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The normalization of the populist radical right in news interviews: a study of journalistic reporting on the Swedish democrats

Journal article
Authors Mats Ekström
Marianna Patrona
Joanna Thornborrow
Published in Social Semiotics
ISSN 1035-0330
Publication year 2020
Published at Department of Journalism, Media and Communication (JMG)
Language en
Keywords Interviews; journalism; normalization; news discourse; populism; radical right
Subject categories Media and Communications


Focusing on the salient case of news interviewing, this paper investigates the role of journalism in the normalization of radical right-wing politics and the discourses of nationalism and nativism. Normalization is related to transformations in the socio-political landscape, the discursive strategies of political actors, the professional norms of journalism, and the discursive positioning of political views in news reporting. Data include news interviews with the leaders of the Swedish right-wing populist party, the Swedish Democrats. A discourse- and conversation analytical approach is applied to analyze the discursive representations and positioning of political views in four different contexts of interviewing: routine news events, political scandals, live two-party interviews, and set piece interviews. The study shows an overall tendency to normalize and legitimize the political views and language of the radical right. Distinctive practices and mechanisms are identified. The study highlights the challenges of journalism, related to the normalizing implications of the restricted forms of impartiality applied in news journalism.

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