Professionalism as a Response to Right-Wing Populism? An Analysis of a Metajournalistic Discourse
The rise of right-wing populism in various countries poses difficult challenges to journalism: While populists themselves often accuse journalists of being biased against them or even of lying, critics allege that the mainstream media cover populism too extensively and normalize it. We reconstruct an understudied perspective on this problem: how journalists publicly discuss how to deal with right-wing populism. A qualitative analysis of metajournalistic discourses in the German press was conducted to identify typical narratives concerning the relationship between right-wing populism and the media, criticism of the way right-wing populism had been covered, and recommendations or demands concerning the “right” approach. Overall, the analysis reveals a rather uniform narrative about right-wing populism in Germany, and similar conceptions of how to deal with it were found. Most journalists make a clear distinction between the right and wrong way to cope with right-wing populism and emphasize the need for professional norms such as objectivity. Finally, we critically discuss some aspects that may inform metajournalistic reflection on how to cover right-wing populism, but that were absent from the debate.