Julia Lück, Hartmut Wessler, Rousiley Maia, Antal Wozniak
Journalist-source relations and the deliberative system: A network performance approach to investigating journalism’s contribution to facilitating public deliberation in a globalized world

International Communication Gazette, 2018: 80, Heft 6, S. 509-531
ISSN: 1748-0485 (print); 1748-0493 (online)

Journalist–source relationships and interactions are interpreted in this study as crucial mechanisms for linking different arenas in a deliberative system. To unravel these source networks, 106 semi-standardized interviews with journalists as well as public relations (PR) professionals from government delegations and non-governmental organizations were conducted on-site three United Nations (UN) climate change conferences between 2010 and 2013, and an online survey was administered during the conference in 2015. The analysis shows that most journalists maintain close relationships with their home country delegation. However, journalists experienced in climate conference coverage also maintain more direct and informal relations to delegations from other countries and to non-governmental organizations while less experienced journalists exhibit loose and more formally mediated relationship to these actors. Moreover, journalists focusing on commentary rather than on event-related reporting have the most variegated and informal networks, thus opening the deliberative system to diverse perspectives and unknown voices more than others. Government delegations vary strongly in their tendency to approach journalists while environmental non-governmental organizations interact with journalists primarily to attract media attention in order to indirectly influence decision makers in national delegations.