“There Must be Room for Critical Questions, but … ”: A News Audience Perspective on (In)decorous Journalistic Roles in the Emergence Phase of a Health Crisis

Lene Heiselberg*, Rasmus Rønlev

*Kontaktforfatter

Publikation: Bidrag til tidsskriftTidsskriftartikelForskningpeer review

Abstract

In this article, we study how journalists may discursively balance their different and, at times, conflicting roles in the emergence phase of a health crisis in order not to violate news audience respondents’ sense of decorum, i.e., propriety or appropriateness in a communication situation. Based on 21 in-depth interviews with Danish news users about the questions posed by journalists to politicians and public officials in the emergence phase of the corona (COVID-19) pandemic, we identify the types of questions that news users deem, respectively, proper, improper and (in)appropriate, the latter referring to questions that the news users perceive as neither clearly decorous nor indecorous, but highly dependent on situational finesse and discursive adaptation. Findings suggest that in the eyes of respondents, critical questions in particular may be inappropriate and, thus, particularly discursively demanding in the emergence phase of a health crisis. However, respondents’ responses were contradictory, indicating that in the context of a democratic, corporatist media system respondents are reluctant to challenge journalists’ ideal role as democracy’s watchdog even under extreme circumstances.
OriginalsprogEngelsk
TidsskriftJournalism Practice
ISSN1751-2786
DOI
StatusE-pub ahead of print - sep. 2023

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