Post-normal journalism: Climate journalism and its changing contribution to an unsustainable debate (2017)


Deliberative public sphere theories ascribe an ‘epistemic dimension’ to public debates: they do not necessarily foster consensus, but rather an enhanced understanding among the participants of the debate through the exchange of opinions backed by justifications (Habermas 2006; Peters 2005). Public discourses provide a critical validation of issues of shared relevance. They are an important precondition for the sustainable evolution of society as a society without open debates becomes blind to the concerns of its citizens. This is why the sustainability of public debates is a major concern for society and for communication studies. Reality will always fall short of normative models of the public sphere (see e.g. Walter 2015), yet when issues become so polarized that an open debate among speakers from different backgrounds becomes impossible, this constitutes a problem for democracy. In the following study of journalism’s role in the climate debate, I will argue that we are witnessing the evolution of post-normal journalism that is fundamentally interpretive and characterized by the blurring of institutional boundaries between journalism, science and advocacy.

Brüggemann, Michael (2017): Post-normal journalism: Climate journalism and its changing contribution to an unsustainable debate. In Peter Berglez, Ulrika Olausson, Mart Ots (Eds.): What is Sustainable Journalism? Integrating the Environmental, Social, and Economic Challenges of Journalism. New York: Peter Lang, pp. 57–73. Available online at

Diverging worlds of foreign correspondence: The changing working conditions of correspondents in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland (2017)


Foreign correspondents seem to have become an endangered species. They are said to be increasingly substituted by new forms of foreign correspondence. These claims are often raised by researchers studying foreign correspondence to and from the United States and the United Kingdom. We test whether assumptions about the demise and substitution of the traditional foreign correspondent also apply beyond these contexts. Particularly, the study seeks to explore the differences in the working conditions of various kinds of foreign correspondents. Based on 211 responses gathered through an online survey of a carefully reconstructed population of 721 journalists, it describes the profile and working conditions of foreign correspondents in Germany, Switzerland, and Austria. It finds that the traditional correspondent – a professional journalist working full-time for legacy media – may be more resistant to change than expected. In the perception of correspondents, there is not much substitution through parachutes, locals, amateurs, or reporting from the headquarters. Working conditions are not worsening for everyone. Rather, we find diverging worlds of foreign correspondence depending on the media type, the country of origin, and the kind of job contract journalists have.

Brüggemann, Michael; Keel, Guido; Hanitzsch, Thomas; Götzenbrucker, Gerit; Schacht, Laura (2017): Diverging worlds of foreign correspondence. The changing working conditions of correspondents in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland. In Journalism 18 (5), pp. 539–557. Available online at

Beyond false balance: How interpretive journalism shapes media coverage of climate change (2017)


This study explores two pre-eminent features of transnational media coverage of climate change: The framing of climate change as a harmful, human-induced risk and the way that reporting handles contrarian voices in the climate debate. The analysis shows how journalists, and their interpretations and professional norms, shape media debates about climate change. The study links an analysis of media content to a survey of the authors of the respective articles. It covers leading print and online news outlets in Germany, India, the United Kingdom, the United States, and Switzerland. It finds that climate journalism has moved beyond the norm of balance towards a more interpretive pattern of journalism. Quoting contrarian voices still is part of transnational climate coverage, but these quotes are contextualized with a dismissal of climate change denial. Yet niches of denial persist in certain contexts, and much journalistic attention is focused on the narrative of ‘warners vs. deniers,’ and overlooks the more relevant debates about climate change.

Brüggemann, Michael; Engesser, Sven (2017): Beyond false balance. How interpretive journalism shapes media coverage of climate change. In Global Environmental Change 42, pp. 58–67. Available online at

The Appeasement Effect of a UN Climate Summit on the German Public (2017)


The annual UN climate summits receive intense global media coverage, and as such could engage local publics around the world, stimulate debate and knowledge about climate politics, and, ultimately, mobilize people to combat climate change. Here we show that, in contrast to these hopes, although the German public were exposed to news about the 2015 Paris summit, they did not engage with it in a more active way. Comparing knowledge and attitudes before, during and after the summit using a three-wave online panel survey (quota sample, N = 1121), we find that respondents learnt a few basic facts about the conference but they continue to lack basic background knowledge about climate policy. Trust in global climate policy increased a little, but citizens were less inclined to support a leading role for Germany in climate politics. Moreover, they were not more likely to engage personally in climate protection. These results suggest that this global media event had a modest appeasing rather than mobilizing effect.

Brüggemann, Michael; De Silva-Schmidt, Fenja; Hoppe, Imke; Arlt, Dorothee; Schmitt, Josephine B. (2017): The appeasement effect of a United Nations climate summit on the German public. In Nature Climate Change 7 (11), pp. 783–787. Available online at

Climate Engagement in a Digital Age: Exploring the Drivers of Participation in Climate Discourse Online in the Context of COP21 (2017)

Various scholars underscore the importance of public engagement with climate change to successfully respond to the challenges of global warming. However, although online media provide various new opportunities to actively engage in climate discourse so far very little is known about the drivers of this form of engagement. Against this background, this study tested a theoretical model on the effects of media and interpersonal communication on participation in climate discourse online using data from a representative online survey of German citizens (n = 1392) carried out while COP21. Overall, the results show that receiving information on climate change from social media (social networks, Twitter, blogs), active information seeking online and interpersonal conversations about COP21 strongly encourage participation in climate discourse online. Moreover, results provide relevant insights on the role of interest in climate politics, personal issue relevance and climate scepticism as preconditions of communication effects.

Arlt, Dorothee; Hoppe, Imke; Schmitt, Josephine B.; De Silva-Schmidt, Fenja; Brüggemann, Michael (2017): Climate Engagement in a Digital Age. Exploring the Drivers of Participation in Climate Discourse Online in the Context of COP21. In Environmental communication 49 (3), pp. 84–98. Available online at

Klimawandel in den Medien (2017)


Die Menschen konstruieren den gegenwärtigen Klimawandel in zweierlei Hinsicht: Der anthropogene Klimawandel ist Nebenfolge der Entwicklung von Gesellschaft und Technik. Und: Der Klimawandel als ein Phänomen, das öffentliche Debatten, Politik, Wissenschaft und Kultur beschäftigt, unterliegt der gesellschaftlichen Deutung und ist insoweit ein gesellschaftlich konstruiertes Phänomen (Beck 1996, S. 128). Menschen verständigen sich darüber, was sie unter Klimawandel verstehen, ob sie ihn als Problem ansehen und was dagegen zu tun ist. Gegenstand einer kommunikationswissenschaftlichen Analyse des Klimawandels sind genau diese Prozesse sozialer Deutungsproduktion und ihre Folgen für die Gesellschaft: „Rather than starting with (scientific) ignorance and ending with (scientific) certainty, telling the story of climate change is in fact much more interesting. It is the unfolding story of an idea and how this idea is changing the way that we think, feel and act“ (Hulme 2009, S. 42).

Brüggemann, Michael; Neverla, Irene; Hoppe, Imke; Walter, Stefanie (2018): Klimawandel in den Medien. In Hans von Storch, Insa Meinke, Martin Claußen (Eds.): Hamburger Klimabericht. Wissen über Klima, Klimawandel und Auswirkungen in Hamburg und Norddeutschland. Berlin: Springer, pp. 243–254. Available online at

Rethinking Hallin and Mancini Beyond the West: An Analysis of Media Systems in Central and Eastern Europe (2017)


This study aimed to validate and extend Hallin and Mancini’s framework of comparison to discriminate empirical types of media systems in Central and Eastern Europe. We tested and complemented their original dimensions by using aggregated data from 11 countries (Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, and Slovenia). Our study shows the strength of political parallelism and public service broadcasting as variables for comparison. It also found that press freedom and foreign ownership point to significant differences between media systems in the region. Finally, a cluster analysis revealed the existence of three groups of media systems and provides empirical support for the assertion that there is no unique type of East-Central European media system.

Herrero, Laia Castro; Humprecht, Edda; Engesser, Sven; Brüggemann, Michael; Büchel, Florin (2017): Rethinking Hallin and Mancini Beyond the West: An Analysis of Media Systems in Central and Eastern Europe. In International Journal of Communication 11, pp. 4797–4823. Available online at

Medienwandel und Nachhaltigkeit: Die Perspektive der Kommunikationswissenschaft auf die Rolle der Medien in gesellschaftlichen Transformationsprozessen (2016)


Dieses Arbeitspapier exploriert in drei Schritten die Perspektive der Kommunikationswissenschaft auf die Rolle der Medien im Rahmen gesellschaftlicher Transformationsprozesse. Ein besonderes Augenmerk liegt dabei auf der Rolle, die das Prinzip Nachhaltigkeit und das Thema Klimawandel spielen.

Birkner, Thomas; Brüggemann, Michael; Just, Leonard (2016): Medienwandel und Nachhaltigkeit: Die Perspektive der Kommunikationswissenschaft auf die Rolle der Medien in gesellschaftlichen Transformationsprozessen. In Anita Engels, Angela Pohlmann (Eds.): Klimawandel und nachhaltige Entwicklung: Theoretische Grundlagen zum Verständnis von gesellschaftlichem Wandel und gesellschaftlichen Transformationsprozessen. Hamburg: Universität Hamburg (Global Transformations Towards a Low Carbon Society (Working Paper Series), 12). Available online at

Falsche Ausgewogenheit? Eine journalistische Berufsnorm auf dem Prüfstand (2016)


Ausgewogenheit (engl. Balance) ist eine etablierte journalistische Berufsnorm in den westlichen Demokratien (Donsbach/Klett 1993: 65; Hallin/Mancini 2004: 216; McQuail 1992: 201). Meist wird sie dahingehend interpretiert und umgesetzt, dass in einer Debatte oder einem Konflikt die beiden dominantesten Akteure oder Positionen gleichgewichtet gegenübergestellt werden (Entman 1989: 30; Gans 1979: 175; Hagen 1995: 120; Tuchman 1972: 665). Allerdings gerät diese Form der Anwendung zunehmend in Kritik, vor allem in den Bereichen der Wahlkampfberichterstattung (Hopmann et al. 2012) und Wissenschaftskommunikation (Boykoff/Boykoff 2004; Clarke 2008). Oreskes and Conway (2010: 214) bringen die Einwände in zugespitzter Form zum Ausdruck: “We’ve noted how the notion of balance was enshrined in the Fairness Doctrine, and it may make sense for political news in a two-party system (although not in a multiparty system). But it does not reflect the way science works. In an active scientific debate there can be many sides but once a scientific issue is closed there is only one “side”. Imagine providing balance to the issue of whether the Earth orbits the Sun, whether continents move or whether DNA carries genetic information.” Im vorliegenden Beitrag nehmen wir diese Kritik zum Anlass, die Ausgewogenheitsnorm auf den Prüfstand zu stellen. Zunächst widmen wir uns den theoretischen Grundlagen und beschreiben die gängige Interpretation der Berufsnorm als Gleichgewichtung. Anschließend illustrieren wir die Defizite der Berufsnorm exemplarisch anhand der drei Problembereiche Politik, Klimawandel sowie Impfungen und Autismus. Schließlich präsentieren wir mit proportionaler Gewichtung, Evidenzbasierung und transparenter Begründung drei mögliche Alternativen zur Gleichgewichtung.

Engesser, Sven; Brüggemann, Michael (2016): Falsche Ausgewogenheit? Eine journalistische Berufsnorm auf dem Prüfstand. In Petra Werner, Lars Rinsdorf, Thomas Pleil, Klaus-Dieter Altmeppen (Eds.): Verantwortung – Gerechtigkeit – Öffentlichkeit. Normative Perspektiven auf Kommunikation. 1. Auflage. Konstanz: UVK (Schriftenreihe der Deutschen Gesellschaft für Publizistik- und Kommunikationswissenschaft), pp. 51–64.

Framing the Newspaper Crisis (2016)


This article argues that discourses of a newspaper “crisis” should not be regarded simply as descriptions of the actual state of the press but also as a means by which strategic actors frame the situation. The emerging frames can have substantial consequences for media policy making. The study identifies four key frames used to portray the newspaper “crisis” and discusses their relevance for public debates in Finland, France, Germany, Italy, the United Kingdom and the United States. Similarities and differences are examined through 59 in-depth interviews with policymakers and industry executives as well as a qualitative analysis of policy documents and relevant media coverage. The study demonstrates that debates on the newspaper “crisis” are only partly influenced by (1) economic realities and (2) media policy traditions in the six countries but also reflect (3) the strategic motives of powerful actors and (4) the diffusion of frames across borders, particularly those coming from the United States. A transnationally uniform paradigm emerges according to which the state is expected to play the role of a benevolent but mostly passive bystander, while media companies are expected to tackle the problem mainly by developing innovative content and business strategies. This liberal market paradigm displays one blind spot however: it does not seriously consider a scenario where the market is failing to provide sustainable journalistic quality.

Brüggemann, Michael; Humprecht, Edda; Kleis Nielsen, Rasmus; Karppinen, Kari; Cornia, Alessio; Esser, Frank (2015): Framing the Newspaper Crisis. In Journalism Studies 17 (5), pp. 533–551. Available online at