International & Comparative Media Research

Research and teaching in our unit focuses on the area of international and comparative approaches to media and communication research. We pursue comparative cross-national research questions in a wide area of subfields, mainly in Journalism & News, Political Communication, Media Systems & Media Cultures as well as Methodology.

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We are interested in international comparisons of journalism and news cultures. Therefore, we examine the professional attitudes of journalists and their editorial practices in different countries and do this for print, television and online media. Emphasis is placed on content analyses of media content and the question of how news messages and story formats differ across countries and how these differences can be explained. In the area of political news we examine sound-bite news, metacoverage, negativity, interpretative journalism, hard and soft news, bias, personalization or game frames. Additionally, we are interested in science and risk coverage. In interviews with news workers we are also keen to identify journalism cultures across borders. An important objective of our efforts, furthermore, is the determining of criteria for evaluating journalistic quality – including in the growing online news sector. Because of this, in addition to professional journalism we are also examining user-based forms of participatory journalism.


Within the realm of comparative political communication we analyze the role of media in the political process at the local, national and European level. We are particularly interested in comparing election communication across national settings and thus study both the publicity strategies by candidates and the news coverage by journalists. Several of our projects center on the concept of “mediatization of politics,” which refers to the growing intrusion of the news media in politics and which political actors respond to it. Outside election campaigns we are interested in strategic communication by government bodies (on the national and EU level); this also includes news management in times of war. With respect to effects we examine how young people use political communication (in contemporary multi-media societies) and how it affects their attitudes, knowledge and participation. More recently we have begun to study the relationship between political populism and media populism in 12 countries.


Our research focuses on the similarities and differences between media systems, media cultures and media publics. So far we have mostly studied Western industrialized countries, and this geographical focus has helped us to generalize and contextualize our concepts. Recently our focus has expanded, and we have entered selected collaborations with non-Western partners. Contemporary media systems are increasingly affected by meta-processes like Americanization, Europeanization, Westernization or Globalization, which potentially challenge the traditional understandings of national-bound media systems. This has motivated us to combine ideas of comparative research and transnationalization research. Our own empirical studies, however, show that national boundaries remain highly relevant, particularly in the area of news journalism.


We are very interested in innovating the methodology of comparative research designs and are actively involved in the wider disciplinary debate on how current challenges can be overcome. We use up-to-date statistical methods and try to develop existing approaches and instruments further, in particular for the analysis of small country samples. This concerns both descriptive procedures for classifying cases and explanatory procedures for causal analysis which combines quantitative and qualitative methods. A particular challenge is to obtain the relevant data from a wide array of media systems, to ensure their equivalence and comparability, to integrate them in existing data sets and research designs, and to analyze them in original ways.


The members of our unit are active members of the leading professional associations in the field, such as the International Communication Association (ICA), International Association for Media and Communication Research (IAMCR), the European Communication Research and Education Association (ECREA) or the Network of European Political Communication Scholars (NEPOCS). All team members are internationally recognized for their contributions to the field of comparative communication research and their involvement in the leadership of scholarly associations and academic journals.