22 December 2017 | EPS | Calls

CfP: The Decline of the Gatekeepers? Political Communication in Challenging Times

In their seminal piece published nearly a decade ago, Bennett and Iyengar (2008) argued that drastic shifts in global communications challenged the foundations of political communication. During the ensuing decade, the upheaval caused by these trends has only increased: political rhetoric is increasingly populist, media fragmentation continues unabated, internet-based communication continues its rapid rise, and the disintegration of the mass public seems a given.

These trends fundamentally affect all subfields of political communication, though their precise impact remains poorly understood. Political elites seem to increasingly circumvent the traditional gatekeepers – the mass media – opting to communicate directly with the public instead. This has caused shifts in electoral politics, with electoral wins for populist and outsider candidates that are able to effectively communicate with the public directly. This direct communication between politicians and the public also raises questions regarding the public’s perceptions of politics, especially in a context of declining political trust. The media themselves are perhaps most shaken by these trends: their role as gatekeepers is in decline, but so is their role as privileged content creators. The rise of internet communications has democratized content creation, which challenges traditional conceptions of political journalism and news creation, with various pundits even claiming that we are living in an era of ‘post-truth politics’ in which fake news flourishes. How has this affected the relationships between media and its key audiences – political elites and the mass public? The public seems to grow increasingly wary of media and journalists, who seem to have lost their monopoly as providers of truth. The disintegration of the mass public also challenges existing media effects theories, and the way in which political communication affects electoral outcomes. Similarly, the power balance between journalists and politicians may have shifted towards politics, with journalists being increasingly circumvented and criticized.

This section seeks to bring together scholars investigating the impact of these challenges on the various subfields of political communication. Although the section is open to contemporary work on political communication in general, it particularly invites theoretical and empirical contributions addressing the impact of the declining role of legacy news media on the relationships between politics, media and the public.

We invite paper givers to consider the panel descriptions below, but we are also open to submissions that do not seem to fit any of the panels at first glance. Any questions can be addressed to the panel organisers. Formal submissions have to be made via the ECPR website (and not via the panel organisers). 

Important dates: deadline 15 February 2018

Conference: 22-25 August 2018, Hamburg

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