Volume 20, Issue 5
  • ISSN 1569-2159
  • E-ISSN: 1569-9862
Buy:$35.00 + Taxes



A growing literature on the impact of “fake news“ accusations on legacy news outlets suggests that the use of this term is part of a much larger trend of increased and delegitimizing media criticism by political actors. However, so far, there is very little empirical evidence on how prevailing politicians’ delegitimizing media criticism really is and under which conditions it occurs. To fill these gaps, we present results of a content analysis of media-related Facebook postings by Austrian and German politicians in 2017 ( = 2,921). The results suggest that media criticism, in general, is actually rare and that about half of it can be described as delegitimizing (i.e., characterized by incivility or absence of argumentation). Most often, media criticism is used by populist politicians, who accuse “the media” in general of bias and falsehoods.


Article metrics loading...

Loading full text...

Full text loading...


  1. Aalberg, Toril, Frank Esser, Carsten Reinemann, Jesper Strömbäck, and Claes De Vreese
    (eds) 2016Populist political communication in Europe. Routledge. 10.4324/9781315623016
    https://doi.org/10.4324/9781315623016 [Google Scholar]
  2. Aaldering, Loes, and Rens Vliegenthart
    2016 “Political leaders and the media. Can we measure political leadership images in newspapers using computer-assisted content analysis?”. Quality & Quantity50, no.5: 1871–1905. 10.1007/s11135‑015‑0242‑9
    https://doi.org/10.1007/s11135-015-0242-9 [Google Scholar]
  3. Althaus, Scott L.
    2012 “What’s good and bad in political communication research? Normative standards for evaluating media and citizen performance.” InThe SAGE handbook of political communication, ed. byHolli A. Semetko, and Margaret Scammell, 97–112, London: SAGE Publications. 10.4135/9781446201015.n9
    https://doi.org/10.4135/9781446201015.n9 [Google Scholar]
  4. Bakker, Ryan, Liesbet Hooghe, Seth Jolly, Gary Marks, Jonathan Polk, Jan Rovny, Marco Steenbergen, and Milada Vachudova
    2020 “2019 Chapel Hill Expert Survey”. Available on chesdata.eu. Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.
    [Google Scholar]
  5. Bickford, Susan
    2011 “Emotion talk and political judgment.” The Journal of Politics73, no.4: 1025–1037. 10.1017/S0022381611000740
    https://doi.org/10.1017/S0022381611000740 [Google Scholar]
  6. Carey, James W.
    1974 “Journalism and criticism: The case of an undeveloped profession.” The Review of Politics36, no.2: 227–249. 10.1017/S0034670500022579
    https://doi.org/10.1017/S0034670500022579 [Google Scholar]
  7. Carlson, Matt
    2009 “Media criticism as competitive discourse: Defining reportage of the Abu Ghraib scandal.” Journal of Communication Inquiry33, 3: 258–277. 10.1177/0196859909333693
    https://doi.org/10.1177/0196859909333693 [Google Scholar]
  8. 2016 “Embedded Links, Embedded Meanings: Social media commentary and news sharing as mundane media criticism.” Journalism Studies17, no.7: 915–924. 10.1080/1461670X.2016.1169210
    https://doi.org/10.1080/1461670X.2016.1169210 [Google Scholar]
  9. 2017Journalistic authority: Legitimating news in the digital era. Columbia University Press. 10.7312/carl17444
    https://doi.org/10.7312/carl17444 [Google Scholar]
  10. Cheruiyot, David
    2018 “Popular Criticism That Matters: Journalists’ perspectives of ‘quality’ media critique.” Journalism Practice12, no.8: 1008–1018. 10.1080/17512786.2018.1494511
    https://doi.org/10.1080/17512786.2018.1494511 [Google Scholar]
  11. Cheruiyot, D.
    2019 Criticising Journalism: Popular Media Criticism in the Digital Age (Doctoral dissertation, Karlstads universitet).
    [Google Scholar]
  12. Coe, Kevin, Kate Kenski, and Stephen A. Rains
    2014 “Online and uncivil? Patterns and determinants of incivility in newspaper website comments.” Journal of Communication64, no.4: 658–679. 10.1111/jcom.12104
    https://doi.org/10.1111/jcom.12104 [Google Scholar]
  13. Dahlgren, Peter
    2005 “The Internet, public spheres, and political communication: Dispersion and deliberation.” Political Communication22, no.2: 147–162. 10.1080/10584600590933160
    https://doi.org/10.1080/10584600590933160 [Google Scholar]
  14. Denner, Nora, and Christina Peter
    2017 „Der Begriff Lügenpresse in deutschen Tageszeitungen.“ [The term lying press in German newspapers]. Publizistik62, no.3: 273–297. 10.1007/s11616‑017‑0354‑4
    https://doi.org/10.1007/s11616-017-0354-4 [Google Scholar]
  15. Die Presse
    Die Presse (2017, July3). “Pröll-Privatstiftung: Zivilprozess um ‘Fake News’-Vorwurf” [Pröll Private Foundation: Civil Suit Over ‘fake News’ Accusation]. https://www.diepresse.com/5245707/proll-privatstiftung-zivilprozess-um-fake-news-vorwurf?direct=5252669%26_vl_backlink%3D%2Fhome%2Finnenpolitik%2F5252669%2Findex.do%26selChannel%3D
  16. Farkas, Johan, and Jannick Schou
    2018 “Fake news as a floating signifier: Hegemony, antagonism and the politics of falsehood. “Javnost-The Public25, no.3: 298–314. 10.1080/13183222.2018.1463047
    https://doi.org/10.1080/13183222.2018.1463047 [Google Scholar]
  17. Eberl, Jakob-Moritz, Hajo Boomgaarden, and Markus Wagner
    2017 “One bias fits all? Three types of media bias and their effects on party preferences.” Communication Research44, no.8: 1125–1148. 10.1177/0093650215614364
    https://doi.org/10.1177/0093650215614364 [Google Scholar]
  18. Egelhofer, Jana Laura, Loes Aaldering, Jakob-Moritz Eberl, Sebastian Galyga, and Sophie Lecheler
    2020 “From novelty to normalization? How journalists use the term ‘fake news’ in their reporting.” Journalism Studies21, no.10, 1323–1343. 10.1080/1461670X.2020.1745667
    https://doi.org/10.1080/1461670X.2020.1745667 [Google Scholar]
  19. Egelhofer, Jana Laura and Sophie Lecheler
    2019 “Fake news as a two-dimensional phenomenon: a framework and research agenda.” Annals of the International Communication Association43, no.2: 97–116. 10.1080/23808985.2019.1602782
    https://doi.org/10.1080/23808985.2019.1602782 [Google Scholar]
  20. Engesser, Sven, Nicole Ernst, Frank Esser and Florin Büchel
    2016 “Populism and social media: How politicians spread a fragmented ideology.” Information, Communication & Society20, no.8: 1109–1126. 10.1080/1369118X.2016.1207697
    https://doi.org/10.1080/1369118X.2016.1207697 [Google Scholar]
  21. Ernst, Nicole, Sven Engesser, Florin Büchel, Sina Blassnig, and Frank Esser
    2017 “Extreme parties and populism: an analysis of Facebook and Twitter across six countries.” Information, Communication & Society20, no.9: 1347–1364. 10.1080/1369118X.2017.1329333
    https://doi.org/10.1080/1369118X.2017.1329333 [Google Scholar]
  22. Farhall, Kate, Andrea Carson, Scott Wright, Andrew Gibbons, and William Lukamto
    2019 “Political Elites’ Use of Fake News Discourse Across Communications Platforms.” International Journal of Communication13 (2019): 4353–4375.
    [Google Scholar]
  23. Fawzi, Nayla
    2019 “Untrustworthy news and the media as ‘enemy of the people?’ How a populist worldview shapes recipients’ attitudes toward the media.” The International Journal of Press/Politics24, no.2: 146–164. 10.1177/1940161218811981
    https://doi.org/10.1177/1940161218811981 [Google Scholar]
  24. 2020 “Right-Wing Populist Media Criticism.” InPerspectives on Populism and the Media, ed. byBenjamin Krämer and Christina Holtz-Bacha, 39–56. Nomos Verlagsgesellschaft mbH & Co. KG. 10.5771/9783845297392‑39
    https://doi.org/10.5771/9783845297392-39 [Google Scholar]
  25. Figenschou, Tine Ustad and Karoline Andrea Ihlebæk
    2019 “Challenging Journalistic Authority: Media criticism in far-right alternative media.” Journalism Studies20, no.9: 1221–1237. 10.1080/1461670X.2018.1500868
    https://doi.org/10.1080/1461670X.2018.1500868 [Google Scholar]
  26. Friess, Dennis, and Christiane Eilders
    2015 “A systematic review of online deliberation research.” Policy & Internet7, no.3: 319–339. 10.1002/poi3.95
    https://doi.org/10.1002/poi3.95 [Google Scholar]
  27. Guess, Andrew, Brendan Nyhan, and Jason Reifler
    2017 “’You’re fake news!’ The 2017 Poynter media trust survey.” Retrieved fromhttps://poyntercdn.blob.core.windows.net/files/PoynterMediaTrustSurvey2017.pdf
  28. Gründl, Johann
    2020 “Populist ideas on social media: A dictionary-based measurement of populist communication.” New Media & Society. doi:  10.1177/1461444820976970
    https://doi.org/10.1177/1461444820976970 [Google Scholar]
  29. Hameleers, Michael
    2020a “My Reality Is More Truthful Than Yours: Radical Right-Wing Politicians’ and Citizens’ Construction of ‘Fake’ and ‘Truthfulness’ on Social Media – Evidence From the United States and The Netherlands.” International Journal of Communication14 (2020): 1135–1152.
    [Google Scholar]
  30. 2020b “Populist disinformation: Exploring intersections between online populism and disinformation in the US and the Netherlands.” Politics and Governance8, no.1: 146–157. 10.17645/pag.v8i1.2478
    https://doi.org/10.17645/pag.v8i1.2478 [Google Scholar]
  31. Haller, André and Kristoffer Holt
    2019 “Paradoxical populism: How PEGIDA relates to mainstream and alternative media.” Information, Communication & Society22, no.12: 1665–1680. 10.1080/1369118X.2018.1449882
    https://doi.org/10.1080/1369118X.2018.1449882 [Google Scholar]
  32. Holt, Kristoffer, and André Haller
    2017 “What Does ‘Lügenpresse’ Mean? Expressions of Media Distrust on PEGIDA’s Facebook Pages.” Politik20, no.4: 42–57. 10.7146/politik.v20i4.101534
    https://doi.org/10.7146/politik.v20i4.101534 [Google Scholar]
  33. Humprecht, Edda, Frank Esser, and Peter Van Aelst
    2020 “Resilience to online disinformation: A framework for cross-national comparative research.” The International Journal of Press/Politics25, no.3: 493–516. 10.1177/1940161219900126
    https://doi.org/10.1177/1940161219900126 [Google Scholar]
  34. Humprecht, Edda, Lea Hellmueller, and Juliane A. Lischka
    2020 “Hostile Emotions in News Comments: A Cross-National Analysis of Facebook Discussions.” Social Media+ Society6, no.1: 1–12. 10.1177/2056305120912481
    https://doi.org/10.1177/2056305120912481 [Google Scholar]
  35. Jagers, Jan and Stefaan Walgrave
    2007 “Populism as political communication style: An empirical study of political parties’ discourse in Belgium. European Journal of Political Research” 46, no.3: 319–345. 10.1111/j.1475‑6765.2006.00690.x
    https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1475-6765.2006.00690.x [Google Scholar]
  36. Jamieson, Kathleen Hall, Allyson Volinsky, Ilana Weitz, and Kate Kenski
    2017 “The political uses and abuses of civility and incivility.” The Oxford handbook of political communication, ed. byKate Kenski and Kathleen Hall Jamieson, 205–218, Oxford University Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  37. King, Gary and Langche Zeng
    2001 “Logistic regression in rare events data.” Political analysis9, no.2: 137–163. 10.1093/oxfordjournals.pan.a004868
    https://doi.org/10.1093/oxfordjournals.pan.a004868 [Google Scholar]
  38. Kritzinger, Sylvia, Julian Aichholzer, Nico Büttner, Jakob-Moritz Eberl, Thomas Meyer, Carolina Plescia, Markus Wagner, Davide Morisi, Hajo Boomgaarden and Wolfgang C. Müller
    2018 “AUTNES Multi-Mode Panel Study 2017” – Documentation. Vienna: AUSSDA. doi:  10.11587/NXDDPE
  39. Ladd, Jonathan M.
    2012Why Americans hate the media and how it matters. Princeton University Press. 10.1515/9781400840359
    https://doi.org/10.1515/9781400840359 [Google Scholar]
  40. Lakoff, George. Interviewed by Kurtzleben, Danielle
    2017 (February17). “With ‘Fake News,’ Trump Moves from Alternative Facts to Alternative Language.” https://www.npr.org/2017/02/17/515630467/with-fake-news-trump-moves-from-alternative-facts-to-alternative-language
  41. Lischka, Juliane
    2019 “A badge of honor? How The New York Times discredits President Trump’s fake news accusations.” Journalism Studies20, no.2: 287–304. 10.1080/1461670X.2017.1375385
    https://doi.org/10.1080/1461670X.2017.1375385 [Google Scholar]
  42. Löfgren Nilsson, Monica, and Henrik Örnebring
    2016 “Journalism under threat: Intimidation and harassment of Swedish journalists.” Journalism Practice10, no.7: 880–890. 10.1080/17512786.2016.1164614
    https://doi.org/10.1080/17512786.2016.1164614 [Google Scholar]
  43. Lombard, Mathew, Jennifer Snyder-Duch, and Cheryl Bracken
    2002 “Content analysis in mass communication: Assessment and reporting of intercoder reliability.” Human communication research28, no.4: 587–604. 10.1111/j.1468‑2958.2002.tb00826.x
    https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1468-2958.2002.tb00826.x [Google Scholar]
  44. Masullo Chen, Gina, and Shuning Lu
    2017 “Online political discourse: Exploring differences in effects of civil and uncivil disagreement in news website comments.” Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media61, 1: 108–125. 10.1080/08838151.2016.1273922
    https://doi.org/10.1080/08838151.2016.1273922 [Google Scholar]
  45. Masullo Chen, Gina, Paromita Pain, Victoria Y. Chen, Madlin Mekelburg, Nina Springer, and Franziska Troger
    2020 “‘You really have to have a thick skin’: A cross-cultural perspective on how online harassment influences female journalists.” Journalism21, no.7, 877–895. 10.1177/1464884918768500
    https://doi.org/10.1177/1464884918768500 [Google Scholar]
  46. Maurer, Marcus, Pablo Jost, Jörg Haßler, and Simon Kruschinski
    2019 „Auf den Spuren der Lügenpresse.“ [On the trail of the liar press]. Publizistik64, no.1: 15–35. 10.1007/s11616‑018‑00466‑y
    https://doi.org/10.1007/s11616-018-00466-y [Google Scholar]
  47. Meeks, Lindsey
    2020 “Defining the Enemy: How Donald Trump Frames the News Media.” Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly, 97, no.1: 211–234. 10.1177/1077699019857676
    https://doi.org/10.1177/1077699019857676 [Google Scholar]
  48. Mudde, Cas
    2004 “The populist zeitgeist.” Government and opposition39, no.4: 541–563. 10.1111/j.1477‑7053.2004.00135.x
    https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1477-7053.2004.00135.x [Google Scholar]
  49. Naab, Teresa K., Dominique Heinbach, Marc Ziegele, and Marie-Theres Grasberger
    2020 “Comments and credibility: how critical user comments decrease perceived news article credibility.” Journalism Studies21, no.6: 783–801. 10.1080/1461670X.2020.1724181
    https://doi.org/10.1080/1461670X.2020.1724181 [Google Scholar]
  50. Newman, Nic, Richard Fletcher, Antonis Kalogeropoulos, David Levy, and Rasmus K. Nielsen
    2018 “Reuters Institute Digital News Report 2018.”
    [Google Scholar]
  51. Newman, Nic, Richard Fletcher, Antonis Kalogeropoulos, and Rasmus K. Nielsen
    2019 “Reuters Institute Digital News Report 2019.”
    [Google Scholar]
  52. Otto, Lukas P., Sophie Lecheler, and Andreas RT Schuck
    2020 “Is context the key? The (non-) differential effects of mediated incivility in three European countries.” Political Communication37, 1: 88–107. 10.1080/10584609.2019.1663324
    https://doi.org/10.1080/10584609.2019.1663324 [Google Scholar]
  53. Prochazka, Fabian, Patrick Weber, and Wolfgang Schweiger
    2018 “Effects of civility and reasoning in user comments on perceived journalistic quality.” Journalism Studies19, no.1: 62–78. 10.1080/1461670X.2016.1161497
    https://doi.org/10.1080/1461670X.2016.1161497 [Google Scholar]
  54. Quarfoot, David, and Richard A. Levine
    2016 “How robust are multirater interrater reliability indices to changes in frequency distribution?” The American Statistician70, no.4: 373–384. 10.1080/00031305.2016.1141708
    https://doi.org/10.1080/00031305.2016.1141708 [Google Scholar]
  55. Reporters without Borders
    Reporters without Borders (2018) RSF Index 2018: “Hatred of journalism threatens democracies.” Retrieved fromhttps://rsf.org/en/rsf-index-2018-hatred-journalism-threatens-democracies
  56. Reporters without Borders
    Reporters without Borders (2019) “2019 World Press Freedom Index.”
    [Google Scholar]
  57. Rooduijn, Matthijs, Stijn Van Kessel, Caterina Froio, Andrea Pirro, Sarah De Lange, Daphne Halikiopoulou, Paul Lewis, Cas Mudde, and Paul Taggart
    2019 “The PopuList: An Overview of Populist, Far Right, Far Left and Eurosceptic Parties in Europe.” www.popu-list.org
  58. Schulz, Anne, Werner Wirth, and Philipp Müller
    2018 “We are the people and you are fake news: A social identity approach to populist citizens’ false consensus and hostile media perceptions.” Communication Research47, no.2: 201–226. 10.1177/0093650218794854
    https://doi.org/10.1177/0093650218794854 [Google Scholar]
  59. Sobieraj, Sarah, and Jeffrey B. Berry
    2011 “From incivility to outrage: Political discourse in blogs, talk radio, and cable news.” Political Communication28, no.1: 19–41. 10.1080/10584609.2010.542360
    https://doi.org/10.1080/10584609.2010.542360 [Google Scholar]
  60. Solis, Jonathan A., and Iñaki Sagarzazu
    2020 “The Media Smells like Sulfur!!! Leaders and Verbal Attacks against the Fourth Estate in Unconsolidated Democracies.” Political Communication37, no.1: 20–45. 10.1080/10584609.2019.1660440
    https://doi.org/10.1080/10584609.2019.1660440 [Google Scholar]
  61. Tsfati, Yariv and Jonathan Cohen
    2005 “Democratic Consequences of Hostile Media Perceptions: The Case of Gaza Settlers.” The Harvard International Journal of Press/Politics10, no.4: 28–51. 10.1177/1081180X05280776
    https://doi.org/10.1177/1081180X05280776 [Google Scholar]
  62. Van Aelst, Peter, Jesper Strömbäck, Toril Aalberg, Frank Esser, Claes De Vreese, Jörg Matthes, David Hopmann
    2017 “Political communication in a high-choice media environment: a challenge for democracy?” Annals of the International Communication Association41, no.1: 3–27. 10.1080/23808985.2017.1288551
    https://doi.org/10.1080/23808985.2017.1288551 [Google Scholar]
  63. Van Dalen, Arjen
    2019 “Rethinking journalist–politician relations in the age of populism: How outsider politicians delegitimize mainstream journalists.” Journalism. doi:  10.1177/1464884919887822
    https://doi.org/10.1177/1464884919887822 [Google Scholar]
  64. Waisbord, Silvio
    2018 “The elective affinity between post-truth communication and populist politics.” Communication Research and Practice4, no.1: 17–34. 10.1080/22041451.2018.1428928
    https://doi.org/10.1080/22041451.2018.1428928 [Google Scholar]
  65. Wyatt, Wendy. N.
    2007Critical conversations: A theory of press criticism. Cresskill, NJ: Hampton Press, Inc.
    [Google Scholar]
  66. 2019 “Press criticism” The International Encyclopedia of Journalism Studies, ed. byTim P. Vos and Folker Hanusch, 1–9, John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
    [Google Scholar]

Data & Media loading...

This is a required field
Please enter a valid email address
Approval was successful
Invalid data
An Error Occurred
Approval was partially successful, following selected items could not be processed due to error