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Experts or advocates: Shifting roles of central sources used by journalists in news stories?

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This study empirically examines suspected shifts in journalist practices in western democracies regarding the granting of expert, vis-á-vis advocate, roles to central social actor types used as sources in news stories: interest groups, think tanks, and independent university researchers. The theoretical foundation includes well-established concepts, e.g., the objectivity norm; credibility; expertise; advocacy, and reporting biases. A characterization of the actor types indicates that independent researchers are prototypical experts, while interest groups and think tanks must strive to earn credibility due to ideological commitments. An analysis of Danish newstories indicates that the expert-advocate distinction is indeed blurring, including changes in journalists’ market for expertise. Of the three actors, think tanks are most frequently cast as experts, due to persistent reference to their own research. Interest groups, while mostly advocating by expressing what they find (un)desirable, rarely refer to their own research.
Independent researchers refer least often to their research, and more frequently advocate. Proposed explanations for shifting
roles include the professionalization of interest groups; the growing pervasiveness of think tanks; and the proliferation of political
undertones in university research. The discussion ends with a call for even sharper critical skills amongst journalists and audiences,
in order to skillfully navigate these remarkable shifts.
Translated title of the contributionEksperter eller fortaler: Skiftende roller for kilde, som er brugt af journalister i nyheder?
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournalism Practice
Pages (from-to)1-18
Number of pages18
Publication statusPublished - 2021

    Research areas

  • Source roles, Expertise, credibility, Advocacy, Think tanks, Interest Groups, Sourcing in news journalism, University researchers

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ID: 172792189