Media Crisis Decision Making

A Case Study of SR (Swedish Radio), SVT (Swedish Television) and TV4


Eva-Karin Olsson

Håkan Hvitfelt, Lars Nord

Stockholms universitet


The study takes as its starting point that news organizations’ actions during crises vary more than one can expect based on previous research on news work. Accordingly, the dissertation aims to move beyond the notion of news organizations as homogenous and attempts to open the ‘black box’ of news organizations’ decision making. The study is based on interviews with members of three Swedish broadcasting organizations: the Swedish Public Television (SVT), the Swedish Public Radio (SR), and TV4. The interviews focused on how the three organizations dealt with the news coverage of the September 11th 2001 terrorist attacks in the USA. The four articles included in this dissertation challenge from different perspectives the previous assumptions presented in the field of media and journalism. First, as a response to the variety of definitions of non-routine news events applied in previous research, Article I sets out to propose a definition of crisis news events from a news organizational perspective. Accordingly, the article proposes to understand crisis news as surprise events that challenge key organizational values and that demand a swift response. Second, in questioning the notion of news organizations as homogenous, Article II examines the actions taken by the three Swedish broadcasting organizations in response to 9/11. This article argues, based on a neo-institutional perspective, that news organizations’ decision making can be explained by differences in organizational ‘rule-regimes’. Third, Article III challenges the assumption that newsroom actions are homogeneous by examining two newsroom responses to 9/11, in particular their everyday organizational structures and previous experiences. The last Article (IV) applies a slightly different perspective in arguing that during crises media managers’ decisions are not only influenced by the audiences’ informational needs but also by the ritual role news organizations play in times of crises.

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  • Type:
    Doctoral Thesis (peer reviewed)
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Olsson, E. (2008). Media Crisis Decision Making: A Case Study of SR (Swedish Radio), SVT (Swedish Television) and TV4. Diss. Stockholm: Stockholms universitet.