The Hybridization of Political Communication

Politicized News Formats and the Boundaries of Journalism


Duration: 2022 – 2024

Research Areas
Journalism Studies, Media and Communication Studies


Over the last decade, digital transformations towards a hybrid media system have resulted in a breakdown of boundaries between producers and consumers of news, between professional journalists and public relations specialists, and between journalism and strategic political communication, presented as “alternative media”, “native advertising”, or at worst in “fake news” formats. In the political domain, these changes are connected to strengthened professionalization within political parties, which have changed how they operate strategically to influence public opinion in digital media settings. Political actors are less dependent on journalistic gatekeepers to spread their messages, since they can circumvent journalists and communicate directly with citizens through their own channels. Parties across the entire political spectrum mobilize considerable resources in order to create a variety of new media projects such as online news sites, podcasts, digital television programs, and various social media activities where news provision plays a central role. Experiences from other countries show that politicized news formats can increase political interest and mobilize certain voter groups during elections, but they may also contribute to political and affective polarization as well as increased distrust in politicians and news media institutions. The purpose of this project is to critically advance the understanding of political communication in the contemporary hybrid media system by turning a spotlight on what we call parasitic news. We define parasitic news as political communication practices that mimic journalistic formats and genres, and that seek to utilize the trustworthiness and institutional legitimacy of professional journalism in order to produce and distribute information for political purposes. In four work packages, we comparatively analyze the production, content, and circulation of such news during the 2022 national election in Sweden across the whole political spectrum. The project employs quantitative, qualitative and computational methods. Researchers are Andreas Widholm (project leader) and Mattias Ekman.

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About the Members

Mattias Ekman

Mattias Ekman is Associate Professor in Media- and Communication Studies and the director of studies for the undergraduate and master programmes. Ekman is currently heading the research project “Interactive Racism in Swedish Online Media, Press ... Read more

Andreas Widholm

Andreas Widholm is Associate Professor of journalism in the Department of Media Studies at Stockholm University, Sweden. He received his PhD from the same department in 2011. His research addresses the relationship between media, politics and cult... Read more