggli, University of Fribourg; Lea Hellmueller, University of Houston; María Luisa Humanes, University Rey Juan Carlos; Ewa Jurga-Wosik, The Adam Mickiewicz University; Maria Lauber, University of Fribourg; Olga Logunova, HSE, Moscow; Mireya Márquez-Ramírez, Universidad Iberoamericana Ciudad de México; Claudia Mellado, Pontificia Universidad Católica de Valparaíso; Jacques Mick, Universidade Federal de Santa Catarina; Cornelia Mothes, Dresden University of Technology; Dominika Narozna, The Adam Mickiewicz University; Dasniel Olivera, Universidad de La Habana; Nikos Panagiotou, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki; Svetlana Pasti, University of Tampere; Paschal Preston, Dublin City University; Manuel Puppis, University of Fribourg; Patric Raemy, University of Fribourg; Sergio Roses, University of Malaga; Nicolás Rotelli, Flacso Argentina; Anna Maria Schielicke, Dresden University of Technology; Bartlomiej Secler, The Adam Mickiewicz University; Eugenia Siapera, Dublin City University; Henry Silke, University of Limerick; Colin Sparks, Hong Kong Baptist University; Agnieszka Stępińska, The Adam Mickiewicz University; Gabriella Szabó, Hungarian Academy of Sciences; Edson Tandoc Jr., Nanyang Technological University; Moniza Waheed, Universiti Putra; and Haiyan Wang, Sun Yat-Sen University. We are also in debt to our research assistants for their work in each country and to the anonymous reviewers for their invaluable suggestions. The author(s) disclosed receipt of the following financial support for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article: The authors wish to thank the following funders: Conselho Nacional de Desenvolvimento Científico e Tecnológico in Brazil; Hong Kong University Grants Council GRF Grant 12406914; Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF); Dirección de Investigación de la Universidad Iberoamericana Ciudad de México; and Chile’s National Fund for Scientific and Technological Development (FONDECYT) Grant 1150153.

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2019.

Keywords

  • comparative studies
  • journalism
  • journalistic performance
  • professional roles
  • watchdog role

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