Book Chapter

Personalized scandalization: Sensationalizing trivial conflicts?


Chapter Author
Ester Pollack

Peter Lang Publishing


This chapter discusses political scandals in Nordic countries, with a focus on recent scandals concerning norm transgressions related to the personal behaviour of politicians. Three scandals are briefly presented as illustrations, and a fourth is analysed in greater detail. A closer look at this type of scandal reveals that the ‘crime’ in question is often a relatively trivial offence, especially in legal terms. Scandalization processes are useful weapons in power struggles and conflicts between political actors. Scandals also demonstrate the influence of media organizations and journalists in political conflicts. The news media represent both the public sphere and the marketplace in which scandals are presented and developed as dramas.

This development is discussed against the background of a political-cultural climate characterized by a high degree of visibility and a political environment in which personalities have gained importance. Asp and Bjerling (2014) points to three characteristics of the ongoing change in political communication over the past four decades: the individualization of society, professionalization of politics, and institutionalization of the media. Citizens are exhibiting more individualistic forms of political behaviour, with a growing proportion of voters changing parties between elections. There has also been a shift from traditional political parties built on membership to campaign parties focused on winning elections. Media organizations today display great independence in relation to politics and political parties. As a result, we have a political system strongly influenced by the media’s way of working and thinking. Political parties adopt journalistic news values and adapt their practices to media demands. In such a context, politicians’ media performances are of heightened importance. This development can be seen as part of and a contribution to the mediatization of politics, characterized by the favouring of personalized political news with the potential for individual angles and entertaining dramatization.

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  • Type:
    Book Chapter (peer reviewed)
  • Anthology:
    The Dynamic of Mediatized Conflicts
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About the Author

Ester Pollack

Ester Pollack, PhD, is a Professor of Journalism Studies in the Department of Media Studies at Stockholm University. Her research combines sociological and historical perspectives on the relations between two of society’s institutions: journalism ... Read more


Pollack, E. (2015). Personalized scandalization: Sensationalizing trivial conflicts? In: M. Fugl, S. Hjarvard and M. Mortensen, eds., The Dynamic of Mediatized Conflicts, New York: Peter Lang Publishing.