Some Notes on the Use of Mikhail Bakhtin’s Dialogism (Heteroglossia) as a Method in Media Text Analysis

Sandra Veinberg Some Notes on the Use of Mikhail Bakhtin’s Dialogism (Heteroglossia) as a Method in Media Text Analysis

The method of literary text analysis, which was proposed by Mikhail Bakhtin, can alsobe used for media content analysis and helps compare and scientifically analyze media narratives on the same topic in different media, languages and countries. Often quoted explanations in media texts differ from the initial source of information. Factual mistakes are then often defined as a result of deliberately distorted interpretation orFake News. To prevent such discrepancies, it is advisable to use Bakhtin’s dialogictheory, which proposes respect of the “alien opinion” where a journalist references apiece of information and uses it in content of their narrative. The advantage of heteroglossia is that it allows one to look at any changes to the same report after it has been published in the media of various countries. The author follows here the issues ofemergence and interpretation in 890 newspaper articles.

Keywords: Bakhtin, dialogism, heteroglossia, Assange, Fake News

El método de análisis de textos literarios propuesto por Mikhail Bakhtin puedeutilizarse también para el análisis de contenido en los medios de comunicación y ayudaa comparar y analizar científicamente las narraciones de los medios de comunicaciónsobre un tema específico en diferentes medios, idiomas y países. Las citas utilizadas enlos medios de comunicación a menudo difieren de la fuente original de información. Estos errores suelen entonces señalarse como el resultado de una interpretacióndeliberadamente distorsionada o como noticias falsas. Para evitar esas discrepanciases aconsejable utilizar la teoría dialógica de Bakhtin, que propone el respeto de la”opinión ajena” cuando un periodista hace referencia a una información y la utiliza enel contenido de su relato. La ventaja de la heteroglosia es que permite observar cualquier cambio en el mismo texto después de que se haya publicado en los medios decomunicación de varios países. La autora rastrea aquí los aspectos que conciernen a lageneración e interpretación de 890 artículos periodísticos.

Palabras clave:Bakhtin, dialogismo, heteroglosia, Assange, noticias falsas

Communication & Methods, Vol. 2, nº2, 2020, pp. 35-45 35Vol. 2, Num. 2. Article n.º 95DOI:

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Some Notes on the Use of Mikhail Bakhtin’s Dialogism (Heteroglossia) asa Method in Media Text AnalysisNotas sobre el uso del dialogismo (heteroglosia) de Mikhail Bakhtin comométodo de análisis de textos de medios de comunicaciónSandra Veinberg. Liepaja University (Latvia)Senior Researcher at the Institute of Management Sciences of Liepaja University.Author of several books on mass media and public relations.ORCID: 13/11/2020 – Accepted: 2/12/2020Vol. 2, nº2, 2020, pp. 35-4535 Vol. 2, Num. 2.Article n.º 95DOI: Revista Comunicación y Métodos| JournalCommunication & Methods ISSN: 2659-9538

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Future Academy ISSN: 2357-1330

VIII International Conference on intercultural education and International conference on transcultural health: THE VALUE OF EDUCATION AND HEALTH FOR A GLOBAL, TRANSCULTURAL WORLD


Sandra Veinberg

(a) Institute of Management Sciences, Liepāja University, Liepāja, Lielā iela 14, Latvia LV 3401; Email:


Intrapersonal communication is an important element of the human communication process which embodies the essence of the process of communication. It is at the start of communication that impulses are perceived and processed for the needs of external communication. The study demonstrated that the same tools of communications techniques are observable both in intrapersonal communications and in tools that are characteristic of the communication process in general: from the perception of impulses to the translation and adaptation of the information that is received and active or passive response to the informative material that is received. In order to study the particular features of intrapersonal communication, digital natives as an analysis group were used because they have an active day-to-day communicative experience. The author conducted a survey among young adults, asking them about their attitude to intrapersonal communication and their opinion on the importance of this form of communication in the complex process of human interpersonal communication for the purposes of the research. The survey established the frequency of the use of intrapersonal communication, times, topics, and content, and the importance of the inner dialogue. The survey proved that intrapersonal communication is a very intensely- used form of communication among young adults which introduces the next step – communication with the outside world. The study concluded that communication processes can also occur in a single person as a dialogue. Intrapersonal communications are a continuous process of which the recipient is aware only under the circumstances of an extremely strong impulse.


1. Introduction

The ability to communicate ideas, thoughts, and feelings is the basis for all successful human interaction. Our academic consideration of human communication typically portrays it as occurring on three levels as categorised by the number of communicators involved – intrapersonal, interpersonal, and  (Vocate, 1994), and the research and focus of communications scholars until now has been almost exclusively on the latter two. Often intrapersonal communication has been equated only with an element on the interpersonal level (Honeycutt, 2003) and identified simply as communication involving only contexts but providing no substantive information itself, and not being a unique form of communication. Some researchers consider that intrapersonal communication is ‘just thinking and [it] was not appropriate for communication[s] scholars to think about thinking’ (Vocate, 1994, p. X). However, it may be the case that, within the process of ‘just thinking’, an individual also uses a communication technique which is characteristic of communications. We can begin to study this information flow using the analysis methodology that is characteristic of communications science. The fact that humans talk to themselves, especially in difficult circumstances, has been observed by many scholars but no agreement has been reached between these authors in regard to forming a process of evaluating, studying, and defining the information flow that can be named ‘just thinking’. There is no shared view on whether this process also applies to communications research. However, opinion on whether inner dialogue with oneself is really communication varies as the ‘communicator is both sender and receiver’ (Vocate, 1994, p. 5). In addition,Cunningham (1989) declared intrapersonal communication to be critical because we had failed thus far to clearly define it. He seems here ‘not [to be] talking about a form of communication but, more conservatively, about inner processing in general: cognitive, perceptual, and motivational episodes’ and therefore there are no grounds for referring to this process as communication’ (ibid), and thereby it is unfeasible to provide internal communication with a definition or to carry out scientifically-based research methods upon it. This doubt has pushed for a more specific basis by defining intrapersonal as being ‘all of the physiological and psychological processing of messages that happens within individuals at the conscious and subconscious levels as they attempt to understand themselves and their environment’(Roberts, Edwards, & Baker, 1987, p. 2). Organismic communication occurs at the intrapersonal level,‘such details, however, do not become symbolic components in human communication until an interpretive process has attached meaning to them’ (Vocate, 1994, p. 6). Defining the phenomenon of intrapersonal communication only as the transmission of stimulus and action upon the same in a single human organism may be correct in a very general sense, but it places communications scholars outside the process because communications scholars are not biologists. The next step is to determine whether the can be added to communication research. Linguists already explain self-communication as ‘the fusion of genetically determined speech with culturally determined language’ (Dance, 1994, p. 2) and discerns two forms of spoken language here: internal and external. Vocate goes beyond this and separates the occurrence of spoken language at the intrapersonal level into two operationally distinct phenomena: dialogue with the self (self-communication) which may be internal or external, and the process of coding thought into language or decoding perceived language (Vocate, 1994). For research in communications science both are interesting – self-communication and inner speech – because they are spoken language phenomena at the intrapersonal level. Finally, the author agrees that these elements of communication create a ‘living line’ (Klykanov, 2010, p. 84) which is the basis for any communications process. Communication is not a simple, mechanical process where the information is transmitted from Point A to Point B. It is a living string, a real drama involving a gamut of emotions in a process as communication is a vector with an unpredictable result. It is a flow of symbols in relation to ‘the other’, entering time and daring to begin interpreting symbols around one (Bakhtin, 1986; Klykanov, 2010). This means that the following deliberate/subjective transformation effects of the information flow which are characteristic of the communications process are observable on the level of intrapersonal communications: 1) a perception of impulses; 2) the accumulation and interpretation of the acquired content; 3) the generation of energy in order to activate or make passive the use and possible forwarding of the interpreted material; 4) providing a starting position for communicating with the external world by confronting self-interpreted content with external processes. Therefore, this can be seen as a creative process and can be analysed as such in this way.

2. Problem Statement

So far it has been established that intrapersonal communication takes place within a single person for the purpose of clarifying ideas, analysing a given situation, or reflecting upon and appreciating something. It has three aspects: self-concept, perception, and expectation, and it involves different levels of communicative activity: internal discourse, verbal communication, and written communication. It is a communication process. Although it occurs within one person, it is essentially a dialogue that takes the shape of a monologue which, more or less, is continuously ongoing in one’s head and is ‘similar to everyday speech’ (Jones & Fernyhough, 2007, p. 391). In order to determine how the dialogue in this method of thinking occurs in the human mind, an analysis target group in the form of digital natives was chosen. Digital natives are special people that grow up in the digital age (Prensky, 2001) and in their socialisation process they have mainly used only digital source materials (in the form of a smaller or larger screen). The members of this population group are especially active communicators because not only do they consume information on a daily basis, they also participate in its publishing and translation. It is important to note that Prensky’s original paper was not a scientific one. He has since abandoned his digital native metaphorin favour of digital wisdom, which some authors reject, of course, by stating that the concept of a ‘digital native’ is a myth. This statement can be agreed with if the skill to use digital technology is being discussed. The younger generation uses technology in the same way as older people, of course but, if we look at the readiness and ability of this population group to participate in public and private communication, it is strikingly obvious that they are capable of communicating more actively and intensively than recipients of the older generation. They have grown up surrounded by computers, video games, and instant messaging with smartphones, from an increasingly younger age. The result is that twenty-first century students think and process information differently and more intensively because texting and instant messaging may weaken human creativity. A generation of digital natives is creating its own social network in its virtual world. Due to these extremely intensive communications skills, digital natives create a new culture of communication, a new language, and new abbreviations which are used for writing messages. They prefer to be active and to work autonomously (Shteptura, 2018).

3. Research Questions

There have been relatively few studies in the field of communications science on intrapersonalcommunication as a dialogue. ‘Intrapersonal communication is a relatively new phenomenon forcommunications study and still lacks the grounding of a sound theoretical base’ (Vocate, 1994, p. 6). The areas that have so far been studied more often include: ‘communication with one’s self, and this may includeself-talk, acts of imagination and visualisation, and even recall and memory (McLean, 2005). Eight basic components of the communication process, i.e. source, receiver, message, channel, feedback, environment, context, and interference are analysed as [being] transactional, but all [of] the interaction occurs within the individual (Shedletsky, 1989). Some authors analyse intrapersonal communication through the application of the classic research (rhetoric) techniques (Nienkamp, 1994). However, the majority of communications sciences still consider this process to be transmissive and, in this case, the source (sender) and receiver isthe same person. So the feedback works without any interruption and only one ‘person’ is involved, often for the purpose of clarifying ideas or analysing a situation. Since the communication process consists of four steps, it seemed important to determine how the gathering of informative impulses, the interpreting of the gathered factual material, and the generation of a new message takes place within the borders of intrapersonal communication. In this research, attention was drawn to two factors regarding the specifics of intrapersonal communication: a) whether digital natives are aware of the process of intrapersonal communication and how they understand this process: as a monologue or rather as a dialogue; b) whether digital natives recognise intrapersonal communication as a preparation process for external communication and whether they are capable of explaining the prerequisites for the activity or inactivity of external communication. With the help of this study an attempt was made to spot the reasons for the differences between different individuals in their ability to communicate at an interpersonal level and whether this is determined by the maturity of intrapersonal communication.

4. Purpose of the Study

Aim of this study was to determine the respondent’s attitudes towards internal communication and it proved that internal communication is perceived by the respondent as the silent, internal dialogic process and often continues as external dialogue, addressed to self although others may hear it. The study shows new aspects of interpersonal communication, it can be the first step in process of human communication and can be seen as a preparatory process for intrapersonal communication. In psychiatry the academic belief regarding intrapersonal communication is that talking to oneself can be used to avoid silence (Jordania, 2009), but this study proves that the dialogue with oneself does not begin in a moment of silence. It is constant, ongoing. However, one can hear it better in silence. The next aim was to start comprehending how intrapersonal communication is determined by the law of the conservation of energy, ie. whether an energetic external impulse creates an adequately strong chain reaction in the chain of intrapersonal communication.

5. Research Methods

For the purpose of developing an understanding of internal communication by youngsters and seeing the connection between internal and external communication, a non-proportional stratified sample of the population of young adults was used. [A total of] 215 students took part in the survey. All of them were asked to fill out a questionnaire. The average age of the participants was 25.5 years. All of them were students at Liepaja University and RISEBA in Riga (in March 2016), for the purposes of gathering the data, including the sample site.

The author used content analysis to analyse the results (Berelson, 1952; Westerståhl & Johansson, 1985; Krippendorff, 1980).  and Symbolic Interaction Theory were also used for the purpose of analysing results, as research on internal communication has so far been influenced by sociogenetics theorists, George Herbert Mead and L Vygotsky (Littlejohn & Foss, 2009), and is therefore used in this study to ensure the processing and interpretation of the data that has been obtained.

6. Findings

The first stage of the survey established that intrapersonal communication is a very frequently and intensely used type of communication. A total of 60% of respondents use it often, daily, while 39% use it sometimes, and only 2% claim to use it rarely. None of the respondents claimed not to use intrapersonal communication at all in their lives. This means that intrapersonal communication is an inexcusably insufficiently-studied form of communication that is dominant in people’s daily lives. They did not question the statement that inner speech is a form of communication rather than that of the context of one’sperception of external impulses. This proves the assumption that internal communication is a ‘flow ofspeech – one which is an entwined, dialogically structured, social activity’ (Shorter, 2000, p. 149), and is consequently a communicative process.

Due to the fact that young adults who participated in the survey communicate with themselves often, it seemed important to find out when they felt the need to start an internal conversation: in their daily lives, on a philosophical level, or when they are in a certain emotional state. The study proved that the internal conversation can take place simultaneously when solving certain problems (85%), on a philosophical level when evaluating and generalising (65%) and while in a certain emotional state (62%). This finding was relatively unexpected as, so far, it has been believed that a conversation with oneself often begins due to a certain emotional state. The survey proved that specific challenges rather than emotions or silence create the preconditions for intrapersonal communication. However, one cannot rule out the possibility that daily challenges trigger a certain emotional state and, therefore, the starting situation for intrapersonal communication may be complex (having more than one stimulus at a time).

The fact that students find a dialogue with oneself to be very necessary at a moment at which problems need to be solved is proved by Vygotsky’s (1999) theory and his conception that the human mind, unlike other minds, is mediated by symbolic artefacts. Students use their ‘psychological tools’ on a regular basis in order to adapt to the challenges of the outside world, which means that internal communication takes part in terms of understanding one’s external communication regularly and actively as it ensures the interpretation of external impulses into a language which is understandable to oneself and an active, nurturing transformation of external impulses into a personally meaningful experience. For instance, the student begins an internal conversation for the most part when deciding what to do – 86% – and planning what to do next – 76%. An assessment of a particular situation is an important reason to start an inner dialogue (73%) and the recipient understands themselves as a participant of the dialogical process.

A time map which shows at what time of the day students start communicating with themselves most and least frequently. Students are very rational and talk to themselves about work and problems with public transport (57%), or with being behind the wheel (43%), and in the evening, after work (23%).

Conversation with God is a complicated concept. In this case the author tried to find out whether this form of communication was a monologue or a dialogue; principally how often these conversations with God took place, along with the ‘when’ and in connection with what. According to the results, 16% communicate with God often, on a daily basis, while 23% do it rarely, 30% do it sometimes, and 31% onlydo it for the most part ‘when it’s necessary’. All of the respondents were Christians; however, 23% of thempointed out that they communicate with an abstract God ‘who exists and lives in heaven’ rather than JesusChrist, the Virgin Mary, or any other character from the Bible. This is the point at which the survey finally touches upon the first level of the intrapersonal communication-internal discourse. This also includesprayer, contemplation, and meditation. It was not author’s aim to find out what conversations with Godmay have been about; however, several categories of the most common conversation topics in prayers were suggested: whether one prayed for oneself or for others and what one prayed for. The majority of respondents said that they prayed both for themselves and for others (86%), and the most common topic was the prayer to help regain spiritual balance (56%) and to gain protection in difficult situations (43%).Many of the survey’s participants prayed for both at the same time. A ‘Conversation with God’ was chosen as the first form of internal communication ‘content’ test in this study, as prayer and meditation is a conversation (dialogue) with a greater force and occurs within internal communication. This conversation was applicable to all participants in the survey, regardless of whether they were religious or not. The results of the survey prove that each digital native had a different conversation partner (the difference being one which was suitable to the individual in question, and the partner being God), and they adjusted it to themselves just as the same process is commonly handled in the classic communication process. What we perceive in the world around us is not a direct and faithful representation of that world itself, but rather an enhanced version based upon very limited data from that world (Wright, 1994).

Digital natives are characterised by collective communication activities which are more compact than those of other population strata. For instance, characterised by intense listening to music on a daily basis on a phone or mp3 player. Therefore, the next question in the survey related to the use and consumption of music via internal communication. There was a probability that the majority would not select the internal playback of music in this section of the survey. However, the survey proved that the most common activity among students when talking to oneself was singing to oneself (89%). This finding was somewhat surprising because it seemed that the large selection of music in the headphones would have annulled the need to sing to oneself. Only 1% of respondents claimed that they never sang to themselves. On this communication level interpretive perception was observed which is ‘a blend of internal states and external stimuli’ (Pearson, 2006, p. 32), and leads to the conclusion that affective responses are observed which are manifested as ‘a person’s emotional response to a situation, object, or [another] person’, which in this case is music heard somewhere. Moreover, it is chosen based on the ‘definition of the situation’, as youngsters are more subject to the pressure of collective taste than adults, thereby demonstrating social behaviour.

The survey proved that a sense of humour is important in intrapersonal communication where 43% sometimes laughed at themselves in order to get out of a problematical situation or problem. A total of 33% did it often, 10% did it occasionally, and 10 % never. The results show that 63% believe that self-irony and a sense of humour ‘help to find a balance’ (63%). A total of 50% believe that a sense of humour and self-irony ‘helps in not getting upset with other people or circumstances’, and 27% of the respondents believe that they ‘help maintain self-esteem’. Only 4% of the digital natives believe that there is no need for self-irony or a sense of humour, and that they only ruin one’s mood. On the whole, then, a sense of humour and self-irony helps students to protect themselves from criticism. But what about the positive aspect – self-praise? According to the survey’s results, students use self-motivation and self-praise irregularly in intrapersonal communication. The majority of respondents praise themselves sometimes (57%), whereas 23% do it only rarely. Only 10% of respondents motivated and praised themselves often and on a regular basis. A total of 7% of respondents thought that praise should be given by others as they see better and, therefore, one does not need to do that oneself. Only 3% never praised themselves in their own minds. The majority shared the opinion that intrapersonal communication helps one to collect one’s thoughts (86%), helps to find harmony within oneself (50%), and prepares one for external communication (50%). A total of 96% believe that intrapersonal communication (if it is organised) improves communication with the outside world and helps one to participate in the processes of external communication with other people, the media, the authorities, institutions, and organisations. A total of 3% disagree, and 8% have no opinion on the issue. The impulses behind such communication includes daily situations, problems, anger, and disappointment. In these moments intrapersonal communication becomes a necessity. Something that cannot be ruled out is the possibility that it also takes place in other situations that young adults do not register or even notice. Therefore, the external impulses that trigger intrapersonal communication must be strong ones in order for a young adult themselves to notice them. It is possible in this very position to actualise the energy charge factor because internal communication may also be triggered by internal impulses. It is not inconceivable that this topic can be studied further by using the logic of physics regarding energy transformation from one state to another. It cannot be excluded that the known white matter (25%) and the unknown grey matter (75%) also influence the thinking process and allocate a different reception speed to various informative impulses. Perhaps these generation-related rules of intellectual energy are the ones that determine why people perceive and react to one and the same informative irritation in such different ways.

7. Conclusion

Up until now it was believed that communication was only possible between at least two individuals. This approach is obsolete because the process of intrapersonal communication is also possible within a single individual. The recipient themself understands this as a participant of the dialogical process.

Inner dialogue with oneself is a communication process that deals with the perception, reading, accumulation, and interpreting of impulses, and the formation of a new informative charge for a confrontation with the external world. During this process, energy is either attracted or not attracted, which determines the readiness of the source to communicate outwards or to refuse to communicate.

Inner dialogue is not only a passive observation of the information received. It is also an active process because it carries out the accumulation, interpretation, and forwarding of the acquired facts. It is this last step – the readiness of the recipient to confront the interpreted opinion with the external world – that indicates that what we are dealing with here is a process of communication.

Digital natives are special people who grow up in the digital age and are a special secondary socialisation group which differs from the context of the rest of the population with an especially active use of communicative feedback. The use of intrapersonal communication amongst this group is active and is also relatively and sufficiently conscious.

The starting situation for intrapersonal communication may be complex (having more than one stimulus at a time).

Relatively large share of respondents talks to themselves on a regular basis, praising and motivating themselves as well as talking to God, humming to themselves, or being critical and favourable to themselves.

Self-assessment by way of internal conversation takes place in a slightly contradictory fashion. Defence strategies have been developed due to the fact that negative impulses dominate as conscious triggers of intrapersonal communication. They manifest themselves in intrapersonal communication in the form of self-irony and a sense of humour.


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Corresponding Author: Sandra Veinberg
Selection and peer-review under responsibility of the Organizing Committee of the conference eISSN: 2357-1330

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Unfamiliar concepts as an obstacle for critical thinking in public discussions regarding women’s rights issues in Latvia. Reflective thinking in the ‘fake news’ era




Abstract: In Europe it is now out of the question to express any doubts regarding the prevention of violence against women. The majority of the Latvian population also condemns the physical abuse of women; however, the Istanbul Convention which deals with this matter was not ratified here. A number of factors were at play, the most significant of which was pressure exerted through the direct influence of a campaign that had been organised by opponents of the broadest understanding of human rights. Such pressure was exerted on decision makers (MPs and political parties), with indirect impact on the population via social media and the news media outlets. Campaigns by interest groups which spread opposing views are not unusual in a democratic society; however, in this case there was no discussion between the opposing parties. The public domain was not open to an interaction of views and beliefs based on arguments and critical thinking, as the argument of the opponents rested entirely upon their beliefs, whereas the supporters of the convention relied upon valid proof. This article looks at the reasons behind the failure in terms of group communication to establish a constructive discussion on a topic that was so essential to Latvian society: one which served to combat and eradicate violence against women. It also seeks to establish whether the use of an irrational form of convincing technique contradicts the logic of critical thinking, and whether the emergence of unfamiliar and/or incomprehensible concepts on the agenda of a public discussion may serve to put the brakes on the constructive discussion of women’s rights issues which is so essential today to Latvian society as a whole.

Keywords: women’s rights, Istanbul Convention, logical fallacies, barriers for critical thinking, fake news


Des concepts inhabituels en tant qu’obstacle à la pensée critique dans les débats publics au sujet du problème des droits des femmes en Lettonie. La pensée réflexive dans l’ère des informations fallacieuses (fake news)

Résumé : Toutes les discussions concernant la prévention de la violence faite aux femmes restent hors de question en Europe. La majorité de la population lettone condamne également l’abus physique des femmes, toutefois, la Convention d’Istanbul qui traite de ce sujet n’a pas été ratifiée ici. Plusieurs facteurs entrent en jeu, le plus significatif étant la pression exercée par l’influence directe de la campagne qui a été organisée par les opposants des droits de l’homme dans son sens le plus large. Une telle pression a été exercée sur les preneurs de décision (parlementaires et partis politiques) avec un impact indirect sur la population par le biais des médias sociaux et privés. Des campagnes par des groupes d’intérêts qui diffusent des opinions contraires ne sont pas inhabituelles dans une société démocratique, toutefois, dans ce cas, il n’y a eu aucune discussion entre les parties qui s’affrontent. Le domaine public n’était pas ouvert à une interaction entre les opinions et les croyances basée sur des arguments et la pensée critiques, puisque l’argument des opposants reposait entièrement sur leurs croyances alors que les défenseurs de la convention comptaient sur des preuves valides. Cet article examine les raisons de l’échec en matière de communication de groupe pour établir une discussion constructive sur un sujet aussi fondamental pour la société lettone, celui qui a servi à combattre et à éradiquer la violence faite aux femmes. Il tente également d’établir si l’utilisation d’une technique de persuasion irrationnelle contredit la logique de la pensée critique, et si l’émergence de concepts inhabituels et/ou incompréhensibles sur l’agenda des débats publics peut servir à freiner une discussion constructive sur les problèmes des droits des femmes qui est tellement essentielle à l’ensemble de la société lettone.

Mots-clés : droits des femmes, Convention d’Istanbul, idées de logiques fallacieuses, obstacles de la pensée critiques, informations fallacieuses

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The consequences of colonialism in Latvia during a mass migration period in Europe (2015/2016)

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Article: 1368110 | Received 24 May 2017, Accepted 08 Aug 2017, Accepted author version posted online: 21 Aug 2017, Published online: 18 Sep 2017

Source: Cogent Social Sciences, Volume 3, 2017 – Issue 1

Pdf file:  The consequences of colonialism in Latvia during a mass migration period in Europe 2015 2016

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The collective memory of the colonial past still attempts to determine the relationship between the different ethnic groups in Latvia and also affects the identity problems of such groups. These effects are visible today in the new arena of public space, i.e. in relation to refugees. The flow of refugees into Europe in autumn 2015 was unexpected for many people. Local media reports that the large number of refugees and migrants are making the migration process uncontrollable, has signalled that there is an accidental and intentional crisis cluster here. Public opinion polls also confirmed the nervous state of the Latvian population crisis and dislike for refugee reception demanded by the management of the European Union. This research was conducted in order to determine whether such reaction of the society is rooted in xenophobia or has other reasons. Two groups of people were surveyed. One of them shows that post-colonial thinking is still present, if supported by post-colonially oriented mass media. The second group without post-colonial experience gave the opposite response. The research used local media content analysis for the purpose of determining how the leading newspapers interpret refugee crisis related developments to their readers and studied the spectrum of media used by both surveyed groups regarding the refugee issue.

Public Interest Statement

Society that frees itself of the burden of occupation and colonialism cannot adjust to the rules of existence of the democratic world quickly and painlessly. Secondary socialization facilitated by the mass media is required for this purpose. In Latvia’s case the process of transition of the public opinion from the prejudice created by dictatorship to the openness guaranteed by democracy is still ongoing even 26 years after regaining the independence and freedom from the Soviet occupation. It is proven by this study that focuses on the effects of refugee and migrant crisis on the public opinion in Latvia in 2015/2016. It attempts to determine the influence of prejudice created by post-colonialism and the mass media on the value criteria of today’s society and the related assessment of the refugee and migration crisis.

This study proved that public reaction in crisis situations cannot be explained simply and unequivocally.

1. Introduction

The consequences of colonialism in Latvia’s modern society has so far undergone only limited study (Kelertas, 2006Kelertas, V. (Ed.). (2006). Baltic post-colonialism: On the boundary of two worlds: Identity, freedom and moral imagination in the balticsAmsterdamRodopi. [Google Scholar]; Racevskis, 1998Racevskis, K. (1998). Modernity’s pretenses: Making reality fit reason from candide to the gulagAlbany, NYState University of New York Press. [Google Scholar]; Račevskis, 2001Račevskis, K. (2001). December)Cilvēki būrīJaunā Gaita, (227), 2631. [Google Scholar]; Riekstiņš, 2015Riekstiņš, J. (2015). Padomju impērijas koloniālā politika un Latvijas kolonizācija 1940–1990RīgaTieslietu ministrija. [Google Scholar]; Rudzītis, 2004Rudzītis, I. (2004). Latvijas post-koloniālās identitātes problēmasProvidus. Retrieved from [Google Scholar]; Vardys, 1964Vardys, S. (1964). Soviet colonialism in the baltic states: A note on the nature of modern colonialism. Lituanian Quarterly Journal of Arts and Sciences, 10, 2. Retrieved from [Google Scholar]; Zariņš, 1999Zariņš, V. (1999). Kam pieder nams? RīgaLU Filozofijas un socioloģijas institūts. [Google Scholar]). Most researchers believe “that post-colonial studies are based on the historical fact of European colonialism, and the diverse material effects to which this phenomenon gave rise” (Aschcroft, Griffiths, & Tiffin, 1995Aschcroft, B.Griffiths, G., & Tiffin, H. (1995). The post-colonial studies readerLondonRoutledge. [Google Scholar], p. 2). The third “model”, or “official nationalism”, which is typical for Russia is studied to an even lesser extent. This involved the imposition of cultural homogeneity from the top, through state action. “‘Russification’ was a project which could be, and was, emulated elsewhere” (Chatterjee, 1995Chatterjee, P. (1995). Nationalism as a problem. In B. AschcroftG. Griffiths, & H. Tiffin (Eds.), The post-colonial studies reader (p. 165). LondonRoutledge. [Google Scholar], p. 165). Hence the enormous twenty-seven-nation post-Soviet sphere—including the former Soviet republics and the former Eastern Bloc states “is virtually never discussed in the burgeoning discourse of post-colonial studies. Yet Russia and the successor Soviet Union exercised colonial control over the Caucasus, Central Asia, the Baltics, and central and Eastern Europe for anywhere between 50 and 200 years” (Moore, 2001Moore, D. (2001). Is the post- in post-colonial the post – in post-soviet? Toward a global post-colonial critiqueSpecial Topic: Globalizing Literary Studies, 116111128. [Google Scholar], p. 111). Because of this the “Baltic States are eminently suited for post-colonial analysis due to their collective stories, which feature roughly one millennium of recurring colonial activity” (Jirgens, 2006Jirgens, K. (2006/2004). Fusions of discourse: Post-colonial/postmodern horizons in baltic culture. In K. Johanson-CarteeNarratives and news framing: Constructing political realityOxfordRowman & Littlefield Publishers. [Google Scholar], p. 45).

“Ethnic Latvians and ethnic Russians don’t like each other much, but they like asylum-seekers even less” (Ragozin, 2015Ragozin, L. (2015). Latvians find unity in rejecting refugeesPolitico. Retrieved from [Google Scholar]). The current issue is not merely xenophobia but is closely related to the colonial past: because the Soviets used the Baltic countries not only for ideology but also for systematic mass immigration (Kelertas, 2006Kelertas, V. (Ed.). (2006). Baltic post-colonialism: On the boundary of two worlds: Identity, freedom and moral imagination in the balticsAmsterdamRodopi. [Google Scholar]; Riekstiņš, 2015Riekstiņš, J. (2015). Padomju impērijas koloniālā politika un Latvijas kolonizācija 1940–1990RīgaTieslietu ministrija. [Google Scholar]), and the process of leaving state socialism behind was not simply a technological or policy issue of “transition” (Kennedy, 2002Kennedy, M. (2002). Cultural formations of postcommunism: Emancipation, transition, nation, and warMinneapolis, MNUniversity of Minnesota Press. [Google Scholar]). Rather it was sustained by the emergence of a whole new cultural formation, which he dubs “transition culture” (Hladik, 2013Hladik, R. (2013). Post-colonial Europe. A theory’s travelogue: Post-colonial theory in post-socialist space. Retrieved from [Google Scholar]).

The hypothesis is an assumption that post-colonial trauma is the cause of the fact that “Latvia has the most negative attitude towards refugees in the whole of the European Union” (Latvia, 2015Latvia has most negative attitude towards refugees in EU. (2015September 14). The Baltic Times. Retrieved from The Baltic Times: [Google Scholar]), and a catalyst for this effect is local mass media. The aim of this study is to find out how the media presents information about the refugees and migrants to the audience as well as which rhetorical and linguistic tools it uses and how these tools influence the public opinion regarding refugees and migrants in Latvia.

Latvian history has two colonial periods. What follows from this is the existing binary construct (Ashcroft, 2000Ashcroft, B. (2000). Post-colonial studies. The kay conceptsLondonRoutledge. [Google Scholar]), which is frequently characterised by the emphasis on identity. ‘It was a remnant of the colonial era, when it was necessary to lead Latvians against colonisers’ (Rudzītis, 2004Rudzītis, I. (2004). Latvijas post-koloniālās identitātes problēmasProvidus. Retrieved from [Google Scholar]). The opinion that violence against colonisers can restore self-esteem is very common in many studies (Childs & Williams, 1997Childs, P., & Williams, P. (1997). An introduction to post-colonial theoryNew York, NYRoutledge. [Google Scholar]; Fanon, 1999Fanon, F. (1999). Critical perspectivesLondonRoutledge. [Google Scholar]). In Latvia such a process cannot be observed because the political paradigm was replaced by the diplomatic channels ‘and colonisers were not forced to flee or to recognise the fact that they were colonisers’ (Rudzītis, 2004Rudzītis, I. (2004). Latvijas post-koloniālās identitātes problēmasProvidus. Retrieved from [Google Scholar]). All post-colonial societies are still subject in one way or another to overt or subtle forms of neo-colonial domination, and “independence has not solved this problem. The development of new elites within independent societies are often buttressed by neo-colonial institutions” (Aschcroft et al., 1995Aschcroft, B.Griffiths, G., & Tiffin, H. (1995). The post-colonial studies readerLondonRoutledge. [Google Scholar]). In the case of Latvia, this effect is observed in the process of taking over “neo-colonial institutions” and the colonial style that is evident in media work (Ankrava, 2002Ankrava, S. (2002December). Postkoloniālisma sindroms un identitāte LatvijāJaunā Gaita, (231), 46. [Google Scholar]; Račevskis, 2002Račevskis, K. (2002December). Vēl mazliet par racionālismu un Latvijas kolonizācijuJaunā Gaita,(231), 1426. [Google Scholar]; Zariņš, 1999Zariņš, V. (1999). Kam pieder nams? RīgaLU Filozofijas un socioloģijas institūts. [Google Scholar]; Zepa, 2008Zepa, B. (2008). Demokrātijas diskursi mūsdienu LatvijāAkadēmiskā dzīve, 451320. Retrieved from Academic Life: [Google Scholar]).

The study demonstrates that there is a huge gap between opinions about the refugee issue in Latvian society. A section of respondents, who mainly use only local media, were sceptical towards refugees and migrants. The remaining respondents, who for the most part use international media sources, were less sceptical towards refugees and migrants. This means that a significant proportion of Latvian newspapers are now under the control of local political powers which basically continue the traditions of USSR colonial times and as media owners keep conversing with the Latvian public as a collective agitator, propagandist, and organizer (Ļeņins, 1901/1974Ļeņins, V. I. (1901/1948–1974). Ar ko sākt? Grām. In V. I. Ļeņins (Ed.), Raksti RīgaLVI, Liesma. [Google Scholar], p. 10) which is something that is not acceptable for a new democracy such as Latvia. Similar trends of political parties using post-colonial trauma for their populist propaganda purposes may be observed in other post-communist countries today (Ankrava, 2008Ankrava, S. (2008). Iedzīvotāju izglītotība un sabiedriskās domas veidošanāsAkadēmiskā dzīve,(45), 812. [Google Scholar]; Koczanowicz & Singer, 2005Koczanowicz, L., & Singer, B. (Eds.). (2005). Democracy and the post-totalitarian experienceAmsterdamRondopi. [Google Scholar]; Slovakia, 2010Slovakia and the European Union. (2010October). Country report series III. Retrieved from University of Amsterdam:—slovakia-and-the-european-union.pdf [Google Scholar]).

The war in Syria, and the civil unrest in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya, became the prime cause of the huge wave of refugees travelling to Europe during the summer of 2015. The number of people fleeing to Europe grew exponentially, and there were warnings in the ongoing refugee crisis that jihadists may be hiding amongst refugees who were coming to Europe. Apparently even Pope Francis sounded the alarm that the terrorist sect of so-called Islamic State (IS) could “infiltrate” the power of hundreds of thousands of refugees coming from Syria and Iraq who were now seeking refuge in Europe (Pope Francis, 2015Pope Francis speaks to Portugal’s Radio Renascença. (2015September 14). Vatican Radio. Retrieved from [Google Scholar]). The ongoing outflow of people from the Middle East “is a golden opportunity for IS to spread out its fighters to a larger scale, said James Clapper, director of the US intelligence services” (Ohlsson, 2015Ohlsson, E. (2015September 21). Experter avfärdar larm om jihadister i flyktingström. Dagens Nyheter. [Google Scholar], p. 4). These comments by the pope and the leader of the US intelligence services have received special attention in the media. The level of stress being exhibited by ordinary Europeans escalated dramatically. There is an increased development of cultural conflicts becoming ever worse in those countries that take in these refugees. Many youths who burned cars in protest in a number of European suburbs in recent years were Muslims. In response, Christian youths burned refugee camps. But there is nothing to suggest that they would have done it because of Islam or Christianity. It is only social and economic factors that are behind these reactions.

Latvia as an EU Member State has a quota for refugees. It must show its solidarity with the larger member countries and share their abundance of refugees. In order to solve the migration crisis, a refugee redistribution scheme will be implemented within the EU. Figures from the UNHCR actually show that the number of asylum seekers in the country has so far been very small, with just 63 people granted refugee status in Latvia between 1998 and 2014 (Volunteers, 2016Volunteers tackle prejudice against refugees in Latvia. (2016January 14). UNHCR.. Retrieved from [Google Scholar]). At the same time, it does not stop emigration from Latvia to Western Europe’s labour market. The reason for this mass migration was an austerity policy (Table 1). “Latvia’s self-discipline in the face of a sharp economic downturn and tough austerity measures wins it plenty of prizes … Some fear that emigration is turning from a safety valve to a brain drain” (Far from home, 2010Far from home. (2010October 1). The economist. Retrieved from [Google Scholar]).

Table 1. International long-term migration of the population in Latvia per year between 2005 and 2013 (1000)

Formally, Latvia needs manpower and is not characterised by suffering from an overcrowded population, but at the same time two coalition partners in the Latvian parliament—the nationalist conservative National Alliance and the centrist Greens and Farmers Union (ZZS)—do not support the decision regarding refugees. “Unity, the leading partner in Latvia’s centre-right coalition, has warned that any refusal to shelter more refugees may have negative implications for Latvia’s economy and security” (Latvia, 2015Latvia has most negative attitude towards refugees in EU. (2015September 14). The Baltic Times. Retrieved from The Baltic Times: [Google Scholar]; Rinkevics, 2015Rinkevics: Latvia has found itself in international isolation because of its refusal to receive refugees. (2015September 11). EurAsia Daily. Retrieved from [Google Scholar]). This situation is contradictory: on the one hand at the political level the EU is threatening Latvia with possible international isolation because of its failure to agree on the resettlement of additional refugees (Refugee issue, 2015Refugee issue can threaten stability of Latvia’s current govt-unity. (2015September 14). BNS ziņas. Retrieved from [Google Scholar]; Latvia, 776 refugees, 2015Latvia, 776 refuges would cost Latvia 2.8 million Euros (2015September 11). BNN. Retrieved form [Google Scholar]), while on the other hand, there have been no registered attacks against the refugees or refugee camps by the local residents of Latvia as opposed to the case in Sweden, France, and Germany, where it is quite common (EU länder, 2015EU-länder vidtar panikåtgärder fär att stoppa flyktingar. (2015June 25). Sveriges radio. Retrieved from [Google Scholar]; FNB, 80 flyktingar, 2015FNB, 80 flyktingar evakuerades under brand. (2015October 12). Hufvudstadsbladet. Retrieved from [Google Scholar]; Kaos, 2015Kaos i Calais vid strejk i hamnen. (2015June23). Sveriges radioRetrieved from: [Google Scholar]; Nya attacker, 2015Nya attacker mot asylboenden I Sverige. (2015November 11). Yle nyheter. Retrieved from [Google Scholar]; Planerat, 2015Planerat flyktingboende brann ner i Sverige. (2015October 17). Yle nyheter. Retrieved from [Google Scholar]; Så här, 2015Så här många flyktingboenden har brunnit i Sverige. (2015October 28). TV4 News. [Google Scholar]) (Table 2, Valsts Robežsardze, 2017.08).

Table 2. Detainees, illegal immigrants and trespassers in Latvia, 2015

So far, the reception of refugees in Latvia has been described in the media as having a great deal of public resistance. This study was carried out in order to determine whether the public really expresses the same view that is being proclaimed by the leading media outlets.

2. Study background

The media has so far explained this situation with a number of objective reasons: (a) limited experience in the reception of refugees; (b) bad experiences with immigrants after the restoration of independence, due to existing Russian-speaking economic migrants from the former Soviet Union, who currently represent around 42% of the population and do not want to integrate into the country (The measurement, 2013The measurement of poverty and social inclusion in the EU: Achievements and further improvements. (2013December 2–3). In Conference of European statisticiansGeneva. Retrieved from [Google Scholar]); (c) the economic crisis of 2007–2009, after which inhabitants have been suffering low living standards and have been taking part in mass emigration due to unemployment; (d) contributions to the refugee quota are higher than the average for Latvian senior citizens; (e) public fear of an unknown religion.

There are also other factors involved. Latvia’s population has a poor experience of communication with the EU. The so-called Latvian success story when EU experts forced austerity policies on Latvia in order to provide guidance over the economic crisis was not a forward-looking step. As a result, a fifth of the country’s population is now working abroad (Aslund & Dombrovskis, 2011Aslund, A., & Dombrovskis, V. (2011). How Latvia came through the financial crisisWashington, DCPeter G. Peterson institute for International Economics. [Google Scholar]; Sommers & Woolfson, 2014Sommers, J., & Woolfson, C. (Eds.). (2014). The contradictions of austerity. The socio-economic costs of the neoliberal Baltic modelNew York, NYRoutledge. [Google Scholar]). An important reason for domestic discontent was the fact that the EU missed the opportunity to conduct proper crisis communication with the public of Latvia during the economic crisis and the time at which the austerity policy was implemented (Veinberg, 2014Veinberg, S. (2014). The analysis of government’s communications and public engagement’s socio-political effects during the financial crisis in Latvia (2008–2011)Asian Journal of Humanities and Social Studies, 14156. [Google Scholar]). At the same time, the government advises its citizens to be helpful to refugees and claims that rendering hospitality will affect society at all levels. The EU official articles, German and Swedish political leaders’ articles that were reprinted in two newspapers and which claimed: “it is our duty to shelter refugees”, “we can help”, “overcome national egoism”, “united Europe”, and “let’s be honest”, were not heard by the general public in Latvia.

The modern era has seen two waves of migration to and from Europe. The end of WWII brought in its wake the largest population movements in European history. Millions of people fled or were expelled from Eastern Europe. Latvians were also amongst the numbers of refugees. In the nation’s collective memory there are both refugee camps in Germany (Kalnins, 2015Kalnins, M. (2015). Latvia. A short historyLondonHurst & Company. [Google Scholar]; Zake, 2010Zake, I. (2010). American Latvians: Politics of a refugee communityNew BrunswickTransaction Publichers. [Google Scholar]) and the tragic story of the Baltic legionnaires who were forcibly deported from Sweden to the Soviet Union (Lindholm, 1992Lindholm, R. (1992). Baltutlämningen och folkrätten. Retrieved from [Google Scholar]; Turner, 2015Turner, B. (2015). Karl Doenitz and the last days of the Third ReichHaryanaPenguin Books India. [Google Scholar]). That is when Europe collectively realised that people fleeing persecution should have the right to seek refuge in order to access fundamental human rights (Alfred, 2015Alfred, C. (2015September 15). What history can teach us about the worst refugee crisis since WWII? The Huffington Post. Retrieved from [Google Scholar]). On the one hand, society has the experience and awareness of refugee issues, but on the other hand, the ambitiousness of local politicians as manifested through the media hinders Latvians compassion for unhelpfulness. This was the next important question for this research.

Understanding the nature of prejudice, scapegoating, stereotypes, and discrimination as used in the media is the first step in combating these practices. In order to determine this, one needs to analyse systems of metaphors. We “choose our words from within a dominant system or frame of metaphor that offers us a specific lexicon of the language, that defines words in certain specific ways, and that shapes both the ‘what’ and the ‘how’ of our communication. In this way, figuratively and often literally, through metaphor we make meaning” (Steuter & Wills, 2008Steuter, E., & Wills, D. (2008). At war with metaphor: Media, propaganda, and racism in the war of terrorPlymouthLexington Books. [Google Scholar], p. 3). The literary meaning of the word “metaphor” is “to carry over”. A metaphor transfers aspects of one object to another symbolically, even if the objects are originally in no way connected (Hawkes, 1972Hawkes, T. (1972). MetaphorLondonMethuen. [Google Scholar], p. 1).

When the media constantly repeats one word, the patterns begin to appear as if they are true. “This transposition is one of the key effects of metaphor” (Steuter & Wills, 2008Steuter, E., & Wills, D. (2008). At war with metaphor: Media, propaganda, and racism in the war of terrorPlymouthLexington Books. [Google Scholar], p. 4). Media has always explored and used the power of metaphor. This is the way that metaphor has been seen by scholars since the 1970s, as an important tool for forming “an essential aspect of cognition” (Winner, 1988Winner, E. (1988). The point of worldsCambridgeHarvard University Press. [Google Scholar], p. 17). The aim of this study was to find out how the media presents information about the refugees and migrants to the audience and what kind of rhetorical and linguistic tools it uses.

3. Methodology

In order to be able to develop an understanding of which risks are accelerated in young people in Latvia by globalisation and by the country’s colonial past, a non-proportional stratified sample of the population of young adults was used. This was formed of a total of 220 students for the purpose of the survey. All of them were asked to fill out questionnaires. The average age of the participants was 25.5 years. Each of them was a student at Liepaja University and RISEBA in Riga (in March 2016), for the purpose of gathering data, including the sample site. In parallel with this, a similar public survey, the 2016 Mars month, was suggested. A total of 120 respondents with an average age of 39.6 years responded through social networking sites.

In order to develop an understanding of the sources of information or the news in the Latvian media during the period between August 2015 and January 2016, two leading newspapers—Diena and Latvijas Avīze—were used.11. Latvijas Avīze being abbreviated to LA from this point forwards.View all notes Only the printed rather than digital versions of newspapers were studied as these newspaper publications were widely used by the Latvian population during migration crisis (Table 4). In order to analyse and systematise reporting about the flow of refugees across Europe and the effects caused by this flow, two methods were used: the dialogism implied by Mikhail Bakhtin (1979Bakhtin, M. (1979). Problemy poetiki DostoyevskogoMoskvaSovetskaya Rossiya. [Google Scholar]) and critical discourse analysis, which tends to be characterised as having an “active relation to reality” (Fairclough, 1992Fairclough, N. (1992). Discourse and social changeCambridgePolity Press. [Google Scholar], p. 41; Nerman, 1973Nerman, B. (1973). MasmedieretorikStockholmAlmqvist&Wiksell. [Google Scholar]).

Rhetoric is always associated with a particular situation and must be seen in its historical and social context. Context is decisive for the analysis. An emergency situation is an excellent background for the analysis of the media rhetoric which is the rhetoric of authority (Nerman, 1973Nerman, B. (1973). MasmedieretorikStockholmAlmqvist&Wiksell. [Google Scholar], p. 19). By applying this methodology we can analyse the text on four levels: (1) content, (2) emotional manifestation, (3) pointing the finger at the reader to make them act and react, and (4) appeal to the reader to share the journalist’s opinion (Nerman, 1973Nerman, B. (1973). MasmedieretorikStockholmAlmqvist&Wiksell. [Google Scholar], p. 20). In this way we construct the median of their morale by using their words (Andersen, 1996Andersen, Ø. (1996). I retorikens hageOsloUniversitetsforlaget. [Google Scholar]; Karlberg & Mral, 1998Karlberg, M., & Mral, B. (1998). Heder och påverkan. Att analysera modern retorikStockholmNatur och Kultur. [Google Scholar]).

4. Analysis, findings, and results

Publications that examine the refugee crisis in the period between August 2015 to January 2016 are regular and extensive. Table 3 shows the number of publications in both magazines. Most of them were published in September. The turning points here are the same as in other European newspapers: drowned, three-year Syrian boy Aylan Kurdi (2 September), the day upon which Germany reinstated border checks (13 September), and the EU summit that was aimed at reaching agreement on a common European approach to the migrant crisis (23 September) (EJO Pētījums, 2015EJO, Pētījums: kā laikraksti Eiropā atspoguļoja bēgļu krīzi. (2015November 9). Par žurnālistikuEuropean Journalism Observatory. Retrieved from [Google Scholar]). A number of publications each month are proportional in their coverage of tragedies in the Mediterranean and in their coverage of the news in Europe. The dramatic increase in the number of publications in September shows the media’s confusion in the face of the current crisis situation. Each crisis refers to a sequence of unwanted events which can have unpleasant results. And that is exactly how both newspapers explained the situation in Europe: “this wave of refugees is approaching like a storm but nobody is prepared to meet it” (Bundžu, 2015Bundžu, J. (2015September 10). Bēgļu cēloņi un sekas. Diena. [Google Scholar]); “no problems have been solved; everything exists only on paper” (Zvirbulis, 2016Zvirbulis, Ģ. (2016January 13). Bēgļus uzraudzīs drošības policija. Latvijas Avīze. [Google Scholar]), “this is not a crisis, this is a disaster” (Zandere, 2015Zandere, A. (2015August 25). Kad no bēgļiem neizbēgt. Diena. [Google Scholar]); “this is a bankruptcy of the EU’s migration policy” (Bērziņš, 2015Bērziņš, V. (2015September 4). Imigrācijas krīze sašķeļ Eiropu; Tusks aicina uz solidaritāti. Latvijas Avīze, p. 6. [Google Scholar]; Šnore, 2015Šnore, E. (2015September 8). Eiropa bez robežām. Latvijas Avīze. [Google Scholar]).

Table 3. The number of publications covering the refuge crisis: Diena & Latvijas Avize. 08.2015 -01.2016

4.1. Two post-colonial effects

Newspapers stressed that instead of a well-thought-out strategy, Brussels and Riga issued hurried instructions. “The flow of refugees is growing steadily” (Ķezberis, 2015bĶezberis, U. (2015bSeptember 10). Eiropa netiek gala ar bēgļu plūsmu. Diena. [Google Scholar]), “the process is out of control” (Žīgure, 2015Žīgure, A. (2015October 8). Bēgļi rada apjukumu visoes līmeņos. Latvijas Avīze. [Google Scholar]). It was directly stated to the reader that desperate people from the Middle East were arriving in Europe non-stop, and that this had brought the world to the Syrian refugee crisis. “European governments have ended up squabbling over ‘border fences’, ‘border security’, and ‘burden sharing’” (The Refuge Crisis, 2015The refugee crisis in Europe and the middle east. (2015September). International Rescue Committee. Retrieved from [Google Scholar]), and with this overture begins the story of the wave of refugees. Moreover, the EU and national leaders expressed different positions on this matter. “The EU forces us to accept refugees on a compulsory basis” (ANO, 2015ANO. (2015December 3). Bēgļu aģentūra: Latvija nevarēs bēgļus izvēlēties, balstoties uz reliģiju vai etnisko piederību. Latvijas Avīze. [Google Scholar]); “Latvian politicians believe that it is blackmail and populism” (Vikmanis, 2015Vikmanis, G. (2015September 2). Šantāža bēgļu jautājumā. Latvijas Avīze. [Google Scholar]), “Visegrad against Brussels. Where are we?” (Šmits, 2016Šmits, U. (2016). Kāpēc Austrumeiropas valstis bieži nonāk Briseles kritikas krustugunīs? Latvijas Avīze. [Google Scholar]), “Merkel’s policies are not understandable” (Lorencs, 2015Lorencs, J. (2015September 29). Merkeli uz Sibīriju, Putinu uz Berlīni? Latvijas Avīze. [Google Scholar]), “Juncker’ is now the damn for us” (Pie valdības nama, 2015Pie valdības nama aptuveni tūkstotis cilvēku, kas protestē pret jaunu imigrantu uzņēmšanu Latvijā. (2015August 4). Diena. [Google Scholar]).

Both newspapers here use actions that have the ability to control reader behaviour (Johanson-Cartee, 2004Johanson-Cartee, K. (2004). Narratives and news framing : Constructing political realityOxfordRowman & Littlefield Publishers. [Google Scholar], p. 152), and by using meta-communication they form their own codes and value ideology, and consequently the meanings and messages’ (Kellner, 1995Kellner, D. (1995). Media culture: Cultural studies, identity, and politics between the modern and the postmodernLondonRoutledge.10.4324/9780203205808[Crossref][Google Scholar]). Content analysis shows the dominance from only one position in Nerman’s four steps (1973Nerman, B. (1973). MasmedieretorikStockholmAlmqvist&Wiksell. [Google Scholar]): (1) “data shows that the flow of refugees is growing steadily” (Content A), (Ķezberis, 2015bĶezberis, U. (2015bSeptember 10). Eiropa netiek gala ar bēgļu plūsmu. Diena. [Google Scholar]); (2) “is it possible for us to escape these refugees?” (emotional manifestations), (Zandere, 2015Zandere, A. (2015August 25). Kad no bēgļiem neizbēgt. Diena. [Google Scholar]); (3) “everyone is waiting for the missing scenario” (“point the finger”); (4) “Hungary has declared a state of emergency and closed the borders” (“appeal”), (Ungārija, 2015Ungārija no pusnakts slēdz robežu ar Horvātiju. (2015October 16). Diena. [Google Scholar]).

In this position, we can observe the first post-colonial effects. In the interpretation of the current events—the need for a strong leader (Ankrava, 2002Ankrava, S. (2002December). Postkoloniālisma sindroms un identitāte LatvijāJaunā Gaita, (231), 46. [Google Scholar]) who is capable of conducting harsh reprisals against the refugees and migrants is obvious: “There is no solution here, just empty talk in Brussels”; “There is nothing concrete, no real solution, only danger” (Valdība, 2015Valdība vēl nevienojas par bēgļu uzņemšanas plāna risinājumu. (2015September 29). Diena. [Google Scholar]); “They forced us to shelter refugees in Latvia at any price”, “no leaders in this crisis” (Zvirbulis, 2015aZvirbulis, Ģ. (2015aSeptember 4). Bēgļu jautājumā koalīcijas disciplīna uzvar. Latvijas Avīze. [Google Scholar]2015dZvirbulis, Ģ. (2015dSeptember 10). Junkera ‘dāvana’ Straujumas valdībai. Latvijas Avīze. [Google Scholar]). The need for a leader (a one party leader) is a typical feature of the post-Soviet area and so it was interesting to know whether readers really supported this approach (Ankrava, 2002Ankrava, S. (2002December). Postkoloniālisma sindroms un identitāte LatvijāJaunā Gaita, (231), 46. [Google Scholar]; Zepa,2008Zepa, B. (2008). Demokrātijas diskursi mūsdienu LatvijāAkadēmiskā dzīve, 451320. Retrieved from Academic Life: [Google Scholar]).

The first survey shows that the first test group read the newspapers more. According to Table 4, the first group in the survey (average age: 39.6) showed more interest in paper newspapers than their digital natives (25.5) who read almost only on screen. Printed media no longer rates amongst the top sources of information for respondents in Latvia, but it is interesting to find out what niche the classical media has today. Reading parents and reading friends are relatively important for both groups (Table 4). The first group (39.6) “sometimes” reads news on paper as often as their digital natives read news on screen. This means that people no longer subscribed to newspapers on paper (this tradition disappears) and the future of newspapers is only on the computer or phone screen. The news media are used by both groups equally (50–55%) and the only thing that was unusual was that “other sources” were used by 18–19% of them. In order to determine the need for “other sources”, the next question was whether the existing sources meet requirements. Further results (Table 5) show that readers are stressed but that they do not accept the information provided by the local media. Nearly 40% describe information about the migrant crisis as “tendentious” (age 39.6). Both groups agree that attention to the crisis in the media is “bad”. Only 4% of readers rated it as “good” (Table 5).

Table 4. Using newspapers in Latvia. Period: August 2013–January 2016

Table 5. Latvian media about refugee problem (%)

Both newspapers have at least two daily publications that cover refugee issues. Relatively little information on the flow of refugees across Europe is provided; instead there are more analytical articles and discussions about the opinions of local politicians. This explains why the results of the survey show that the publications are “tendentious” (Table 5). The author must agree with that the European Journalism Observatory (EJO) study, which concluded that “the media of Eastern European and the Baltic States was mainly occupied with negative attitudes, without showing compassion for the refugees, and was against the European Union’s migration policy” (EJO, 2015EJO, Pētījums: kā laikraksti Eiropā atspoguļoja bēgļu krīzi. (2015November 9). Par žurnālistikuEuropean Journalism Observatory. Retrieved from [Google Scholar]). There were almost no human stories about the everyday life of refugees or interviews with refugees themselves. Even the tragic picture of the deceased Kurdish boy was only published in one Latvian newspaper—Diena (2 September 2015)—and did not have “the big emotional impact as highlighted, for example, in the German, Italian, or Portuguese media” (EJO, 2015EJO, Pētījums: kā laikraksti Eiropā atspoguļoja bēgļu krīzi. (2015November 9). Par žurnālistikuEuropean Journalism Observatory. Retrieved from [Google Scholar]). It stems from the two post-colonial consequences above: (1) the need for a single leader, and (2) public distrust of the media (Ankrava, 2002Ankrava, S. (2002December). Postkoloniālisma sindroms un identitāte LatvijāJaunā Gaita, (231), 46. [Google Scholar]; Havel, 1991Havel, V. (1991). Open letters: Selected writings, 1965–1990. (P. Wilson Ed.). New York, NYAlfred A. Knopf. [Google Scholar]; Račevskis, 2002Račevskis, K. (2002December). Vēl mazliet par racionālismu un Latvijas kolonizācijuJaunā Gaita,(231), 1426. [Google Scholar]).

4.2. Media rhetoric during the crisis

4.2.1. The human interest argument

The news services believe that an event with “an unpredictable ending” is one of the most important news selection criteria in the flow of news something that helps promote human interest, and “human interest is an essential ingredient of news” (Mencher, 2000Mencher, M. (2000). News reporting and writingSingaporeMCgraw Hill. [Google Scholar], p. 63). Publications in both newspapers show the flow of refugees across Europe and state that this is that crisis with an unpredictable ending, a crisis situation without a way out. That is why the newspapers are using: (a) statistics with illustrations: “191,000 people killed” (Kasparāns, 2015Kasparāns, G. (2015September 8). Karš pret terorismu nav uzvarēts. Diena. [Google Scholar]); “100 refugees an hour arriving in Munich” (Liepiņa, 2015Liepiņa, A. (2015September 2). Minhenē ir stundu 100 bēgļu. Latvijas Avīze. [Google Scholar]); (b) emotionally powerful images: illustrations and drawings, such as barbed wire fences, which build up reactions against refugees, pictures of destroyed areas of Syria, the “Refugees Welcome” photo from Germany (Tūkstošiem, 2015Tūkstošiem cilvēku gatavojas bēgļu atbalsta gājienam Briselē. (2015September 27). Diena. [Google Scholar]); the “Stop Halt Polizei” photo from Germany (Ir plans, 2015Ir plans kā slēgt robežu, ja bēgļu straumes pavēršas mūsu virzienā. (2015September 21). Diena. [Google Scholar]); or showing a drawing of a medieval pillory by the church. A woman tied to the stake is Latvia and the pillory is the EU (Ošs, 2015Ošs, E. (2015September 17). Eiropas kauna stabs. Latvijas Avīze. [Google Scholar]); (c) the use of emotionally strong language (metaphors, features, and rhetorical phrases): “a respectable number of immigrants” (Ķezberis, 2015aĶezberis, U. (2015aSeptember 10). EK velas obligātu bēgļu uzņemšanu. Diena. [Google Scholar]bĶezberis, U. (2015aSeptember 10). EK velas obligātu bēgļu uzņemšanu. Diena.
Ķezberis, U. (2015bSeptember 10). Eiropa netiek gala ar bēgļu plūsmu. Diena. 
); “the disobedient member countries”, “a tool to exert pressure”, “waves of refugees are rising and might drown Europe in the shape of an enormous tsunami” (Eniņš, 2015Eniņš, G. (2015September 18). Bēgļu laiks būs baigs. Latvijas Avīze. [Google Scholar]); “a dramatically growing number of migrants” (Zvirbulis, 2015bZvirbulis, Ģ. (2015bSeptember 10). Junkera ‘dāvana’. Latvijas Avīze. [Google Scholar]cZvirbulis, Ģ. (2015cSeptember 15). Bēgļu jautājums nebūs valdības krišanas iemesls. Latvijas Avīze. [Google Scholar]); “the drowning of Europe” (Līcītis, 2015aLīcītis, E. (2015aMarch 1). Banketu atcēla. Latvijas Avīze. [Google Scholar]); (d) irony: “don’t worry, they won’t be Jews”, “Members of Parliament joking”, “Pope calls on every Catholic family to shelter one immigrant family” (Zanders, 2015Zanders, M. (2015September 29). Jautri puiši un meitenes. Diena. [Google Scholar]); (e) the use of language and illustration for ironic purposes: “Muhammad has arrived with a fortune and a cell phone in his hand” (Līcītis, 2015bLīcītis, E. (2015bAugust 19). Mums jāņem bēgļi savā kompānijā. Latvijas Avīze. [Google Scholar]); “sons of deserts”, (Līcītis, 2015cLīcītis, E. (2015cSeptember 9). Tomēr grib ģermanizēties. Latvijas Avīze. [Google Scholar]); “souls fleeing from tyrannies” (Līcītis, 2015dLīcītis, E. (2015dNovember 24). Vai Latvija pārstās būt drošas mājas. Latvijas Avīze. [Google Scholar]); “refugees with advanced handsets” & “a crisis that has forced our politicians up a coconut tree” (Zanders, 2015Zanders, M. (2015September 29). Jautri puiši un meitenes. Diena. [Google Scholar]). In fact this is not humanitarian interest, but deliberate populism which, in eastern and central European media, “should be treated as a dynamic phenomenon in which radical ideological components are becoming overshadowed by pure anti-establishment appeal” (Učen, 2007Učen, P. (2007). Parties, populisms, and anti-establishment politics in east central EuropeSAIS Review of International Affairs, 274962. [Google Scholar], p. 49).

4.2.2. Shifting the problem at the micro level

Economic issues were highlighted as being the most important argument against refugees in Latvia. In newspaper articles about internal issues many of these people are referred to as “economic migrants” or “immigrants” who “cannot be accommodated because ‘there are no free apartments available because young families are already in the queue for these’” (Egle, 2015Egle, I. (2015August 31). Brauks uz Somiju pēc pieredzes. Diena. [Google Scholar]). The arguments are as follows: (a) immigrants can worsen Latvia’s prosperity: “refugees should not be provided with a material standard of living that is higher than that of our poor people and senior citizens” (Bēgļiem, 2015Bēgļiem varētu atvēlēt dzīvokļus pagastos (2015August 5). Latvijas Avīze. [Google Scholar]); (b) it will inevitably lead to a conflict of cultures: “they do not speak our language” (Eksperti, 2015Eksperti: latviešu valoda bēgļiem būtu jāmāca no pirmās dienas (2015August 24). Latvijas Avīze. [Google Scholar]), and “it is a matter of concern that after integrating refugees Latvia might do much worse” (Liepiņš, 2015Liepiņš, A. (2015August 20). Bravūrīgi paziņojumi par bēgļu uzņemšanu. Latvijas Avīze. [Google Scholar]). “Where will the refugees live? We have no answer. Where will they work? No answer either” (Saeimā, 2015Saeimā pagaidām nav atbalsta papildu bēgļu uzņemšanai Latvijā. (2015September 8). Diena. [Google Scholar]), “If immigrants are not going to work, then there will be pressure on taxes. If they are trained, then they will outdo us on the labour market” (Uzņēmēji, 2015Uzņēmēji gatavo nodarbināt bēgļus, nobažījušies par viņu inregrāciju tirgū. (2015September 24). Diena. [Google Scholar]).

Applying the problem to the private economy of the population is an effective meta-communication on a micro level. The most popular phrases in newspapers in August were the following: “the problem has fallen on the shoulders of local government authorities” (Bēgļiem, 2015Bēgļiem varētu atvēlēt dzīvokļus pagastos (2015August 5). Latvijas Avīze. [Google Scholar]); “should clarify how much it will cost for local authorities”, “be tolerant of local people”, “there is no need to provoke local people”, “where and how will immigrants work?” (Pašvaldību, 2015Pašvaldību līderi: bēgļu uzņemšana ir komplicēts jautājums. (2015August 6). Latvijas Avīze. [Google Scholar]); and, finally, only one appearance of: “maybe it’s not so bad” (Jēkabsons, 2015Jēkabsons, Ē. (2015August 4). Palīdzība ‘grūtdieņiem’ vai pakļaušanās starptautiski organizētai noziedzībai. Latvijas Avīze. [Google Scholar]). It is noteworthy that most of the articles devoted themselves to the point of view of local government policy, which is almost as Aleksandrs Bartašēvičs of Rēzekne City Council illustrates: “Latvija does not need refugees. We have no place for them” (Bēgļiem, 2015Bēgļiem varētu atvēlēt dzīvokļus pagastos (2015August 5). Latvijas Avīze. [Google Scholar]). Such a statement without a contradictory point of view or a discussion may be considered a consequence of post-colonialism in the Latvian media because the politician’s opinion is the only point of view expressed by both dailies (Ankrava, 2002Ankrava, S. (2002December). Postkoloniālisma sindroms un identitāte LatvijāJaunā Gaita, (231), 46. [Google Scholar]; Spolītis & Reez, 2008Spolītis, V., & Reez, A. (2008). Latvijas deviņdesmitā un trīsdesmit trešā gadskārtaAkadēmiskā Dzīve, 452129. Retrieved from [Google Scholar]; Zepa, 2008Zepa, B. (2008). Demokrātijas diskursi mūsdienu LatvijāAkadēmiskā dzīve, 451320. Retrieved from Academic Life: [Google Scholar]). It is clear that the two leading dailies have taken the position of certain political parties when it comes to refugee issues continuing the media work logics established by the colonial times when newspapers are used as agitators of political leaders and propagandists. If it was not for the post-colonial effects such media work practice would have no influence on the public opinion.

The next step is to find out if other local media reflect the refugee problem better. Table 6 shows that none of the local media outlets can supply “objective” information to readers. The best information about the crisis is coming from the public service media outlet, Latvian TV (LTV) at 21%, followed by the newspaper, Latvijas Avīze (LA) with 16%, and public service radio (Latvijas radio) with 14%. Only the second group with an average age of 25.5 years was participating in this stage of the study. The most tendentious information during the crisis was published via internet media: Kas Jauns, Delfi, TVNET, and Apollo. The least tendentious and the most objective was once again Latvijas Avīze. The study showed that both groups of respondents were not satisfied with how local media reflected the refugee crisis.

Table 6. How is the refugee issue reflected in the Latvian media? 2015/2016 (%)

4.2.3. The image of a refugee

The next step was an analysis of the concept of a “refugee” using Mikhail Bakhtin’s literary theory of dialogic imagination (Bakhtin, 1981Bakhtin, M. (1981). The Dialogic Imagination. Four Essays by M.M. Bakhtin. (M. Holqvist Ed.). Austin, TXUniversity of Texas Press. [Google Scholar]). The text in a newspaper is a dialogic work. This means that the journalist creates a continuous dialogue with other texts (documents from government bodies, institutions, the European Union, etc.), other authors of opinion (politicians, decision makers, etc.), and with public opinion. This is about the essential dialogue, formed in the process of social interaction, and this leads to the interaction of different social values being registered in terms of the re-accentuation of the speech of others (Bakhtin, 1979Bakhtin, M. (1979). Problemy poetiki DostoyevskogoMoskvaSovetskaya Rossiya. [Google Scholar]). For Bakhtin “being” “means to communicate dialogically”, and “one voice nothing ends and nothing permits. Two voices—at least life, at least life” (Bakhtin, 1979Bakhtin, M. (1979). Problemy poetiki DostoyevskogoMoskvaSovetskaya Rossiya. [Google Scholar], p. 294) is a very important process. This includes a perception of the text (1) understanding the meaning in the given language, (2) understanding in the context of culture, and (3) an active dialogical understanding (Viktorova, 1998Viktorova, L. (1998). Dialogovaya kontseptsiya kultury M.M. Bakhtina – V.S. Biblera. Paradigma. No.1. [Google Scholar]).

In order to describe “the other” (Boguslavskaya, 2011Boguslavskaya, S. (2011). Dialog v trudakh M.M. Bakhtina. Vestnik OGU. 08.07. [Google Scholar], p. 18) or “alien” (Bakhtin, 1981Bakhtin, M. (1981). The Dialogic Imagination. Four Essays by M.M. Bakhtin. (M. Holqvist Ed.). Austin, TXUniversity of Texas Press. [Google Scholar], p. 423), Diena and Latvijas Avīze used the following words: “refugees”, “migrants” (Lībijā, 2015Lībijā, apgāžoties divām migrant laivām, vismaz 100 bojāgājušie (2015August 28). Diena. [Google Scholar]); “immigrants”, “islamists” (Līcītis, 2015dLīcītis, E. (2015dNovember 24). Vai Latvija pārstās būt drošas mājas. Latvijas Avīze. [Google Scholar]); “EU migrants”, “travelling migrants”, “illegal immigrants” (Vācijā, 2015Vācijā ik stundu ierodas 100 nelegālie imigranti. (2015September 2). Diena. [Google Scholar]); “those who are desperately trying to reach rich Europe” (Jēkabsons, 2015Jēkabsons, Ē. (2015August 4). Palīdzība ‘grūtdieņiem’ vai pakļaušanās starptautiski organizētai noziedzībai. Latvijas Avīze. [Google Scholar]); and “those who have not clearly heard that their women here should not wear Muslim clothing” (Antonevičs, 2015Antonevičs, M. (2015August 15). Musulmaņu sieviešu apģērbu aizliegšana būtu cīņa ar sekām, nevis cēloņiem. Latvijas Avīze. [Google Scholar]). In order to determine the recurrence of the word “refugee”, two randomly selected articles in October,22. Ķezberis, Soļi migrantu krīzes risināšanai, Diena, 27 October 2015; Zvirbulis, Valsts plāns—uzgrūst bēgļus pašvaldībām. LA, 26 October 2015.View all notes and two in December,33. Diena, 23 Feruary 2015, LA, Eiropā ieradies miljons migrantu. 23 December 2015.View all notes were analysed (Table 7). The most frequently used word is “migrant”—24%, followed by “asylum seeker”—19%. In October and December, the most used term was “migrant”, repeated 24 and eleven times respectively. This was followed by “asylum seeker”—with nineteen occurrences in October and six in December. The third most used was “immigrant”—thirteen times in October and seven in December. In December the use of the words “refugee” (10 times) and “aliens” (6 times) was growing. A quantitative analysis shows that newspapers tend to focus on migrants rather than the refugee issue. Such an approach creates the preconditions for the effects of a hybridisation of value. In this way “the refugee issue” has become invisible and has disappeared into the shadow of “migration”. At the same time, one can observe reaccentuation and an accentuation of value, which “can substantially alter the sound of a word in its context” (Bakhtin, 1981Bakhtin, M. (1981). The Dialogic Imagination. Four Essays by M.M. Bakhtin. (M. Holqvist Ed.). Austin, TXUniversity of Texas Press. [Google Scholar], p. 422). Therefore we can make an assumption that the perception of readers of the newspaper’s text may be mistaken: they fail to understand “cultural differences” (Bibler, 1991Bibler, V. (1991). Mikhail Mikhailovich Bakhtin, or the Poetics of CultureMoskvaProgress. [Google Scholar], p. 85) between refugees and migrants which makes them unable to participate in a dialogue with the authors of the article.

Table 7. An analysis of the recurrence of the words “refugee” & “migrant” in Diena and Latvijas Avīze between October and December, 2015

Since September the newspapers have been offering the reader two stereotypes of a refugee that are diametrically opposite. The first of them is the compassionate image in which the refugee is considered to be a man on the run, in need of help. From a qualitative point of view, there were less publications that involved this view. The second image of a refugee is a brazen, dangerous competitor on the labour market, almost a terrorist, and such articles are quantitatively far more common. Both papers retained the same attitude throughout the investigation period until the crisis reached its culmination in January 2016. The survey shows that the public does not support such a stereotype of refugees and migrants (Table 7). The results of a survey show that the majority of young people (and an overwhelming majority of students) distinguish refugees from migrants and do not seek to use the stereotypes “they are all alike” or “they all are bad”. People from the oldest age group share an opinion that is closer to the position of the newspapers. It seemed interesting to find out whether students had met and had a chance to get to know refugees as people and therefore their attitude towards these people was more positive. Table 8 shows that students often have not met people who are on the run—90% of them. This was more probable for the other group of respondents (39.6)—20%. But most of them were sceptical about refugees and relied more on the opinion of the newspapers (40%). Students were more interested in meeting migrants privately (30%) while 20% would not like to have such an encounter (Table 9). It seemed important to find out why students (25.5) condemned the two newspapers and were more positive towards refugees. Maybe this is the European Union’s information success story in Latvia. Table 10 showed that the EU’s official information is not particularly popular amongst participants (25.5); however, regardless of this, students were more positive towards refugees. The question was: “Do you have information about the refugee crisis that has been gathered from the EU’s sources of information?” Half of students (51%) answered “no”, 25% said “sometimes”, 10% “hadn’t noticed” such information at all, 5% did not know that such information existed, and only 4% had received information about the refugee crisis from the EU information channels. It turns out that the European Union channels of information are not the best source of information for this areas of the population.

Table 8. How would you describe a person called as a refugee? (%)

Table 9. Would you ever meet a refuge? (%)

Table 10. Du you use information from the EU about the refugee crisis in Latvia? (%)

4.2.4. ”Power” and “We” groups

Both newspapers portrayed the EU during the crisis as public enemy No. 1. “Refugees are Junkers’ gift to Europe” (Zvirbulis, 2015bZvirbulis, Ģ. (2015bSeptember 10). Junkera ‘dāvana’. Latvijas Avīze. [Google Scholar]2015dZvirbulis, Ģ. (2015dSeptember 10). Junkera ‘dāvana’ Straujumas valdībai. Latvijas Avīze. [Google Scholar]), “the crisis is a result of the bad policies of former colonial powers or of the European Union’s largest countries” (Šmits, 2015Šmits, U. (2015September 7). Humānismu mēra kvotās? Latvijas Avīze. [Google Scholar]). During the month of September, newspapers were revealed to have divided the audience into two groups: “we” and “power.” The “power” group includes the EU institutions, the national government, and the refugees themselves, while on the opposite side are Latvian newspaper readers and the local media. This is a typical expression of post-colonial “privatisation of democracy” (Zepa, 2008Zepa, B. (2008). Demokrātijas diskursi mūsdienu LatvijāAkadēmiskā dzīve, 451320. Retrieved from Academic Life: [Google Scholar]) which provokes “a process of social disintegration accompanied by a gradual loss of legitimacy for parliamentary democracy, and this, quite possibly, may provoke authoritarianism” (Ostrovska, 1996/1997Ostrovska, I. (1996/1997). The state and it’s civil society: Priorities in a period of transitionHumanities and Social Sciences, No. 4(13)/1(14). [Google Scholar], 19). The EJO, in its 2015 study on the topic of European refugees in the media, stresses that in the media of the Czech Republic, Poland, and the Baltic States, “articles about refugees devote more attention to politics” and therefore they “were more negative, especially towards the EU” (EJO, 2015EJO, Pētījums: kā laikraksti Eiropā atspoguļoja bēgļu krīzi. (2015November 9). Par žurnālistikuEuropean Journalism Observatory. Retrieved from [Google Scholar]). The emphasis is placed on the desired description of events instead of the actual description of events (Jaworsky & Coupland, 1999Jaworsky, A., & Coupland, N. (1999). The discourse readerNew York, NYRoutledge. [Google Scholar]; Mills, 2004Mills, S. (2004). Discourse: The new critical idiom(2nd ed.). LondonRoutledge. [Google Scholar]). Only 9% of articles noticed that “the crisis could also provide new opportunities” (Uzņēmēji, 2015Uzņēmēji gatavo nodarbināt bēgļus, nobažījušies par viņu inregrāciju tirgū. (2015September 24). Diena. [Google Scholar]). European conservative newspapers: The Daily Mail, The Telegraph (both from the UK), Il Giornale (Italy), Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (Germany), Mlada Fronta Dnes (Czech Republic), and Rzeczpospolita (Poland), (EJO, 2015EJO, Pētījums: kā laikraksti Eiropā atspoguļoja bēgļu krīzi. (2015November 9). Par žurnālistikuEuropean Journalism Observatory. Retrieved from [Google Scholar]) responded to the refugee crisis in 2015/2016 in a similar style. In order to understand why the student audience is more optimistic about refugees, the author had to investigate how they use the international media.

4.2.5. The international media as the provider of a polyphony of information

The survey showed that digital natives are not worried about religious differences. The only exception is the debate on whether Muslim women should be allowed or not allowed to wear Muslim headscarves in public spaces. This topic does not appear as being important. The finding was the importance of the foreign media as an information source (Table 11). The question was posed as follows: which media source best reported the refugee crisis? The responses from students were unexpectedly interesting. They showed that foreign media consumption is voluminous. F news (foreign news), F radio (foreign radio), and F int port (foreign internet portals) are far more in demand than many of the domestic media sources. Latvian news (LV news) picked up only 14% and Latvian public service television (LV TV) even less at 8%, both being were mentioned as accurate sources of information. Foreign internet media has explained the crisis in an exhaustive and clever manner (19%). This is followed by Latvian public service television (18%) and Latvian public service radio (18%). Russian media that is available on a daily basis in Latvia was found to be highly tendentious (29%). Domestic internet portals (LV Internet) were ranked the second most tendentious (25%).

Table 11. Which source informs the best about the refugee crisis? (%)

The next table, Table 12, shows the most popular foreign media sources, with the UK media leading with its illustrations (34%), news (33%), and reports (23%) at the top of the list. The runner up was the USA with its news (23%), movies (16%), discussions (16%), and interviews (16%). These were followed by Germany with news (19%), reports (13%), discussions (9%), and illustrations (9%). Nordic and Russian media sources were the fifth and sixth most-used sources by Latvian students. The least used sources of information on the refugee crisis were the French media, where news and reports were followed by just 8%. And the least used source of foreign information were German movies at 1%.

Table 12. Foreign media covering the refugee crisis 2015/2016 (%)

This means that both of the surveyed groups use significantly different sources for their media-delivered information. The first group uses a domestic media information feed on the refugee crisis that they do not trust and almost never use foreign sources which can be seen as post-colonial, this remaining part of their thought process which is characterised by “distrust any information” (Havel, 1991Havel, V. (1991). Open letters: Selected writings, 1965–1990. (P. Wilson Ed.). New York, NYAlfred A. Knopf. [Google Scholar], p. 136). At the same time they look at world events as being an incomprehensible and decadent process “because nothing has changed” (Račevskis, 2002Račevskis, K. (2002December). Vēl mazliet par racionālismu un Latvijas kolonizācijuJaunā Gaita,(231), 1426. [Google Scholar], p. 21). The need for a strong leader or the “return of authoritarianism” (Spolītis & Reez, 2008Spolītis, V., & Reez, A. (2008). Latvijas deviņdesmitā un trīsdesmit trešā gadskārtaAkadēmiskā Dzīve, 452129. Retrieved from [Google Scholar], p. 27), distrust in the media, and confusion in the face of complex events with different views are three post-colonial effects.

It is possible that the use of foreign sources explains the difference between the two groups. Students do not exhibit similar attitudes. They showed a different approach in their use of news sources and seemed to be free of post-colonial effects in the use of information.

5. Discussion and conclusion

(1) The results of the study showed that different age groups have different reactions to the refugee crisis. It is likely that the post-colonial past affects senior respondent groups, whose dislike to mass migration is contributed to by emotionally strained stand of the local press towards mass migration. The same was not observed in young adults who have not experienced the effects of colonial past personally and use mainly objective foreign information sources.
(2) The study found that the local and foreign media provide different interpretations of information about the refugees and migrants to the Latvian audience and therefore media use for the most part explains different attitudes of the first and the second group towards migrants and migration issues in the country.
(3) Strikingly tendentious interpretation of events and use of rhetorical and linguistic tools can be observed in the way the local media reflects the crisis.
(4) The crisis highlights the problems on the Latvian media market. The lack of a liberal and independent press is the reason why public opinion about the refugee crisis in Latvia is so negative.
(5) The lack of a liberal media on the local market explains the pursuit of young people for foreign resources that are covering the refugee crisis.


1. Latvijas Avīze being abbreviated to LA from this point forwards.

2. Ķezberis, Soļi migrantu krīzes risināšanai, Diena, 27 October 2015; Zvirbulis, Valsts plāns—uzgrūst bēgļus pašvaldībām. LA, 26 October 2015.

3. Diena, 23 Feruary 2015, LA, Eiropā ieradies miljons migrantu. 23 December 2015.


Additional information

Author information

Sandra Veinberg

Sandra Veinberg, PhD is an associate professor of Communication Sciences at Riga International School of Economics and Business Administration and Senior Researcher at the Institute of Management Sciences of Liepaja University. Approved expert for science of communication at Latvian Academy of Sciences.

Sandra Veinberg is an author of several books on the mass media and public relations: The Mission of the Media (2010); CensorshipThe Mission of the Media (2010); Public Relations or PR(2008) and Mass Media. Press, Radio and Television (2008). Currently, the publishing house of the university is preparing for printing the monograph Communication.

Sandra Veinberg is a member of ECREA, EUPRERA and the Swedish Journalists’ Association (Publicistklubben), Foreign Press Association of Sweden, FPA.

She is also known as a writer & journalist.



Funding. The authors received no direct funding for this research.



Posted in Mass communication, Media research, Media research Media forskning | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

„The Visualisation of News Reports: A Comparative Analysis of Newspapers in Seven Different Countries – Myths, Identities and Culture”.

RISEBA University of Business Arts and Technology

RISEBA University
of Business Arts and Technology

The Visualisation of News Reports (A Comparative Analysis of Newspapers in Seven Different Countries): Myths, Identities and Culture

Business Meets Art: Beyond the Traditional Approach to Education, management and Business. (2016). RISEBA. ISBN 978-9984-705-32-3

Sandra Veinberg



This paper examines the process of visualisation and conducts a test with regard to how the meditations of the media impact various journalistic fields in different countries that issue news reports. In order to analyse this visualisation (as a news phenomenon) I needed to find an event that was interesting for nearly all of the world’s media. I therefore decided to choose the Assange case and made an attempt at analysing the current “global hunt” that is centred around the founder of WikiLeaks, Julian Assange. As my source, I have used a total of 890 published articles from online media sources, covering seven different countries: Sweden, the UK, Ecuador, Russia, Latvia, Malaysia, and Japan. The objective was to observe the visualisation of news reports over the last year and a half (between the start of 2012 and April 2013). The results of my research produced confirmation that the majority of articles revealed evidence of a clear visualisation of the information. My conclusion is that stories involving news reports use the process of visualisation to quickly explain a current situation where it is almost inexplicable. The Assange case has created just such an inexplicable report thanks to WikiLeaks’ publications of classified documents, the varied reaction of society to this publication, and the lengthy legal process that has been put in motion against Julian Assange in the Swedish and British courts. I found that the visualisation of news reports had an effect on the journalistic field from one country to another, but it also had an influence on international relations and diplomacy.

Keywords: visualisation of reports, international relations, public relations, media mediation, culture


This study involves an analysis of newspaper articles in various journalistic fields that cover the same event. An analysis of the visualisation for these articles shows that reports in newspapers have become shorter and sharper, and that they have a stronger ability to affect the reader emotionally. Much of today’s journalistic field works with similar forms in news journalism: the length of articles today is limited. In cases where an article covers facts that require lengthy explanation, the text tries to help with an “active visualisation”. For examining various points, it may be necessary to begin with: 1) whether there is “the tendency to imitate the effects of visual art” (Mitchell, 2007, p. 94), and 2) how this visualisation is realised in text generally. During the investigation it may be concluded that the journalistic field also affects the social field and was also reflected in both intergovernmental and international relations.

First of all, it might be appropriate to include a brief explanation about the Assange case: Julian Assange is the founder and editor-in-chief of WikiLeaks. He is known for his activities at the self-made organisation known as WikiLeaks, which published a series of confidential documents, most of them from the US. Reactions in the world’s media, diplomatic circles, and in the social sphere to the WikiLeaks publications have been different. There is no doubt that this was a scoop as far as the global public sphere is concerned; therefore, reactions to it have so far been rather strong. The US and its allies consider Assange to be a terrorist. The opposite view is shared by many others, who regard him as a freedom fighter and the digital world’s Robin Hood. Thanks to the publications made through WikiLeaks, he has been chased by opponents from several directions. His situation was at its worst in autumn 2010, when he was interrogated by the police on suspicion of raping two Swedish women. He personally denies any breach of the law. After a long series of trials in Britain, where Assange tried to appeal against extradition to Sweden, he lost the final decision. In order to avoid expulsion from Britain and deportation to Sweden, he demanded and received political asylum in Ecuador. Since then he has resided in Ecuador’s embassy in London without any opportunity to venture out in public. He refuses extradition to Sweden because he believes that the United States may affect the trial processes in Stockholm and may require his forced deportation to America, where he could face the death penalty thanks to his activities at WikiLeaks. Various media outlets in different countries illustrate this case in different ways.

This investigation does not comprise research into the legalities of the matter. It is clear that the complexity of the legal procedures has dramatized the Assange case sharply, transforming a routine investigation in the media world into a scandalous political persecution. The most important aspect here is the conclusion that the media misunderstanding of the complexity of the legal process has confused the international media corps and caused a confrontation in terms of international relations. One can only conclude that Vladimir Putin, Oliver Stone, Fidel Castro, Hugo Chavez, and Rafael Correra welcomed Ecuador’s decision to provide Assange with political asylum, but Sweden’s foreign minister, Carl Bildt, and a number of leading politicians from the UK have condemned this. We can conclude that one and the same event has been interpreted in different ways in different countries through various journalistic fields (Bourdieu, 2005), and because of this it has influenced not only the media coverage in different countries, but also the political, diplomatic and international image in intergovernmental relations.

Background of the Study

Communication is necessary for cultural innovation and human survival. “We live today in an ever- increasingly hyper-interconnected world, a global acumen of communicative interactions and exchanges that stimulates profound cultural transformations and realignments” (Hannerz, 1996, p.33). The most sweeping dimension of communication is connectivity, which is realised via the internet and information technology and which offers incredible social opportunities.

Language and the written text has always been associated with image-making, but rarely has this process become involved in the social sciences, in journalistic research. The Canadian anthropologist Grant McCracken offers the analogy of linguistic structure and uses language to demonstrate the vitality in the routine of social interaction (McCracken, 1990, p.63). It is possible that in the current situation communication shows a slightly different face. It flows across borders and changes itself according to the dominant ideology in each individual country.

Ideologies are internally coherent ways of thinking: “they are points of view that may or may not be “true”; that is, ideologies are not necessarily grounded in historically or empirically verifiable fact” (Lull, 2006, p.13). Organised thought is never innocent. Mass media tends to create “the organised thought” within their country’s borders in synchronisation with the local habitus and the social field. It always serves a purpose. Naturally, mass media and all other large-scale social institutions play a vital role in the dissemination of macro-level ideologies. British sociologist John B Thompson insists that ideology is best understood in the narrower sense of “dominant ideology”, where “symbolic forms”, including language, play a major role. This means that the agenda in the public space is often created by counter-hegemonic messages from media industries, including the news.

The ideologies of mass media play a very influential role in public consciousness. Consciousness is not fixed. It is impermanent and malleable. It is shaped by the media, but also by many other information sources. Conscious information is not always self-evident. “The local ideology” formed by the domestic media in each country on an individual basis is obviously addressed only to “the local reader”. “Just as fish tend not to problematise the water in which they swim, people certainly don’t always analyse how their everyday environments, including media messages, shape their thinking.” (Lull, 2006, p. 29).

If one of a country’s journalistic fields collides with the journalistic field of a foreign country, we can suspect that a cultural conflict is to blame. Culture is a conceptual system which on the surface appears in the words of people’s language (Agar, 1994, p. 79). Anyone who speaks more than one language understands very well that language is much more than just words. We cannot separate language from culture; they are intimately connected through meaning. “Though language may be one surface of culture, personal interpretations and the use of language are by no means superficial; the most profound meanings are fashioned through language. We learn who ‘we’ are, and who ‘they’ are, largely through language.” (Lull, 2006, p. 139). Agar defines culture as “something you make up to fill in the spaces between them and you.” (Agar, 1994, p.128). Language is about differences in the way people live.

As a system of symbols, language is expressed and perceived both as an audio code and as a visual code. Mastering the various modes and codes of communication shows how one becomes part of culture. Like all symbolic forms, language is a resource for social construction and culture. Certainly, one of the most systematic and well-known attempts to come to grips on a theoretical basis with the relationship between culture and social structure is the one that was undertaken by the French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu. He resurrected and reworked the concept of habitus to bring all of the lifestyle factors into one explanatory paradigm based on situated social interaction. Habitus is how we live and is learned through social experience. Media reflect habitus.

Everyday global news media carries stories that cover events involving foreign governments and their populations. War rather than peace makes the news headlines, and understandably so, because the violent conflict of war so visibly ravages human societies. “‘If it bleeds, it leads’; so goes the cynical media adage.” (Devetak, 2012). Global news by virtual communication today penetrates all barriers (nationally, regionally, and locally) and on the road (through the obstacle course of “noise”) (Fiske, 1998) can create essential changes in the appearance (content) of the message. In this way, the content of the message may no longer correspond to real events that have actually occurred in real life. This creates communicative confusion which may be expressed in international relations. That is to say, a defect in media relations may result which may be reflected in international relations. In the era of globalisation “the scope of diplomacy and public relations becomes broader as technology facilitates communication across national frontiers and creates more publics” (L’Etang, 2006, p. 378).


In order to analyse a variety of newspaper reports and compare them by visualising them, we can use various qualitative research methods. My research is based on an analysis of qualitative research (a qualitative study) of 890 newspaper reports by two methods: a critical analysis of visual communication (Bergström, 1998, p. 45), and the fallacy of a “pictorial turn” (Mitchell, 2007, p. 94).

Firstly, all of today’s media is in the form of mixed media. This means that the old “classification” of the media in which all newspapers and magazines were classified as “printed” (text) media and radio and TV were considered as being audio-visual is now an outdated assumption. We can agree with Mitchell, who pointed out that today one “is allowed to say what is true: that literature, insofar as it is written or printed, has an unavoidable visual component which bears a specific relation to an auditory component, which is why it makes a difference whether a novel is read aloud or silently. We are also allowed to notice that literature, in techniques like emphasis and description… involves ‘virtual’ or ‘imaginative’ experiences of space and vision that are no less real for being indirectly conveyed through language” (Mitchell, 2007, p. 95). This means that newspaper reports also now belong to visual culture.

It is important to understand what Mitchell calls “the visual construction of the social field” (2005, p. 345). This can be realised even through internet online media. The visual culture “is not an object-based field, but a cross-cultural, cross-platform, and cross-temporal comparison” (Mirzoeff, 2009, p. 2).

There are three categories in my analysis model: 1) “ten myths”, “eight theses”, and “five constitutive fallacies about visual culture”, from Mitchel (Mitchell, 2007, pp. 90-92.); 2) seven paradoxes and comparisons from Mirzoeff: a) conflicts, b) comparisons, c) sensibility, d) perspective and policy, e) race, f) the fetish, or the gaze, g) celebrity (Mirzoeff, 2009); and finally, 3) three criteria for “good visual communication” by Bergström: intention, ethics and aesthetics (Bergström, 1998, p. 45). It should be noted that this is research about verbal visualisation.

Analysis, Findings, Results

The analysis of news reports included 890 articles from seven different countries. All of the online media publications cover the Assange case. The period over which the analysis was carried out took place during the last two years, covering all of 2012 and extending to April 2013 for Sweden, the UK, Ecuador, Russia, Latvia and Malaysia, and covering 2010 to April 2013 for Japan.

The research results show that the greatest number of articles demonstrates reportage (translations) from the so-called main theatres of action: Stockholm and London.

Sweden first and foremost is the main stage. It was here that criminal charges were brought against Assange and it was here that everything began. Therefore, the Swedish media mention the case most frequently and most intensely. The analysis started with two of the country’s highest quality and largest dailies: the liberal Dagens Nyheter and the liberal-conservative Svenska Dagbladet. Both are published in Swedish. Among English media, the Guardian was selected. At first it was thought that this source should function only as a means of comparison with the information coming out of the Swedish media, but after a review of all 275 British news articles on the Assange case, including from the Guardian, which were published during the time period 2012-2013, it became clear that the British media has control over the agenda. It was decided to compare Swedish and British newspapers with the media from Ecuador, Russia, Latvia, Malaysia and Japan. This means that it was possible to analyse 95 media articles about the Assange case from Latvia (drawing on the newspapers Diena, Neatkarīgā Rīta Avīze, and Latvijas Avīze, all in Latvian); 50 from Russia (Лента, РИО, and Суббота, all in Russian); 23 from Malaysia (the Star, Mysarawak, Borneo Post, and the Asian Correspondent, all in English); fifteen from Ecuador (El Comercio, written in Spanish); and finally 126 from Japan (the Japan Times, written in English).

Upon completion of a review of all of the publications, it was clear that it is only possible to reflect the dominant trends for the visualisation. Therefore, it was decided to quote only the most typical elements and focus on the most visible trends. It is clear that the journalistic field also has certain exceptions that deviate from the dominant norm in each country’s journalism.

Most newspaper reports are visual, and they evoke visual associations. I sorted all the linguistic expressions through a yardstick description: “who is he”.

I forecasted that the visualisation would be strong, and this turned out to be correct. This depends on the emotional attitude in media reports, which is the dominant reflection of the Assange case. Firstly, we can see that the picture is almost only just black or white and is strongly polarised. The media paints him (in textual form) as a “good” or “evil” person, and the colours in the description are full of contrast. Secondly, the media tries to transform coverage of an ordinary trial into a noble battle between good and evil powers (Samson versus Goliath).

First up is Sweden, which predominantly issues a dark picture of Assange. It can be concluded that the Swedish media occupies a defensive position in his rhetoric. We can see a hint of bitterness in reaction to “the very negative image of the Swedish judicial system that has been spread overseas”. In Dagens Nyheter we can observe a strong and consistently negative image of Assange: “he is really sick”, “he is a selfish coward who ignores women”, “he’s a douchebag”, all terms used by the Swedish Minister for Social Affairs, Göran Hägglund” (“Lagen”, 2012). The same direction applies to the other Swedish quality paper, Svenska Dagbladet. It writes that: “This chicken only has a feather left”, which was a comment by Swedish Foreign Minister, Carl Bildt, when responding to the secret documents being issued on WikiLeaks (and when referring to Julian Assange himself) which show that he has been an “informant” for the US (“Bildt”, 2013).

The opposite position can be seen in the Ecuadorian media’s coverage of the Assange case. While the emotional attitude to the description of Assange still dominates, it goes in completely the opposite direction. Ecuador’s El Comercio largely sees the Assange case as a purely political process in which Assange is like a national hero. Most of the material published in El Comercio celebrates Assange and exhibits the fact that: “Hugo Chavez supports Assange,” (“Caso”, 2012) and Fidel Castro is in good health and is thinking the same thing”, while the “UNASUR, which is made up of Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Paraguay, Suriname and Uruguay, supports and celebrates Assange” (“Unasur y ALBA”, 2012; “Unasur respalda”, 2012). Almost the same visualisation of the report can be found in Russian newspapers. Here there is less of a political dimension, but a greater element of praise, celebrating Assange as “a good man” (“Dzhulian”, 2012); “Assanzh poobeshchal”, 2012)

The lyrical turn of phrase exercised by Russian newspapers in which Russian journalists describe Julian Assange is usually highly emotional and therefore paints a picture of an “involved journalist”, an “IT specialist who is hunted by foreign enemy powers”, an “Australian programmer”, “the founder of WikiLeaks”, “a political refugee”, “during his childhood he went to 37 different schools”, “liked self-training”, “he adores the exact sciences”, “president of the Australian Institute for Collaborative Research”, a “physicist”, a “good guy”, one of the “two most wanted men”, “the guy who has been locked up” (“Ekvador”, 2012; “Na kavo”, 2012; “Assanzh”, 2013).

Media coverage in Latvia is similar to the example seen in neighbouring Russia. A total of 95 articles in the three major morning newspapers provide information about the Assange case and consider him to be: “the founder of WikiLeaks”, “a popular person”, “an Australian citizen”, “a celebrity”, “desirable”, “someone that the media likes to discredit”, “rich and popular”, “desirable” (again), “attractive”, “charming”, and a “slender, erudite activist” (“WikiLeaks”, 2012; “Asanžs”, 2011; “Mediji”, 2012).

British newspapers offer highly ironic, emotionally fractious, ill-tempered, and little-distanced descriptions of Assange. He is: a “high-profile opponent of Britain’s monarchy” (“Julian”, 2013), “the former computer hacker, and Australian citizen”, “the silver-haired Assange” (“Why is”, 2011), “like Murdoch, born in Australia” (Goodman, 2012); “Assange is acting out melodrama”, is a protagonist in a “political thriller… Greek tragedy… soap opera” (Ball, 2012); “this is a man who, after all, has yet to be charged, let alone convicted, of anything”, and as far as the bulk of the press is concerned, Assange is nothing but a “monstrous narcissist”, a “bail-jumping sex pest”, and an “exhibitionist maniac” (Milne, 2012); “this /Assange case/ is not a policy issue for the Labour party” (Quinn, 2013); “the former computer hacker” (Townsend, 2010) “is a creation of the global right, designed to make the left look ridiculous” (“Please”, 2013); “the man at the centre of controversy – who refused to be gracious” (Greenslade, 2013), the “self-proclaimed defender of truth and freedom” (Elder, 2012) “has sparked intense personal animosity, especially in media circles” (Ball, 2012). We can see the irritation in British publications when it comes to Assange’s residence in the country and his activities in the UK, and newspaper articles create a picture of an unstable person, a narcissistic cheat, a clown.

Malaysian publications show a very considerable degree of influence from the British way of reporting on the Assange case. Their output coincides with British expressions: “WikiLeaks founder” (“WikiLeaks founder”, 2010; “WikiLeaks’ Assange”, 2013), “the former computer hacker” (“Assange embassy”, 2013), “the man behind WikiLeaks” (“WikiLeaks founder”, 2010), “Internet activist”, and “Australian journalist” (“WikiLeaks’ Assange”, 2013). One can even encounter a clean “copy” of some expressions: “the silver-haired Assange” (“A spotlight”, 2010), “the former computer hacker, and Australian” (“Wikileaks founder Assange”, 2012), and “high-profile opponent of Britain’s monarchy” (“Assange appoints”, 2013). This can be explained easily: Malaysian English-language newspapers often reproduce English newspaper articles completely and tend to use British and Australian sources and writers who feed on the English-language media sphere. But the newspapers’ choice of words here (in the description of Assange) are more cautious. We see this most in terms of the use of “a computer hacker” and “WikiLeaks founder”, a paradox that cannot be explained.

The Japan Times examines the Assange case through 125 articles. Most of them have subtitles, using phrases such as “Crime”, “WikiLeaks founder”, “Australian-born founder of the controversial WikiLeaks site” (“WikiLeaks Party”, 2013), “WikiLeaks organiser Julian Assange – the Joker in Christopher Nolan’s movie ‘The Dark Knight’” (“Waiting”, 2011), “behind Assange’s Arrest: Sweden’s Sex-Crime Problem”, “WikiLeaks chief”, “Mr Assange”, “founder-director of WikiLeaks” (“Sexual”, 2010), “WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange” (“Why”, 2013). Even here we can observe that the newspaper reproduces English newspaper articles completely and tends to use sources from the English-language media sphere.

One can also discern a certain number of publications in which the media tries to realise a constructive informative description of Julian Assange (without strong emotional connotations), but most of them have failed thanks to their strong verbal visualisation. The Guardian reports that Julian Assange is actually a busy man: he “wants to be Australia’s senator”, “struck a defiant tone in a recent interview” (“Julian”, 2013), “is under house arrest outside London”, and “will interview noteworthy figures on a show called The World Tomorrow in Russia” (Harding, 2012). The Russian media also provides a broader insight into Assange’s activities here, where it can be observed that Assange, a busy man, has “unveiled a new talk show with his own version of a sensational get”, or that he has “discussed Israel, Lebanon and Syria on a video link”, and “supports the opposition forces in Syria” (“Assanzh raskritikoval”, 2013; “Assanzh, Dzhulian”, 2013; “Britanskiy”, 2011).

Meanwhile, in Dagens Nyheter, even certified, factual information is imbued with emotional rhetoric: “His stay in the UK has cost the British police 38 million SEK” (“Kritik”, 2013), “freedom on bail for him cost 93,500 GBP” (“Amnesty”, 2012; “Assanges”, 2012). These phrases strike a tone of condemnation and the newspaper comes to the conclusion that all of Assange’s actions are ridiculous: “his idea to move into an embassy is absurd” (“Borgström”, 2012). Svenska Dagbladet continues in the same vein: “the WikiLeaks founder has been hiding in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London since June 2012” (“Dags”, 2014). Ecuador’s El Comercio mostly sees the Assange case as a purely political process. It’s mostly about ministerial meetings, when Ecuador granted Assange asylum in the embassy. It’s about political discussions between members of the OAS. In addition, the country’s president, Rafael Correa, acknowledges that “the criminal offences which are under investigation in Sweden would not be crimes here in Ecuador” (“Kryphål”, 2013; Carp, 2012).

In its description of the Assange case, the media cannot find a balance between entropic and redundant information. Because the Assange case is rather complicated, journalists are trying to avoid an entropic accent and paint the obvious, redundant picture of the case. It seems that the media have a hard time visualising the compromise between “the data world’s Robin Hood” and “the violent offender in Sweden”. “Assange replied evasively to questions about rape charges against him and the decision to refuse to allow himself to be extradited to Sweden for questioning” (“Ecuador”, 2013; “Åklagare”, 2014). Dagens Nyheter publications show both surprise and annoyance at the way that Assange has been fighting against being extradited from Great Britain to Sweden.

The Guardian manifests a few awkward situations with entropic elements (without simplification): “To stay in the embassy is no exit for Assange, because Ecuador is a country with a tenuous respect for international human rights law. This is a counter-intuitive refuge for free speech and transparency” (“Julian”, 2012; Ball, 2012). There are also references to the supporters of his activities: “[Oliver Stone] a long- time supporter of Assange” (Child, 2013), “young and old, they [supporters] were there to demonstrate their solidarity with someone whose guts they admired” (Pilger, 2013). The Japan Times tries to immerse itself in the complex (inexplicable) problems experienced by Swedish journalists and experts, during subtitle politicking and diplomacy. In Sweden, Marten Schultz, professor of law at Stockholm University, tries to explain “that Julian Assange, Michael Moore, the feminist Naomi Wolf, the journalist John Pilger, and many others, have launched attacks on the Swedish legal system… the caricature has been allowed to dominate impressions of Sweden, the representatives of its legal system, and other Swedish experts have failed to provide a more accurate picture” (“In Sweden”, 2012). Paulina Neuding wrote here about the cultural contradictions of Europe’s multiculturalism (“The cultural”, 2011) and pointed out that the country is one of the most radical in its understanding of women’s rights, as WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange can attest. It is interesting to note that the Japanese news adds a heavy accent on the problems that the Assange case has caused in terms of intergovernmental relations. This is where we can see Assange as a hindrance, a faceless entity that interferes in international relations between Sweden, the UK, Ecuador, and Russia. Because of this, a plurality of analytical articles have been written under the title “Diplomacy”: “WikiLeaks co-founder Julian Assange has behaved irresponsibly… I thoroughly deplore… the WikiLeaks releases, but we must continue to speak frankly and critically when appropriate” (“When does”, 2010).

The strongest impression is made by Assange´s visualisation as a hero. The “hero status” undoubtedly comes from his work at WikiLeaks. In this regard, the Swedish newspapers have the weakest position when it comes to the visual representation of Assange. They try to devalue Assange’s hero status to the everyday level: “there is no reason to treat Assange differently from other people in this situation. There should be equality before the law” (Kryphål, 2013). For the Guardian there is no doubt that Assange is a hero, and therefore Lady Gaga “dropped by the Ecuadorian embassy to see Julian Assange… stayed with him for five hours” (Booth, 2012); the newspaper points out that Assange is strong – “the truth is I love a good fight. Many people are counting on me to be strong” (“Julian”, 2013) – and intelligent: “has been invited to speak at the 189-year-old Oxford Union debating society” (“Oxford”, 2013). The Russian media has remarked that “he is on the list of the hundred most influential people in the world”, and that he “did everything he could to minimise his prison-like isolation and behaved surprisingly like a standard network interviewer” and “has plans to develop scientific journalism” (“Tupik”, 2012; “Dzhulian”, 2010; “Assanzh poobeshchal”, 2012). A Latvian newspaper conjures up the same image, mentioning that Julian Assange received an award in 2011 from the Serbian Press Association (“Asanžam”, 2011).

The stubborn media blindness in the visualisation of Julian Assange can be seen better when analysing the counterposition to “David versus Goliath”. In this we can see how the journalistic field advances various roles for its heroes. The Swedish media paints a picture of Assange as Goliath while the Swedish state is David. The dramatic triangle looks like this: a) the “sacrifice” here is two women, who are represented by Swedish law; b) “the tracker” is Julian Assange, who does not obey the law; and c) “the rescuer” is the law and the court process. The legal system in Sweden is independent, notes the country’s Foreign Minister, Carl Bildt. Assange’s idea that he is at risk of being deported from Sweden to the United States is, considers the minister, part of “Assange’s fantasy world” (“Kryphål”, 2012; “Wikileaks: Swedish”, 2012), “the WikiLeaks founder is doing what he can to demonise Swedish law” (“Sverige”, 2012).

In the Russian media, the picture is reversed. Here the Assange role is equated with David and the Swedish justice system represents Goliath, something to be fought. The Russian media posits Assange as “the first enemy of the US security forces” (“Velikiy”, 2010). The Russian sources also show the enemy in the form of the two women who brought criminal charges against him in Sweden. Here they are called “the ladies who incriminated our hero,” who “pretend that they have been raped”, and who “agreed to have sex with him, being fully ready themselves to have sex with him” (“Assanzh poobeshchal”, 2012; “Assanzh. Generalny”, 2010); “Assanzh ne sobirayetsya”, 2014; “Obvinayushchiye”, 2010; “Zalech”, 2012). Some newspapers even publish their names. Regarding the real alleged crime of which Assange is suspected of involvement, the Russian newspapers tend to class Sweden as the organiser of a “political scandal” surrounding WikiLeaks, and “the insane setting for all diplomats around the world” (“Gromkoye”, 2012). The same image is also utilised in the Latvian media. Even in 2010, Diena newspaper was explaining that the “enemy” was “some Swedish women”, “warring feminists” whose names were then revealed along with facts about their work and family and their “obsession with humiliating a noble man” (“Asanžs un”, 2010). The word “rape” here is written in quotation marks and one of the women is described as a “sociopathic feminist” who “wanted to have sexual relations with one of the world’s most revered and sought-after men” (“Asanžs un”, 2010). There is no doubt here that hackers are heroes (fighting David’s battle against Goliath, which is represented as evil governments), and this also relates to the output of the Japan Times. The newspaper compares Assange to a data hacker in Latvia. “In Latvia, an artificial-intelligence researcher at the University of Latvia’s computer science department who earlier this year leaked confidential records on the income of bank managers has been praised as a modern “Robin Hood”, because otherwise the public would not have known how much some people were continuing to be paid while their banks were being bailed out with public funds”, wrote Peter Singer (“When does”, 2010).

Discussion and conclusion

  1. The analysis of all 890 newspaper articles proves that visualisation is a widespread phenomenon in today’s media values. This can be explained by the massive background of audio-visual culture or with efforts to simplify storytelling through the use of visual input.
  2. Visualisation uses myths that are rooted in each individual country’s habitus. Globalisation (via the internet) blurs the boundaries between countries and their journalistic fields and requires a more objective presentation of the medial message. This would prevent cultural conflicts between different journalistic fields, which is something that tends to simplify the message through visualisation and, due to this, collide with itself.
  3. Media uses the visual even when reporting on judicial processes. The Assange case shows that news reporting (through visualisation) is emotionally coloured and, as a result, non-objective or non-substantial.
  4. Julian Assange is a strong, challenging personality and his run through various trials in the UK is regarded by most of the world’s media (in a general sense) as a film or a video game, one in which the action itself seems fictional. This illusion is caused by visualisation.

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Åklagare: Assange ska vara fortsatt häktad. (2014, February). Dagens Nyheter.

Ball, J. (2012, June 20). Julian Assange`s drama: in the third act, we still don’t know what the story is. The Guardian.

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Booth, R. (2012, October 9). Lady Gaga takes tea with Julian Assange. The Guardian.

Britanskiy sud reshil vydatj Dzhuliana Assanzha Shvetsii. (2011, February 24). Lenta. Ru.

Caso Assange: Hugo Chávez advirtió de una „fuerte respuesta” al Reino Unido. (2012, August 21).

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Carp, O. (2012, August 16). Assange får asyl i Ecuador. Dagens Nyheter.

Child, B. (2013, April 11). Oliver Stone meets Julian Assange and criticises new WikiLeaks films. The Guardian.

Dags för Sverige att avsluta fallet Assange. (2014, January 12). Svenska Dagbladet.

Dzhulian Assanzh ispugalsya smerti v amerikanskoy tyurme. (2012, December 24). Lenta. Ru.

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Greenslade, R. (2012, January 24).  PCC rejects Assange complaint against New Statesman. 24.01. The Guardian.

Gromkoye delo. Sbezhal v kompjuter. (2012, August 20). Rossiyskaya Gazeta.

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Milne, S. (2012, August 21). Don`t lose sight of why the US is out to get Julian Assange. Ecuador is pressing for a deal that offers justice to Assange’s accusers – and essential protection for whistleblowers. The Guardian.

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Na kavo Assanzh pokinet Britaniyu? (2012, August 17). Novaya gazeta.

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Sexual politics and the veneer of free speech. (2010, December 26). The Japan Times.

Sverige ger Assange skäl att le i ambassadens spegel. (2012, August 26). Dagens Nyheter.

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Townsend, M. (2012, December 03). Julian Assange faces renewed arrest attempt over sex offence allegations. The Guardian.

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Unasur respalda a Ecuador por asilo a Julian Assange en embajada en Londres. (2012, August, 19). El Comercio.

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Waiting for the WikiLeak dam to break. (2011, January 25). The Japan Times.

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WikiLeaks’ Assange fears US, says will stay in embassy. (2013, June 19). The Star Online.

WikiLeaks dibinātājs vadīs jaunu televīzijas raidījumu par pasaules nākotni. (2012, January 24). Diena.

Wikileaks founder Assange seeks Ecuador asylum. (2012, June 10). Mysarawak.

WikiLeaks founder is jailed in Britain in sex case. (2010, December 08). The Star Online.

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Sandra Veinberg, PhD, Associate Professor of Communication Sciences at RISEBA. Previous workplaces: the Universities of Latvia, Moscow and Stockholm. She is also the author of the monographs The Mission of the Media (2010), Public Relations or PR (2007), and Mass Media (2008), all of which were written in Latvian, and Censorship – The Mission of the Media (2010), a collection of scientific essays written in English.


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Culture and Identity – New Trends and Challenges in Today’s Europe

2nd International Conference on Education, Culture and Identity – New Trends and Challenges in Today’s Europe 15 – 16 October 2015, Sarajevo
Conference Program

Book of abstracts
Book of Abstracts
Is Communication Really a Food?

Sandra Veinberg, Riga International School of Economics and Business Administration (RISEBA) & Liepāja University / Latvia
‘Everything we consume acts either to heal us or to poison us,’ states Buddhist
researcher Thich Nhat Hanh (Hanh, 2013). The flow of information from the
media is part of the food or nutrition for people that can make us happy, angry,
sad or cursed. So far, we have never analysed the media flow from this point
of view. The fact that the media often spreads ‘toxic information’ and does
not provide enough information ‘that makes us feel good’ is quite a common
phenomenon in various surveys of media audiences.

It looks raw and primitive, but is actually true. Our old logic in regard to information in the media had always relied on the literacy of the written word and the belief that ‘media
intellectuality’ is the ability to make a connection from the facts that the media
gives us. If the media audience were not able to understand the message
it was getting from the media, we would tend to complain of that audience’s
lack of education or its level of stupidity. Until now, we have never conducted
an analysis of the biological effect on the human body that is created by one’s
communication with media information. It is very likely that the consumption
of media information affects our media habits in the same way that food affects
our appetites and satiety.
Key words: communication, media audience, communicating, the literacy

Journal Epiphany
Epiphany Special Issue

Is Communication Really Food? Sandra Veinberg, page143-159

Epiphany Special Issue
Epiphany: Journal of Transdisciplinary Studies, Vol. 8, No. 2, (2015) (Special Issue)
Journal of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences
© Faculty of Arts and Social Science
Volume 8
Number 2
E-ISSN 1840-3719 P-ISNN 2303-6850s
ABOUT JOURNAL: Epiphany (p-ISSN 2303-6850, e-ISSN 1840-3719), Journal of Transdisciplinary Studies is double-blind peer-reviewed journal dedicated to the promotion of scholarly publication in humanities and social sciences. Epiphany is a semi-annual publication affiliated to Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, at the International University of Sarajevo in Bosnia-Herzegovina. The journal aims to promote transdisciplinary studies that cross many disciplinary boundaries to create a holistic approach. It refers to concepts or field research methods originally developed in one discipline, but now widely used by other disciplines in the area of humanities and social sciences including anthropology, philosophy, economics, media studies, history, psychology, sociology, visual and performing arts, literature, technology and cultural studies. We invite scholars interested in transcending classical scholarship to submit their manuscripts to Epiphany. The journal is currently indexed in DOAJ, EBSCO, CEEOL, CITEFACTOR, Academic Journal Database, BASE, InfoBase, SIS Index and J-GATE. EDITORIAL CORRESPONDENCE Journal correspondence and submission of articles should be addressed to: Editor-in-Chief, Epiphany, Journal of Transdisciplinary Studies, International University of Sarajevo (IUS), Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (FASS), Hrasnička cesta 15, 71210 Ilidža-Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina Tel: (387) 33 957 310; Fax: (387) 33 957 105 Email:


Book of Abstracts Conference Program Epiphany Special Issue

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Digital Native’s Attitude towards News Sources

Skärmavbild 2014-12-03 kl. 16.58.28


Sandra Veinberg, International School of Economics and Business Administration, Faculty of Public Relations and Advertising Management, Senior Researcher at Liepāja University, Institute of Management Sciences, Latvia.


This paper examines how digital natives seek out current information in the media. For the purpose of understanding media consumption by adolescents, use has been made of a quantitative and qualitative content analysis of 220 adolescents in two different universities in Latvia. It was found out that digital natives focus on the media that is available to them on screens that permit the use of sound and moving images.
Keywords: digital native, news, media consumption, online media, PR

The modern general trend towards novelty consumption in Northern Europe still shows that traditional news programmes in general perform pretty strongly on the news market, but they are slowly dropping in terms of their audience strength with each passing year. The same process can be seen in the printed newspaper market. Meanwhile, the percentage of people who consume news through the ‘new’ channels, such as via mobile phones or on the internet, is growing more and more. However, ‘if we look at people of different ages we find that [this is] the most important dividing line’ (Sternvik & Wadbring, 2010; Sternvik, 2009).
The Swedish researchers point out that the Swedish population can be divided into two camps in terms of news consumption in relation to age. The same tendency in media use can be seen even today on the other side of the Baltic Sea – in Latvia.

Skärmavbild 2014-11-09 kl. 15.54.20

Skärmavbild 2014-11-09 kl. 15.55.37







Table 1. Reading the press each day 2012-2014 (ages: 15-74), in percentage terms; Source: TNS National media research, 2014.

This means that even in Latvia, with its strong historic tradition of newspaper readership, we can observe a dramatic decline in newspaper circulation. This process was supported by the economic crisis in 2007-2010. Significantly, that dramatic reduction in newspaper reading is at its most noticeable in young people. The most rapid decline in newspaper readership is amongst young people in the age range of fifteen to 29 years. The most active newspaper readers remains older Latvian people aged between sixty and 74 years (TNS National media research. 2014, p 30).

It is no secret that the internet has divided newspaper readers into two groups – those who still read their news on paper and those who read it only via a screen. Media selection for the ‘first group’ of newspaper readers – those who read their news on paper – has long been studied by the media sciences to a very great degree. Media selection for the ‘second group’ of newspaper readers – those who read their news via a screen – has so far largely been studied by the media sciences in terms of how children use screen media (Carlson, 2014, O’Neill, 2013, Bucht, 2013, Findahl, 2013, Culver, 2013, Tufte, 2013, Carlson, 2012, Findahl, 2012, Dunkels, 2011, Livingstone, 2008).
“News usage is, and in principle always has been, a question of age. Older people have more established habits and are more socialised within society and are therefore more interested in news in general,” writes Josefine Sternvik (Sternvik, 2010, p. 371). For me it was important to understand how young adults were accessing their news, so I carried out an examination of news consumption.
Clearly the main medium for digital natives is the internet. I may include also my own students in this group, young people who are studying RISEBA in Rīga and at the University of Liepaja. They represent the country’s greatest users of the internet (see Table 2).

Tab 2A


tab 2







Table 2: The use of media in schools in Latvia 2011 in percentage terms. Source: Mediju lietošanas kompetence skolēnu un skolotāju mērķa grupā p. 16.

My 220 students who make up the research group are school graduates of 2011. Their most frequently-used media is the internet. “A total of 86% of the students watch television each day. The students are amongst those who are least likely to read newspapers – 41% of them do not read newspapers at all or read them rarely (Mediju lietošanas kompetence skolēnu un skolotāju mērķa grupā p. 3).

When it comes to the students, the internet is the most commonly-used medium for diverse needs – it is associated with leisure and entertainment (by 80% of the students), as well as personal interests (75%), and the training that is necessary to extract information (72%), as well as to allow them to express their views to friends and others (66%). In all of these respects, the use of the internet outperforms other media (Mediju lietošanas kompetence skolēnu un skolotāju mērķa grupā p. 4).
So many young people use the internet mainly for entertainment purposes. This is nothing new, but I was interested in something else – how they use the internet if something unpredictable happens which is very important to them. What then is their information-gathering routine and, more precisely, I wanted to discover how they accessed their news, what are their specific novelty sorting routines, and which methods do they use to discover the truth. I wanted to know if the old news matrices, involving “what?”, “how?”, and “why?”, are being replaced by another media module.
Background to the Study
LaFrance (1996) characterises the children of the 1960s as the TV generation, those of the 1970s as the video generation, those of the 1980s as the Nintendo generation, and those of the 1990s as the internet generation (Livingstone, Bovil, 1999, p 3). In order to determine changes in the new adult media routines, I chose the news because stories are important for everyone, regardless of age, gender, language, traditions or the place in which they live on the planet. In this direction media researchers have established that: 1) the young don’t increase their use of media as it tends to make their parents (for example, they listen to the radio every morning in the kitchen and watch the television in the living room each evening). The young don’t separate their use of media in this way (Sternvik, 2010, p.372). There is a large overlap in the consumption of news in various media forms and this generally applies to those who are interested in receiving news, and who do it through a variety of channels and media forms (Sternvik, 2010, p.372, Holmberg & Weibull, 2010). “Old media” (Weibull, 2010) is slowly losing its market share. One important factor may be the price of magazine subscriptions that are affordable for young students (Wadbring, 2010), especially during the recession (Lithner, 2000) and that, under the circumstances, many young people have not grown up with the morning paper at the breakfast table and therefore they have not established their own reading habits in terms of the morning newspapers.
A number of media researchers point out that the young people are generally less interested in general news and their commitment is much more urgently focussed on social media, such as Facebook and YouTube (Sternvik, 2010, Holmberg & Weibull, 2010). If this is true and the digital natives don’t want know anything about important world events that may be of interest (such as, for example, events that may be of great importance for their parents), it remains to be seen how they will use the media if something very important should happen that is directly relevant to them.

In order to evolve an understanding of the media consumption of the young, use was made of a non-proportional stratified sample of the population of younger adults, this being the 220 students who were involved in the survey study. All of them were issued with questionnaires. The age of the participants was between 20- 33. The validity of the content was high. The survey was carried out between 25/11/2013-01/12/2013. No internal failure was observed.
As a criterion for validity, a comparative analysis was carried out between media consumption habits during an entirely ordinary day and on a very specific ‘emergency’ day, the latter being 21 November 2013, which is when an unexpectedly big accident occurred that related to all media users.
This meant firstly that the same questions were used for both days, and then a comparison was made between the answers from the first and second days. The facts that were obtained from the ordinary day or situation when it came to media usage (this being the first gauge) were compared against evidence that was obtained from the ‘emergency’ day (this being the second gauge). In other words, use was made of the validity of the competition between the two days in order to ensure a high level of accuracy in terms of measurement. Having organised the survey in Riga and Liepaja, a broad, open discussion was held that also provided a qualitative analysis of the results.
The incoming material was analysed by two different methods depending on their specific qualities by using NVivo.

Analysis, Findings, Results
The first results from the survey showed the everyday use of media, for which the leader was, of course, the internet. This was followed by the TV news, online radio, and newspapers. The students themselves were reflected in their media consumption as follows:

tab3 Tab 3a






Table 3: Everyday use of the media.

The results of the survey did not offer any surprises. During the discussions, most of students stressed that they don’t using the traditional media and emphasised that “we get real information only through the internet. We never watch TV or listen to the radio”. I was a little surprised by the denial of traditional radio. Some of the explanations for the apparent death of radio included: “I never use the radio. Radio died out a long time ago,” and the survey shows that recipients listen to the radio only on their computers, this mainly being internet radio. I had thought that young people would be listening to traditional radio when driving a car or using a mobile phone. It turns out that they only have a radio “background” when they’re working on a computer.
The next step was to identify their use of resources on the internet. The survey found that the students themselves believe that they use the internet in the following way:









Table 4: Information on internet usage in percentage terms.
The results of the survey showed not too-unexpected effects even here. The first and largest area of use is online media, followed by Facebook and micro-blogging site Twitter. I tried to find out what exactly was meant by online media and eventually noticed this is covers “internet newspapers”. Online media for my students means: the three most popular domestic news sites: TVNET, Apollo, and Delfi, and the three most popular international news sites: CNN, NYT, and BBC News.
It should be emphasised that the economic crisis in Latvia between 2007-2010 directly affected the media market.
These online media sources, or “internet portals” (TvNet, Apollo, and Delfi) look like the “” and have seen increasingly widespread usage among young people and indeed everyone who uses a computer on a daily basis.
This position is also supported by TNS Latvia. An annual study showed that a quarter of the Latvian population read on a daily basis using a smart phone (12%) and that others were using computers for following sources of information on a daily basis: (43%), Inbox (e-post) (28.6%), (25.3%), and (25.1%).
The fifth and sixth positions as the most-used sources of information are the two most popular online media sites, Delphi at 22.7% and TvNet at 17.2%. Down in a lowly seventh place this year is the Latvian with just 15.3% (TNS Latvia Digital Spring in 2014).

So far the students themselves have made the choices for their media habits, but what happens in a situation in which something really happens? Does it change the digital natives’ media habits? One such event was the Zolitūde supermarket disaster in Riga, Latvia, on 21 November 2013. On that date, the roof of a shopping centre in the Zolitūde district of Riga in Latvia collapsed at 5:41pm local time. The disaster killed 54 people, including three rescue workers. It was an enormous tragedy for everyone in Riga. After the collapse of the supermarket, I asked the students how they found out about what had happened.
Which media was the first to inform them about what had happened and how had they searched for information afterwards?
I asked students to note only the first source that provided information about the disaster. The results are shown in Table 5.


tab 5








Table 5: The first source that provided information on a disaster in percentage terms.
In first place here was the mobile phone. Strikingly, the majority received phone calls from their parents or friends (27%). Almost as many were given information about the accident via Twitter (25%). Only in third place came online media as the first source (20%) and TV news (15%). Facebook occupied last place with just 5%. The surprise was the good old radio, which ranked in second-to-last place (9%).

Table 6 shows the following secondary source that the students used in order to learn more about the disaster. If they stuck to the old media habits, they would search for an analysis of the situation (in a newspaper) or discover a live monitoring of the sequence of events (via TV). What actually happened was that the students shied away from newspapers but read their analytical articles via online media (35%) but they also observed the course of events on the TV news (25%).

tab 6







Table 6: The second source that explains the information on a disaster in terms of percentages.

This means that in an emergency situation the very first source of information is the phone. The next operational source has been the micro-blogging site, In third place are the most popular online media sites:, followed by and finally They leave behind the TV and radio news. See Table 7.

tab 7









Table 7: Showing a comparison between the first and second source.

Interestingly, quite a lot of students also use the telephone as a secondary source. They telephoned the rescue service, the fire brigade or the ambulance service (in this table all of these calls are grouped under the heading of “friends”.
Furthermore, I wanted to find out how good the information in the media looks today. It seemed that was determining modern information standards. My survey revealed the results that are shown in Table 8.

tab 8







Table 8: I want to see information in the following way, in percentage terms.
So in terms of form we have here a demand for the visualisation of information. Text only seems no longer to be usable in the media.
The results show that most of the respondents requested media text with images or media text with audio and video illustration. Such a request can no longer be delivered in the papers. This requires a screen.
The requirement for visualisation was confirmed when I offered differing options for a description of ”good information”. See Table 9.

tab 9






Table 9: What does good media information look like?

Discussion and conclusions
1. The use of the standard news outputs obviously looks different in different groups of news consumers. The “old school matrix” is still strong enough but the media role has changed. Instead of radio, now it’s Twitter, instead of the newspapers, now online media is available. It’s essentially the same matrix but with new players – media on the internet.

2. Digital natives have focused on the media sources that are available on-screen which allow the use of sound and moving images.

3. I do not think that either the radio or newspapers are dead when it comes to digital natives. They are both available on computers in the form of online media and both look different today. The most important thing is that all types and kinds of information have to be adapted to the screen.

4. Young people do not have a clear news ritual (of the type that their parents used in their own media consumption).

5. Being well-informed requires the seeking out of multiple sources across different formats. Digital natives get their news and information from many media sources, not just one. This means that digital natives no longer have the prestige of one all-encompassing source of information.
6. I agree that “children and young people are particularly confident and enthusiastic adopters of new forms of media, generally sharing a forward-looking perspective which is not just desirous of, but also interested in, ‘what’s new, what’s cool’”, (Livingstone, Bovill, 1999. p 13).
7. Twitter is as important as one’s own mother. Despite the historical trend towards “individualisation”, we have also witnessed a powerful desire on the part of young people to “socialise” the media, drawing it into their social life.
8. The biggest competition for news and information comes from young people themselves, along with their social networks. Feedback from participants in the qualitative round appears to indicate that the importance of the social network as a disseminator of news and information is on the rise.

Reference list:
Bucht, C, Harrie, E. (2013) Young People in the Nordic Digital media Culture. A Statistical Overview. Nordicom. 47 p.
Carlsson, U. (2014) Medie och informationskunnighet i Norden. En nyckel till demokrati och yttrandefrihet. Nordicom. 219 s.
Carlson, U. (2013) Medie- och informationskunnighet i nätverkssamhället. Nordicom. 135 s.
Carlson, U. (2012) barn och ungas medieanvändning i nätverkssamhället. Nordicom. 127 s.
Culver, S, Carlsson, U. (2013) Media and Information Literacy and Intercultural Dialogue. Nordicom. 191 s.
Dunkels, E, Findahl, O, Feilitzen, C. (2011) Hur farligt är internet. Nordicom. 46 s.
Edstrom, M, Bucht, C. (2012) Youth Have Say on Internet Governance. Nordicom. 64 s.
Findahl, O, Dunkels, E, Feilitzen, C. (2013) Barn och deras föräldrar om vad som kan vara obehagligt på internet. Nordicom. 30 s.
Findahl, O. (2012) Barn och ungas medieanvändning i Internetvärlden. Nordicom. 64 s.
Flichy, P. (1995). Dynamics of Modern Communication: The Shaping and Impact of New Communication Technologies. London: Sage. 175 p.
Lihter, A. (2000) Alla läser tidningar. Nästan. Wadbring, I & Weibull, L. Tryckt. 20 kapitel om dagstidningar i början av 2000 – talet. Göteborg: Institutionen för journalistik och masskommunikation. Göteborgs universitet
Livingstone, S.& Bovil, M. (1999) Young people, new media: report of the research project Children Young People and the Changing Media Environment. Research report, Department of Media and Communications, London School of Economics and Political Science, London, UK. 52 p.
O’Neil B, Staksrud E, McLaughlin Sh. (2013) Towards a Better Internet for Children. Nordicom, 335 s.
Pētījums “Mediju lietošanas kompetence skolēnu un skolotāju mērķa grupā” Pētījuma rezultātu ziņojums. Rīga, 2011. Baltic Institute of Social Sciences.
Sternvik, J (2010) Ungas nyhetskonsumtion – i en föränderlig nyhetsvärld
i Sören Holmberg & Lennart Weibull (red) Nordiskt ljus. Göteborg: SOM-institutet, Göteborgs universitet.s. 369 -378.
Sternvik, J (2009) “Medieobundna nyhetsvanor?” Ur Holmberg och Weibull (red) Svensk Höst. SOM-institutet Göteborg.
Sternvik, J, Wadbring, I (2010) “Nyhetsvanor – en klassfråga?” Ur Bengtsson, Berglund och Oscarsson (red) En fråga om klass? Libers förlag. Stockholm.
Tufte, T, Wildermuth N, Hansen-Skovmoes, A. (2013) Speaking Up and Talking Back? Nordicom. 302 s.
Youth media DNA. Decoding youth as news & information consumers. World Association of Newspapers. Norske Skog.
TNS, Latvia Digital, Pavasaris 2014.
Wadbring I, Weibull, L (2005) ’Dagstidningen i ett femtioårs- perspektiv’. Annika Bergström, Ingela Wadbring och Lennart Weibull (red) Nypressat. Ett kvartssekel med svenska dagstidningsläsare. Göteborg: Institutionen för journalistik och masskommunikation, Göteborgs universitet

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Most Dominated Problems of Mass Media Dialogism in National Dailies during the Trial Process of Wikileaks Grounder Julian Assange

wikileaks logoSandra Veinberg: Most Dominated Problems of Mass Media Dialogism in National Dailies during the Trial Process of Wikileaks Grounder Julian Assange

International Journal of Social Science Studies Vol. 2, No. 2; April 2014
ISSN 2324-8033 E-ISSN 2324-8041
Published by Redfame Publishing


PDF file Sandra Veinberg about Julian Assange


Correspondence: Sandra Veinberg, Riga International School of Economics and Business Administration (RISEBA), Faculty of Public Relations and Advertising Management, Riga, Latvia; Senior Researcher at Liepaja University, Institute of Management Sciences, Liepaja, Latvia.

Received: December 30, 2013 Accepted: January 16, 2014 Available online: February 11, 2014 doi:10.11114/ijsss.v2i2.308 URL: 

This paper examines media mediation, media effects and their impact on the literacy of the public sphere. To examine the medial text and media mediation´s impact on various journalistic fields in different countries, I analyse during the current moment of “the global hunting” around WikiLeaks‟ founder Julian Assange. As the source, I use 764 published
articles in newspapers and online media from six different countries: Sweden, UK, Ecuador, Russia, Latvia and Malaysia. The objective was to test the intertextuality with using of qualitative research. The period for analysis is the last 1.5 years (2012 – 2013, 04).
Results of my research show that the majority of articles demonstrate evidence of demonstrative rhetoric, despite the fact that “the Assange case” actually was a purely legal process and therefore demanded of the mass media factual, legal analysis of the situation.
My conclusion shows that here we can see a new, obvious signs of the new way of deliberate censorship by means of linguistic expression. This shows that a very special kind of censorship is implicit in the mission of the global media.
Keywords: media effects, International Relations, Public Relations, media mediation, censorship

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Opinion: political zombies and Lembergs’ rematch

BNN, January 14, 2014

BNN‘2014 is the year of elections for Latvia and European Parliament. Latvia’s pre-election scene often offers a wide variety of absurd and populist political groups. Oligarchs also often come to visit,’ – writes journalist and media researcher Sandra Veinberga on TVNET portal.

She believes the age of ‘political living dead’ continues in Latvia, because money is often a more effective persuasion tool than actual innovative ideas.

‘With the motto “money instead of ideas” Latvian oligarchs continue to ram Latvia’s political Olympus using all kinds of different methods.’

Veinberga notes that the pressure of oligarchs on political processes in Latvia was ended by the now ex-president of Latvia Valdis Zatlers in 2011. He was the one who proposed the dissolution of the ‘oligarch parliament’ and restored society’s hope for there to be positive changes.

‘The people supported Zatlers’ initiative. This forced the “oligarch parliament” to step down. However, as the oligarchs left, they played their final card: they elected a publicly unknown Latvian oligarch, former banker and wealthy pensioner Andris Bērziņš as the next President of Latvia. This final act of revenge lit the fuse,’ – she writes.

She believes when rescuers carried the bodies of the people who died under the debris of Maxima supermarket in Zolitude, Latvia’s largest metallurgical company Liepājas metalurg went bankrupt and most of Latvia’s residents started to question the safety of newly built buildings, stadiums and other public buildings in Latvia, oligarchs’ ace in the hole – President Andris Bērziņš – theatrically announced a request for Lembergs’ party to return to the government.

‘In order to distract everyone from the actual situation, he chose someone from the side – Laimdota Straujuma – to take charge in the government formation process. She had only just joined Unity, and it is to secret to anyone that Aivars Lembergs himself was also openly involved in the government formation talks. Therefore, the person who is charged with serious crimes (a kind of person who would never be allowed to take even the lowest of posts in a normal country) is back in the game,’ – writes Veinberga.

‘He believes himself above the law. His extreme image forging methods (court marathon, using media channels, making Ventspils City Council his personal PR office, etc) show the skills he learned during the Soviet era and his current views on things – 20 years after the restoration of independence,’ – she adds.

The journalist emphasizes that one of the main skills Lembergs learned during the Soviet times was the skill to manipulate and the skill to cultivate his own image of a leader (not empathy for his fellow man – a trait that is a requirement for politicians in a democracy). Ventspils is the source of the funding that is provided to Lembergs’ ‘pocket party’ in Riga.

‘Similar to a sports car that speeds through populated areas, swiping everything in its way, Lembergs continues his tidal run across Latvia’s politics and countless courts. He does this with no respect to anything or anyone. Money is the source of his “power”. It fuels his anarchic activities. A lot of this money was sucked from oil shipment opportunities stolen from Ventspils sea port, as well as his direct and indirect misappropriations of funds from the state and municipality. Money allows Lembergs to bribe and claim anything and anyone he wants. Starting with Ventpils residents and their votes and ending with judges. Thanks to his manipulative machinations and bribes, Aivars Lembergs has managed to compromise and undermine our trust in the kind of Latvia that is governed by laws,’ – says Veinberga.

She is certain that Lembergs ‘pocket’ party Union of Greens and Farmers is far from being a party of farmers and even further away from being all that green.

‘These people hate Zatlers’ Order #2 with a passion. Therefore, their first step at revenge was to make sure Reform Party is kicked out of the government (the first attempt at this had failed, because Straujuma had suddenly changed her opinion regarding the removal of RP’s Foreign Minister). Nevertheless, it still seems that the 2014 political crisis in Latvia was planned to allow Lembergs’ followers to take their revenge on Zatlers and his followers. It also seems that the oligarch has managed to intervene with Economy Minister’s amendments to the law to limit the fast loan sector. It is easy enough to achieve if you have parties you sponsor,’ – says the journalist.

‘It is rather clear that the President does not care about Latvia. He cares about parties settling their scores. Oligarchs are merciless and vengeful – nothing will remain of his enemies. The needs of the people are secondary to him,’ – Veinberga concludes.


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The Analysis of Government’s Communications and Public Engagement’s Socio-Political Effects during the Financial Crisis in Latvia (2008 – 2011)


Sandra Veinberg

Full text: 523-3143-1-PB


The Baltic States have been amongst the worst hit by the global financial crisis. The most serious situation was experienced in Latvia. The country was forced to ask the International Monetary Fund and the European Union for an emergency bailout of 7.5 billion euros. The 2008-2011 Latvian financial crisis stemmed from the global financial crisis of 2008-2009. The government laid off a third of its civil servants, slashed wages for the rest, and sharply reduced support for hospitals, and for the most part people accepted this bitter medicine.

Negotiations between the government and lenders were constructive and confidential, but the consequences “of the efficient fiscal adjustment” were tragic for too many people in Latvia. Currently, Latvia has been able to stabilise its financial systems, but Latvia’s homework has become a major topic of discussion among various economists. Due to the austerity measures, Latvians were confused and began to emigrate. When the financial crisis was a fact for Latvia, the government did not possess any strategy for communications with the country’s residents. The transmission model for communications (a one-way process) was dominant. National studies of PR show that with the absence of a modern strategy for communications, Latvia has certainly not been an example for other countries that experience an economic crisis.

Latvia, European identity, financial crisis, political communication

• Journals:

• Coombs, T. (2009). An Analytic Framework for Crisis Situations: Better Responses From a Better Understanding of the Situation. Public Relations Research. 10. 177-191.

• Hiebert, R. E. (2003). Public relations and propaganda in framing the Iraq war: A preliminary review. Public Relations Review. 29, 243 -255.

• Jorgensen, B. (1994) Consumer reaction to company-related disasters: The effect of multiple versus single explanations, Advances in Consumer Research, 21, 348–352.

• Books:

• Berger, B. (2007). Public relations and organisational power in Toth, E (Eds) The future of excellence and communication management: challenges for the next generation.(pp. 221-234). Festschrift, Mahwah, New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

• Brooker, W., Jermyn, D.(2003). It’s out there… somewhere: Locating the audience for the audience studies reader. In Brooker, W., Jeremyn, D. (Eds.). The audience studies reader.(pp.1-11). London: Routledge.

• Coombs, T. (2007). Ongoing crisis communication. Planning, managing and responding. Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications.

• Dozier, D. M. (1995). Manager’s guide to excellence in public relations and communication management. New York : Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

• Erikson, P. (1992). Planerad kommunication. Malmö: Liber Ekonomi.

• Fraser, P (1990). Communicating in Crisis. United States Banker. 1990.

• Fink, S. (2002). Crisis management. Planning for the inevitable. Lincoln: Universe Inc.

• Gaunlet, D. (1995). Moving experiences: Understanding television’s influences and effects. London: John Liberty.

• Giddens, A. (1991). Modernity and self-identity: Self and society in the late modern age. Cambridge: Polity Press.

• Gilpin, D. & Murphy, P. (2008). Crisis management in a complex world. Oxford: University Press.

• Grange, J. & Hunt, T. (1984). Managing public relations. New York : Holt, Rinehart & Winston.

• Habermas, J. (1976). Legitimation crisis. London: Heinemann.

• Harris, T. (1997). Integrated Marketing Public Relations. Caywood, Clarke L. (1997). (Eds.). The Handbook of Strategic Public Relations & Integrated Communications. (pp.90-106). New York: McGraw-Hill.

• Heath, R. (2001). Handbook of Public Relations. Thousand Oaks:Sage Publications.

• Heath, R. (1997). Strategic Issues Management. Thousand Oaks: Sage.

• Kivikuru, U. & Nord, L. (2009). After the Tsunami. Crisis Communication in Finland and Sweden. Gothenburg: Nordicom.

• Jowett, G., & O’Donnell, V. (1992). Propaganda and persuasion. Newbury Park, CA: Sage.

• L’Etang, J. (2008). Public Relations. Concepts, Practice and Critique. London: Sage Publications.

• Liu, B., Levenshus, A. (2012). Crisis Public Relations for Government Communicators. In Lee M., Neeley G. & Stewart K. (Eds). The Practice of Government Public Relations. (pp.101 -125). New York: CRC Press.

• Karlöf, B. (2000). Strategins renässans. Stockholm: Ekerlids Förlag.

• Lee, M. (2007). Government Public Relations: A Reader. New York: CRC Press.

• Lee M., &Neeley G. & Stewart K. (2012). The Practice of Government Public Relations. New York: CRC Press.

• McNair, B. (2003). An introduction to political communication. London: Routledge.

• Miller, D. (Eds.) (2003). Tell me lies: Propaganda and media distortion in the attack of Iraq. London: Pluto Press.

• Mohd, H. (2004). Government Public Relations: Persuasion, Personality & Power. Singapore. Asian Public Relations Academy.

• Philpott, D. (2009). Crisis Communications. Longboat Key: Government Training Inc.

• Robins, K. Webster F., & Pickering, M. (1987). Propaganda, information and social control. In Hawthorn J. (Eds.) Propaganda, persuasion and polemic. (pp. 1-17). London : Edward Arnold.

• Seeger, M, Sellnow, T. & Ulmer R. (1998). Communication, organization and crisis. In Roof, M. (Eds.). Communication Yearbook. Vol. 21, p. 233. Thousand Oaks: CA Sage.

• Seger, M., Sellnow, T. & Ulmer, R. (2003). Communication and Organizational Crisis. Westport: Praeger Publichers.

• Tajfel, H. (1981). Human groups and social categories: Studies in social psychology. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

• Weaver, C., Motion, J.& Roper, J. (2006). From Propaganda to Discourse (and back again). In L’Etang, J., Pieczka, M. (Eds.) Public Relations. Critical Debates and Contemporary Practice. (pp. 7-23). Mahwah, New Jersey, London: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates Publishers.

• Åslund, A. & Dombrovskis, V. (2011). How Latvia Come through the Financial Crisis. Washington: Peter G. Peterson Institute for International Economics.

• Conference Paper:

• Apsīte, E., Krisjane, Z., Berzins, M. (2012). Emigration from Latvia under economic crisis conditions. Paper presented at the Second International Conference on Social Science and Humanity IPEDR vol.31 (2012) © (2012) IACSIT Press, Singapore.

• Web Citation:

• Adamsone, A. (2012). Those who change will endure – IMF managing director. Nozare. LV. 05.06.2012, from

• Bank of Latvia. (2006). Recent Economic Developments and Banking in Latvia, available online at: [].

• Freeze, T. (2012). Sharing Christ in the Face of Hopelessness. Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. 19.06.2012, from

• Government Communications and Public Engagement. British Columbia. Canada.

• Rozenberga, G. I. (2013). Lavijas zinātnieku atklātā vētule. 14.01.2013, from

• Higgins, A. (2013). Used to Hardship, Latvia Accepts Austerity, and Its Pain Eases. New York Times. 01.01.2013, from

• Höbermägi, T. (2010). Moody’s: Latvian economy is stabilising. BBN, Aripaev. 08.02.2010. from

• Karnite, R. (2006). Emigration of Latvian workers continues to increase. Euroline. 26.01.2006. From

• Krugman, P. (2008). Latvia is the new Argentina. The New York Times, 23.12.2008. From

• Morison, O. (2012). The Globe and Mail. 19.06.2012, from

• Parry, T. (2009). Europe’s sickest country. CBC News, 26.02.2009, from

• Research, commissioned by the State Chancellery at Government of Latvia. (2007). “Valdības komunikācijas prakses analīze un rekomendācijas tās pilnveidošanai”. Rīga, SIA Analītisko pētījumu un stratēģiju laboratorija, from

• Sabel, C., O’Rourke, D. & Fung, A. (2000) Ratcheting Labor Standards: Regulation for Continuous Improvement in the Global Workplace. Columbia Law School Working Papers, from

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Full Text: PDF

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Media as a Specific Technology of Culture. The Digital Field is Already Here.

The 10th International Conference Exploring Culture: Consumption, Organization and Communication May 17-18, 2012 Vilnius University


Sandra Veinberg: Media as a Specific Technology of Culture. The Digital Field is Already Here.

The 10th International Conference

Exploring Culture: Consumption, Organization and Communication, May 17-18, 2012, Vilnius University

Department of Philosophy and Culture Studies at Kaunas Faculty of Humanities Editor: Dr. Aistė Urbonienė ISBN 978-609-459-070-2

Keywords: culture, Sweden communication, Internet, reading, journalistic, literary field. JEL classification: ZO

Media as a Specific Technology of Culture. The Digital Field is Already Here.With graphics

Culture has its communicative dimension. This means that external form must be given to all ideas, so that they are accessible to human senses. This is a basic prerequisite that culture should be social.

Raymond William’s (William’s, 1962, p. 16) succinctly defined culture as “a particular way of life” that is shared by a community and shaped by values, traditions, beliefs, material objects, and territory.

From this perspective, “culture is a complex and dynamic ecology of people, things, world views, rituals, daily activities, and settings/../is our way of doing things” (Lull, 1999, p. 130).

By speaking about culture (in many respects) we tend to identify culture as rather stable biological, spiritual, social and material forms that follow us and influence us since the day we were born.

We inherit language too (our basic patterns of verbal and non-verbal communication).

Language (as the communication part of the culture) contains volitional and valued aspects.

At first we understood language as audio code, but later – as a visual code.

Our belief that visual codes can also help us compose culture was the second step.

Photography, film, television, video and computer graphics all have codes which require special literacy.

Language coordinates social activities of all cultures.

Ultimately, language is limitless. “People play with language. They style it. Abuse it. Invent it. Give it accents. Sing it.  /../ Like all symbolic forms, language is a resource for the social construction and deconstruction of culture.” (Lull, 1999, p. 139)

Language tends to be affected by various factors, including media. Internet, the most recent and most influential technological development, where the vast majority of international/intercultural communication is carried out in English, is one of the strongest influences on the language right now.

The global ascent of a language signifies the global ascent of a culture.

Leadership of the English language takes place through a hierarchy of cultures in the world meaning that, if you are not a native speaker of English, your culture is not on the top in global terms. Consequences make conditions conflict.

What’s happening today with the non-English language cultures due to the Internet?

What’s happening today with the mass communication due to the Internet?

What’s happening today with the culture as communication dimension due to the Internet?

What effect the Internet has on their users’ language learning process?

Does the Internet make those processes for users more difficult, or vice versa: easier?

All these problems can be illustrated in different ways, which is very interesting.

My interest about the Internet’s actuation of language skills was the first step in my research: how using the Internet may influence cultural values and activities.

Today I chose to analyze how the international cultural patterns (through the Internet) affect children and youth in Sweden.

My research is based on the recently published works by Ulle Findhal (Findal, 2012). They describe the use of media by children and youth on the Internet today.

On 13 March 2012 the Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter summarized that “computers are forcing Swedish children to read less and less”. (Björling, 2012, p.4)

Reading skills have dramatically reduced among Swedish children and youth, and, especially during the recent decade. “Use of computers is one of the explanations to this problem,” says Monica Rosen, professor at the Department of Education at the University of Gothenburg (Björling, 2012, p. 4).

She believes that the use of computers causes reading problems for primary school students. They read less and less or do not understand content of the text.

Several studies show that in Sweden both 9 to 10 year old and 15 year old children have become increasingly less able to read. Even with respect to other countries we can see the situation becoming even worse.

Now Swedish children are on the same level as the majority of children in Europe.

The change became apparent during the 2000’s.

However, Swedish children’s literature has always attracted the little readers and Swedish children have always fluctuated as frequent visitors at the municipal library.

Right now the situation is different.

Is the Internet the culprit?

Sweden quickly introduced the Internet both in private homes and at schools.

Internet became available to Swedish public in 1994 when Algonet, the first operator, connected the Internet to the Swedish telephone network through modem pools.

In 2010 over 8.3 million (approximately 92%) of the Swedish population used the Internet, making Sweden the country with the largest number of Internet users in terms of population in Europe. Across Europe, only Iceland, which is ahead by 97%, can be compared to the rate of Sweden.

According to table No. 4, adults with the higher education were the most enthusiastic Internet users.

How could this happen to their children that today they read less and understand written text less efficiently?

Have we introduced the Internet to reduce the literacy of our children?

Have the actual increase in the use of computers affected the reading and comprehension of Swedish children and adolescents?

While teachers continue to discuss computers or iPads regarding their usefulness in the educational process and do not really know right from wrong, I (as a media researcher) am willing to address the problem.

Firstly, the problems that Swedish children have are now typical for children in the entire Europe as most of them have computers.

It is important for us to understand is it really true that the computer screen change the reading ability?

Sweden (in this case) is a gratifying example due to its extensive traditions of children’s literature (which is not characteristic for other countries). So far, Swedish children read a lot.

Is the use of computers harmful to reading? I think that not everything in this situation is that bleak.

 According to Table No. 5, also today reading books is a strong media habit.

Moreover, today Students have better knowledge at reading texts that contain maps, charts and the type of graphic paper information that is common on the Internet.

Is it possible that children no longer want to get into the position where they constantly read books in large quantities and no longer can be bookworms?

Those days are gone.

What has really happened?

Right now the media landscape is in transition.

Table No. 6 shows the changes of reading time within the recent 30 years.

The world of media changes quickly.

The digital technology has introduced the term of convergence. It is an idea meaning that various forms of media are converging and boundaries between them may be blurred or completely disappeared.

What is the effect of this ongoing transformation on the media?

The ongoing process is quite complicated. We do not know is it the end of the modern paradigm or is it “we are approaching the twilight” (Von Wright, 1994, p. 14)

Can media convergence affect children’s ability to read and understand the text?

The forecast of the media guru Marshall McLuhan said that the media will influence our consciousness through its peculiar way. He believed that electronic media would make us think in directions other than the ones that dominated in the written language so far.

McLuhan was convinced that radio and television bring us back to talk (face-to-face conversation). This way we would be more intimate in our wireless communication. He preached about the global village.

It is a paradox that it was not true then, but his guesses have become today’s reality.

His technological determinism is today’s tribute to the Internet.

Our civilization is tied to the text and the written culture. All our documents are fixed on the basis of written language. Despite of the fact that the verbal forms of the language are closer to our way of thinking and automatically are easier to understand (redundant), written language (entropic) is the king of the house.

The written language is capable of binding all generations together. We all have passed through the same life cycles; however, different generations have grown up under different social and cultural circumstances.

The fact that today’s children and young people no longer treat book readers badly means neither that they hate the written text nor that the capacity to understand the text has deteriorated.

The recent study of Nordicom shows that development of the use of media has been stable over the last 30 years (Mediebarometern, 1993).

The number of minutes per day when Swedish people are engaged in various media is a straight line.

Behind this steadiness there has been a change with respect to the young people.

They use media as much as their parents, but their habits to use media have changed.

Little children grow up in the media world of their parents.

They spend their time at very early age with the noise from the radio or music player.

Then they start watching TV and videos.

Studies which investigate young children (at the age of 3 – 6 years) using media show that the youngest children watch television 101 minutes a day (Filipson, 1998, p. 5). TV is the most important and dominant media.

Currently half of the 3 year olds use the Internet in some way.

The most common activities include playing games and watching video. (Findal, 2011).

Later, the observed rate of the use of Internet (at the age of 6 – 7 years) is up to 90%.  Majority of children is online at some point in time.  69% of them use the Internet few times a week and 25% of children are online on daily basis.

The littlest children just watch pictures because they can not read yet.

Reading comes into picture together with the school. (Findahl, 2012, p. 12).

School age children (at the age of 9 -14 years) spend more than 3.8 hours a day using different media.

Listening and watching movies/playing video games are the most popular activities.

Over the next decade we can expect an increase in the use of media, except for reading.

So we can return back to the PISA test about reading comprehension.

It is remarkable that children showed poor results when they read traditional text on paper, but they presented better knowledge with the digital test (where they read the text on the computer and wrote down their answers on the computer).

The difference was also considerably smaller between girls and boys with respect to the digital reading comprehension compared to the traditional reading comprehension (Skolverket, PISA test, 2011).

The hypothesis states that “more time at the computer leads to less time for reading” (Rosen, 2011; Findahl, 2012, p. 58), which, in my opinion, is wrong.

Every time a new medium is established, there is a discussion about the possibility that the new medium will annihilate the old media field. Television was the major threat to the written culture (Postman, 1986, p. 7).

There is a belief amongst researchers that the media with the dominating role during the growing period of a child has created a way for interpreting reality (McLuhan, 1964).

If TV has been the most important media for children, we can expect that they could never be really incorporated in the written culture.

Such was the case in the U.S. in 1977 when the number of adult readers drastically decreased (period from 1957 to 1977). Similar trends were noticed in Holland and France, where the reading time for adults decreased by 50% in the period from 1955 to 1975. (Findahl, 2012, p. 58).

In Sweden, there were a number of people who read on stable and high level until 2000.

Delayed effect of television can be explained in Sweden with the late arrival of private channels in the country during the 1990s.

It can also be explained with the new language that introduced the audio-visual media and most of the Internet.

TV is changing the way of oral representation of information (audiovisual narrative technique is different now).

Internet uses similar narrative technique that is different from the traditional literary language.

McLuhan was right. Media is a message. Information changes its appearance due to a special way of communicating, and that is characteristic for the Internet.

The same information in a book, television or the Internet looks differently.

TV has offered us the audiovisual language.

Internet goes a step further and provides the reader with the option of entering text. You can modify, adapt and live your own life or a life of another person through heavy cyber-experiences.

I think that a child (who starts reading on the Internet) clearly shows that the text on the computer screen is different from the text in books.

The digital text is short, laconic, and the reader can start a discussion with text (the author).

The digital text, just like the old telephone directory, provides information rather than a readable text.

In the case of longer texts the Internet reader becomes nervous and stressed.

You cannot write two sentences on the same line or a story without illustration.

A long, old-fashioned text is simply hard to read on computer screens.

Everything must be short, dynamic, and written with inner intensity.

There is no chance that the reader will read the so-called text next door (that is characteristic for paper journals and magazines).

They use the Internet host to find things they want to capture.

Users look for information just as they pick mushrooms – you fill your basket only with the mushrooms you are looking for. Unknown fungi are uninteresting.

The crucial question (in this context) is complex.

Language transformation is still continuing. This is evidenced by a child who has learned the written language only through the computer screen.

Could it be that the changes a language is a sign of deeper changes in our culture?

“Culture is a conceptual system whose surface appears in the words of people’s language” (Lull, 1999, p. 130).

As the American anthropologist Michael Agar points out above, language is a level of the surface of a deep and complex system of concepts we call culture, and we can not exclude that changes in the surface area (language) indicate profound changes in the whole cultural system.

Today the communicative dimension of culture looks differently.

The fact that changes on the linguistic level take place as a progress today is incontrovertible true.

The reason and the answer for this is the arrival of the Internet or the computer monitor at the core of “Central railway station” for mass communication processes.

Until now the entire mass communication was one way traffic (mass media). Now we have the Internet with feedback. The Internet can enjoy this privilege. The established media (right now) hastens their websites to perform as the Internet conditions require. They strive to employ the possibilities of the Internet to receive feedback. Books are the last standing and waiting in the line.

In addition, Internet assumes a form of “imaginary audience” (Anderson, 1983). Although the Community is not in the same room and audience probably have never been in contact with each other, they usually do as cinema or theatre audience. We can conclude that the Internet arranges an illusory, unlimited community which the print media would not be able to create.

Currently the diversity of the media and the intensification of the use of media have come to a steep hill. The established media are on the one side and the Internet and social media are on the other side of the ravine.

So far, the established media (press, radio and television) have not responded seriously against bloggers and other online discussion clubs. However, the times change and the social networks begin showing their strength and can decide the agenda for media market.

In this context there are two interesting things: language trying to move away from the written language logic to the oral language style and the changes in relationships amongst media.

The censorship and bloggers is the third aspect.

The media will not disappear; they are only gaining or losing their dominance (Veinberga, 2008, p. 332).

Gutenberg did not disappear because of Marconi and radio and newspapers still remained after all of McLuhan’s prophecies implying that the electronic media will take over for good.

Today no one disputes the hegemony of written language in Western culture. Long time ago TV and radio did the impossible. They blew up the leading role of the written language in the air. Due to the television a whole new language was born, which incorporated the melody of the 80’s and we learned to monitor the political theatre with symbolic expression forms (Reagan’s blue eyes, Gorbachev’s factory visits, etc.).

Bourdieu believes that television is indeed a real threat to all forms of cultural production: art, literature, science, philosophy and judiciary. Television is purely damaging also for politics and democracy. It is interesting, what would he write now about the impact of the Internet on art and culture?

The established culture of journalism is now forced to accept the special way of the Internet of talking to the reader.

It is clear that it is time to learn new forms of communication with the new media and public.

An extreme blog in Sweden (Avpixlat) says that “political correctness” that causes people not to dare to express their opinions is the greatest threat to the democratic society in Sweden.

People just reading silently and not daring to react.

The text on the Internet always requires a reaction from the reader

The Internet has opened doors and we have no chance of returning to the quiet reading of paper books.

We get the newspapers we deserve (Gripsrud, 1999, p. 32).

No doubt that the modern age is giving us the signals that changes are necessary.

Books needed a better look. They can be produced in multiple parallel channels more efficient than before.

We live in a paradigm shift where everything, even the habitus is under transformation.

“The system of dispositions which makes up the habitus has a generative quality in much same way a language does” (Chomsky, 1972; Lull, 199, p. 159).

If the language is in the sway, what is the health condition of the journalistic and the literary field?

The storm is over.


Anderson, B. (1983). Imagined Communities. London, Verso.

Bourdieu, P. (1998). Acts of Resistance: Against the Tyranny of the Market. Cambridge. Polity Press.

Chomsky, N. (1972). Language and Mind. New York: Harcourt, Brace.

Findahl, O. (2011). Svenskarna och Internet 2009. Stockholm. Stiftelsen för Internetinfrastruktur.

Findahl, O. (2012). Barn och ungas medieanvändning i Internet-värden. Göteborg, Nordicom, Göteborgs universitet.

Gripsrud, J. (1999). Mediekultur – mediesamhälle. Oslo, Universitetsförlaget. Daidalos.

Lull, J. (1999) Media, Communication, Culture. A Global Approach. Cambridge, Polity Press.

McLuhan, M (1964) Understanding Media. Cambridge: The MIT Press.

Mediebarometern, Nordicom, 1993.

Postman, N. (1986). Amusing Ourselves to Death. Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business. New York, Penguin Books.

Rosen, M (2011) Förändringar i läskompetens under 30 år. En internationell jämförelse (FIL). Göteborgs universitet.

Skolverket (2011). Eleverna och nätet. PISA 2009 om 15 – åringarnas förmåga att söka, läsa och värdera digital information. Stockholm: Skolverket (Rapport 361).

Veinberga, S. (2008) Masmediji. Prese, radio un televīzija. 2nd ed. Rīga: Zvaigzne.

Von Wright, G.H. (1994). Att förstå sin samtid. Tanke och förkunnelse och andra försök.  Stockholm. Bonniers.

Williams, R. (1962) The Long Revolution. New York: ColumbiaUniversity Press.

Björling, S. Datorerna får svenska barn att läsa allt sämre. Dagens Nyheter. Kultur. 2012.13.03. p. 4.

Filipsson, L. (1998) Småbarnen och medierna. Ökat tittande och minskat läsande. I Medienotiser

Nr. 2: Barn och ungdomar i det nya medielandskapet, Nordicom-Sverige, Göteborgs


Sandra Veinberg, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Communication Sciences at Riga International School of Economics and Business Administration and Senior Researcher at the Institute of Management Sciences of Liepaja University.

Sandra Veinberg is the author of several books on mass media and public relations: Mediju misija (The Mission of the Media). Trends of the Press Development in Latvia following Reestablishment of the Independent Statehood (1990-2010), monograph in Latvian, Publishing House Zvaigzne, Rīga, 2010, 158 pgs., Censorship – The Mission of the Media. Scientific essays in English, Publishing House LiePa Publishing Latvia, Liepāja, 2010, 151 pgs., Publiskās attiecības jeb PR. Teorija un prakse (Public Relations or PR. Theory and Practice). Monograph. Publishing House Zvaigzne, Rīga, second revised edition, 2008, 325 pgs., Masmediji (Mass Media). Press, Radio and Television. Monograph, Publishing House Zvaigzne, Rīga, second revised edition, 2008, 358 pgs.

Sandra Veinberg is a member of the Swedish Journalists’ Association (Publicistklubben) and the Swedish Association of Media and Communication researchers –Föreningen för svensk medie- och kommunikationsforskning (FSMK), Foreign Press Association of Sweden, FPA. She is also known as a writer, a journalist and a foreign correspondent in Sweden of Latvian TV. As a researcher and journalist she is very familiar with most of the practical and theoretical sides of media and journalism and PR.

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The alternative way of understanding current PR

Presentation at the international conference on public relations Bledcom, which attracted more than 200 academics from all over the world. Slovenia, Bled Lake. 6th and 7th July 2012.

Public Relations and Communication Management: The State of the Profession Proceedings of the 19 th International Public Relations Research Symposium BledCom Bled, Slovenia 6-7 July 2012.

EDITORS: Dejan Verčič, Ana Tkalac Verčič, Krishnamurthy Sriramesh, Ansgar Zerfass

PUBLISHED BY: Pristop d.o.o. Trubarjeva cesta 79

BledCom_Zbornik2012_E_verzija_WEB ISBN978-‐961-‐93434-‐0-‐1(pdf)


Author Note

Sandra Veinberg Ph.D., Associate Professor, Riga International School of Economics and Business Administration.

Correspondence address concerning this article:
Sandra Veinberg, RISEBA, Faculty of Audiovisual Media Arts, Public Relations and Advertising Management
Meža iela 3, Rīga, LV-1048, Latvia.


The Crisis communications will always require unique solutions. In this particular case is investigated a case dealing with the conflict between a manufacturer – a food company and health surveillance of the product. These are the crisis when it can be observed that the PR field is unique and, due to its originality, cannot be imported or adopted. Any attempt to adopt or absorb the PR experience of America, Great Britain, or any other country into Latvian was decidedly unsuccessful (in both public relations theory and practice). Most trials for this experiment have failed and this means that PR has closer ties with the cultural-community background than we thought before.
This means that the alternative method of understanding this PR crisis is to look at it within the respective time, industry and national development cultural-political context.

Keywords: Multicultural communication, PR, Culture conflicts, Everyday life, Globalisation, Risk Communication, Win-win situation

The alternative way of understanding current PR
My presentation is about almost-crisis PR. The Crisis communication will always require unique solutions. I will explain the notion of “almost”, because in this case crisis PR can not be clearly distinguished from the point of view of a cultural conflict or reterritorialization (Lull, 2000) which emerged due to the current international PR communication (L´Etang, 2011).

Firstly, let us focus to the principal issue – summary of the actual event. This fact has made quite a noise in the state of Latvia. In this particular case, dealing with the conflict between a manufacturer, i.e., a food company, and health surveillance of the product is investigated.
A year ago, i.e., in June 2011, the population of Latvia was surprised by an unexpected announcement of the Danish professor Steen Stender that “majority of our daily consumed products should be rather used for shoe polishing than eating” (LTV, 2011).

The professor arrived at Riga to participate in the Nordic-Baltic Congress of Cardiology and announced his findings in an interview to a television, which prepared broadcasts from the congress. Stender , Chief physician and Lab Director at the Department of Clinical Biochemistry, Copenhagen County Hospital in Gentofte, University of Copenhagen. As Chairman of the Danish Nutrition Council’s subgroup dealing with trans fats and health, he lobbied for – and successfully achieved – a ban on trans fats in Denmark.

Denmark approved the ban in March 2003 and it came into effect on 1 January 2004.
The ban made it illegal for any food to contain more than 2 percent trans fats. Offenders face hefty fines and could even be jailed. As of January 2007, Denmark remains the only country in the world to have banned foods with more than 2 percent trans fats content.
In Latvia, nobody knew professor Stender or anything about his war against trans fats. By arriving at the congress in Riga, Steen Stender expected to continue his combat against trans fats, because inappropriate food is in amongst the main explanations for the Latvia’s leading position in Europe relating to death rates caused by cardiovascular diseases.

Professor’s anti-top included approx. 1’000 products made in different countries of the world and causing illness. Wafers “Selga” made in Latvia occupied position #4 in this black list. They “as if” had particularly high content of trans fat acids. During the most popular news broadcast Steen Stender announced on the TV screen that eating one package of “Selga” wafers equals smoking 10 cigarettes implying that wafers made in Latvia are as harmful as cigarettes. The announcement of professor Stender made quite a noise in the country. Firstly, such reaction was caused by the fact that these wafers are a long-term and traditional treat for Latvian population. The treat is popular and used by practically everyone (from schoolchildren to seniors) and until today, not one (as it seems) has died from eating wafers. Secondly, the announcement was made public by the main television news broadcast of the public television “Panorama”, whose publication was later used by all largest national media. Thirdly, the announcement had the background of congress of Nordic-Baltic doctors-cardiologists taking place at the end of June in Riga.

Professor Steen Stender was interviewed during the congress of doctors and local dieticians supported his statements.
The explosion had taken place in the public space. Significant part of Latvian population found out that food products have such large portion of the harmful trans fat acids only after this “wafer scandal” and the speech of cardiologist Steen Stender. Danish professor claimed that “Selga” wafers have 44% content of trans fat acids. Few days later it turned out that the professor exaggerated the rate and that the incorrect number was named by someone in his laboratory in Denmark; actually the trans fats in wafers make only 9% in the total content of fats (instead of 44%). Stender corrected the mistake in media; however, he still claims that also 9% is excessively much. Local cardiologists and dieticians supported him.

Wafers “Selga” at one blow became a synonym to poison and large share of country’s population was ready to run to doctors to check their health.

After few days of confusion, the producer of wafers NP Foods announced in media that the result of Stender’s laboratory is a mistake and that a package of these wafers actually contains just 4% of trans fat acids. “The amount is acceptable in European Union states, and there are no provisions about the limitations for trans fats in food” (Vēsma Smilga, Quality Department Manager, NP Foods, DB, 20 June 2011). Exactly, European Union has no unified requirement to decode trans fats on product packaging. Therefore, the content of trans fats in cookies, cakes, chips, ice-cream, margarine, etc. Only Denmark and Iceland stipulate that trans fats must not exceed 2% of the total fat content; also Switzerland and Austria have limitation, but Sweden is in the process of introducing them.

What were the actions of the wafer producer NP Foods in this crisis? The producer began crisis communication with consumers and professor Stender. Nobody bought wafers now, because of the unwillingness “to eat shoe-polish” or “to smoke 10 cigarettes”. The producer of wafers reacted too late in communication with the society. Obviously, the producer believed that the mistake of 44% instead of the actual 4% (NP Foods data) or 9% (corrected data of Eurofins) is enough for the society to see the scandalous media announcement in a sceptical light. It means that the first crisis PR level was complied with, i.e., providing the necessary information to the society. In the same, the company began attacking the carrier of the bad message.

The producer, together with Didzis Šmits, Head of Latvian Federation of Food Enterprises, publicly declared that the announcement of professor Stender has “knowingly falsified information about the quality of “Laima” products, which is one of the oldest and most recognized brands” and that professor’s announcement is “an attack to the brand”. This is the “beginning of a planned economic war against the national enterprises of Latvia”, “economic war”, deliberate attempt to “reduce the value of Latvian goods” and that such methods are “old daily practice of national and international corporations in fighting for sale markets and resources” (BNN, 27 June 2011). Afterwards NP Foods turned to Security Police with request to initiate a criminal case against professor Stender for defamation and deliberate actions deteriorating Latvian economy and NP Foods prepared also to apply to European Commission with request to evaluate “unsubstantiated and illegal distortions of competition market” (BNN, 1 July 2011).

The economic war was on. In addition, also the public television broadcasting Stender’s announcement was subjected to attacks.
NP Foods insisted that “deliberate campaign of discrediting the brand” is carried out by involving both Danish professor and the news service of the public television. The scandal ran high and professor Stender had to visit at Riga to arrive at the police station and explain his claims with relation to the wafer case. The producer suffered extensive loss (due to Stender’s announcement). Before visiting police station in Riga, professor Stender spoke at the Diet Council meeting arranged by the Ministry of Health about the facts of harm caused by trans fat acids. Media convoy accompanied Stender to the police station. He was interrogated for three hours, after which the professor returned to Denmark.
The initial announcement about the content of 44% of fat acids, about which he became informed from a certified Danish laboratory, was the main misfortune for the professor. Laboratory’s mistake ruined the authority of Stender, and the professor himself recognised that (44% compared to 9% or 4%). NP Foods used the mistake to attack the scientist. In its crisis management, the company attempted to use sabotage first.

The company attempted to prove that the Danish professor and news service of Latvian Television deliberately harmed the popular brand of “Selga” wafers. In an interview in the magazine “Lietišķā Diena” , Stender said that, although he apologizes for the error in the wafer test results that was caused by the laboratory, he still maintains that this product contains too much trans fat and has negative effects on health. “Of course, it would not harm me if I ate one. It is the same as sometimes smoking a cigarette. It does not kill you,” he replied to a question on whether he would be willing to consume Selga wafers (Lietišķā Diena, 2011.16.07).
What happened after that? The wafer producer faced crisis in communication with mass media. The recent studies in the field show that “media can determine the course of crisis (…) if they have informed about the events themselves” (Larsson, 2008).

The wafer producer failed to comply with the following factors within the crisis communication with media (Flodin, 1993):
1) Time conflict (while the producer focused on the respective percentage error, the media had increasing number of unanswered questions);
2) Conflict of sources (the producer continues emphasizing on the discrepancy of percentage and the restrictions of European Union standards, but the media is interested in more extensive issues of population health and food producer’s responsibility);
3) Conflict of responsibility (the media think that the main questions remain unanswered, but the producer believes that everything has been explained);
4) Conflict of competence (media tend to simplify, but the producer and institutions see the whole picture);
5) Conflict of trust (if errors are detected in the beginning of crisis, consumers see the entire further communication suspicious).

In this case, the producer of wafers obviously considered that its opponent is just the Danish professor, whose version about the harm of “Selga” wafers was formally inadequate/inappropriate. Formally, the percentage of 4% complies with European Union standards (unlimited content of trans fat acids for now). Consequently, the producer has done no “harm” and the purchasers are free to keep on eating the wafers. NP Foods considered that an accident or a disaster is primarily a management problem, but the event immediately becomes a media event, particularly if human death or injury is involved (Black, 1993).

Media perceived the information about the trans fat acids in food dramatically as an issue of health or death in the style of Hamlet. Majority of purchasers now carefully study the inscriptions on product packaging. The situation resulted in increased competence of population regarding trans fat acids. Actually, it was no discovery, since local dieticians have discussed trans fat acids for a considerable period of time (globally, Latvia has one of the highest death rates caused by cardiovascular diseases) and falling ill is largely related with unhealthy diet. However, the society did not hear the warnings of diet specialists. Danish professor Stender, like a magician, changed the situation at one stroke. Media and the society suddenly began requesting the producers to indicate the precise content of harmful fat acids on the food product packaging. The public opinion and mass media took the side of Danish professor Stender and the producer NP Foods was forced to stop the war against the “Denmark’s interests in Latvia”.

Only three months later, i.e., in September, the food manufacturing company “Staburadze” (NP Foods) claimed they have began the production of wafers containing no harmful fat acids at all. Representatives of the company admitted to the media that manufacturing wafers without fat acids would be more expensive; however, the price for purchasers will remain at the same level.

In order to draw the attention of purchasers to this step, the producer decided upon using the “wafer scandal” for the product packaging. Further on it will be decorated with a caricature of professor Stender. He will hold a magnifier with an inscription “0% fat acids”.
The wafers will no longer contain synthetic colours and the content descriptions will be easier for the consumer to understand, e.g., the packaging will have the inscription of “baking soda”, instead of “E500”. They also planned to send the “new wafers” to the professor Stender in Denmark. The company considered that this step will put an end to the story about trans fat acids in the wafers (LTV, 20 September 2011). After the reform and the discovery of the Danish professor, the turnover of wafers has increased. This was a way to notify the mass media about the expansion of wafer manufacturing at NP Foods. Ten more people have been employed, but NP Foods (TVNET. 20 September 2011) have terminated the cooperation with the Association of Doctors and cardiologists
The “wafer scandal” is an interesting case of PR crisis management from many points of view.

Firstly, it indicates that in globalisation conditions the producers must consider the cultural conflicts, which until now have been studied more extensively in PR theory at the level of product localisation.

This time it is the issue that “PR contributes to improved diplomacy and better understanding among peoples” rather than the cultural imperialism ((L´Etang, 2011). Stender’s PR campaign against trans fat acids turned out to be more efficient than the defence of NP Foods in favour of “Selga” wafers. In this case, Professor Steen Stender, by speaking at the Latvian Television, used multicultural communication forms which are simultaneously transmitted to many cultures and which are applied to research into variable ways in which cultures communicate (L`Etang, 2011). Professor Steen Stender used this approach (without changing the form of message) in Czech Republic, U.S., Poland and Denmark to inform about the content of the harmful fat acids.

Would the reaction of mass media and society be similar in Sweden (where I live), if a Danish professor would come and prove that the Swedish national dish surstömning or fermented Baltic herring is harmful to health? It seems that the reaction would be different, since Swedes have comparatively better background/basic information about these issues. Media discuss the issues of product quality more extensively and more analytically and the society is more trusting to food product quality monitoring institutions. Sweden is not as “new” country (as Latvia), and therefore the society is less sensitive “about the national treats”. I assume that Stender’s mistakenly declared 44% would draw the attention of the producers from Swedish news services already before publishing and 9% would not be able to cause such scandal. Local experts aware of the public background of everyday’s life in a globalization world usually comment upon food quality issues to Swedes.

Up to now, “McDonaldization” had the dominating role in the food criticism field (Ritzer, 2000), i.e., cultural imperialism that globalisation has promoted capitalism and consumerism, and PR practitioners had to maintain the balance in local (national) antipathy towards foreign fast food because of globalization.
In this particular case, the direction of the message is opposite, and namely, a prophet comes from the globalized world and blows up the leading product, i.e., wafers of the oldest industrial company (Anno 1870). This time it is not a question of problems in a large multi-national concern in some country of sales market. It is the question about a claim of a foreign expert blowing up the local industry. Certainly, professor Stender failed to act in line with the catchphrases “think global, act local”. He applied offensive strategy (Larsåke Larsson, 2002) resulting in his score of a direct hit.

What can we learn from this event? In my opinion, the condition that the statements of Danish professor Steen Stender’s were laconic and exact had the decisive role in this case of PR crisis. The witticism of his claims was the main factor and he established emotional and descriptive comparisons capable of convincing the public more efficiently than logic arguments of numbers and facts. He functioned as a “fast thinker” proposing such messages as “fast food” (Pierre Bourdieu, 1998) immediately “swallowed by mass media” and becoming a “scoop”: “consuming a package of wafers equals smoking 10 cigarettes” or “trans fat acids are a poison to metabolism”.

His statement was laconic, figurative, containing comparisons and a negative sensation; it was exclusive with the effect of accumulating emotions, proposed at the right time, conforming with public needs and therefore understandable in all languages.
The offensive response arguments of the wafer producer did not help, because, although the professor made a mistake in specifying the content of harmful fat acids, his openness and honesty convinced the society more efficiently that the aggressive reaction from the producer. The producer did not attempt to initiate a dialogue with the professor, medical practitioners and interest groups, which was crucial in this case (Karaszi, 1998). By emphasizing his interest in “public interests” (Habermas, 1984) Danish professor was ready to have open dialogues with the society. He even arrived at the police, although he could have avoided this “visit” in Riga. He applied the symmetrical communication model by becoming an “opinion former” and later also an “opinion leader”. He implemented three pre-conditions of PR publicity (Karaszi, 2005): announcement of unexpected news (popular wafers contain substances harmful to health), arriving as a “rescuer from disaster” (helped to interest the population in the content of food products) and fighting as a David against Goliath (“a lonely specialist” vs. the large industry). The opponents NP Foods used the asymmetrical model unaware that “non-policy could succeed unless it had national opinion behind it” (Nicolson, 1954).

Further, I will focus on the strategy analysis. The well-known and widely applied strategy model (see Figure No. 1) is envisioned for discussing PR conflict strategies (Larsson, 2001;Tomas, Spicer 1997,).

Spicer (1997, p. 249) indicates “the polarity between concern for self and concern for others is a critical conceptualisation” in this model. In this case NP Foods chose avoidance with “inside approach” (from inside). Another option is to select the adverse strategy “from abroad” (from outside) (Larsson, 2008). The first case means that the company is developing PR strategy based on its own rules only. In the result there are very few options to localize and adapt own message to the public expectations due to the one-way communication. In the second case (strategy from outside), symmetrical communication is required. These strategies may be passive or active and conforming with the understanding about distribution strategy and supply strategy (Windahl, Signitzer, 2008).
Transmission strategy dominated in the “wafer scandal” already from the beginning. The second strategy, i.e., strategy of awareness of external factors, was characteristic to the company NP Foods only in the post-crisis situation. After the crisis, there was the opportunity to select from four strategy forms; see Figure No. 2. According to the opinion of the authors of this concept (Savago, Spicer 1997), a company may choose collaboration strategy only when the public is ready to cooperate, however, the threat is still present.

Consequently, the public/purchasers are still not sure that eating “Selga” wafers will cause no harm to their health. Therefore, NP Foods chose to change the recipe of the wafers (recipe accepted by the public) and afterwards they were able to continue the dialogue with purchasers in the form of symmetry dialogue. Consequently, it was the collaboration strategy (by offering the campaign of wafers with the image of the Danish professor to the purchasers for reduced price). On the other hand, with regard to Steen Stender it was strategy monitoring to avoid from making new decisions and causing unconsidered communication.

The use of the new recipe in the production of “Selga” wafers is rather considered as a new type of offensive strategy to combat the “external foe”, and therefore his caricature is now on packages of “Selga” wafers. From 20 September 2011 to 31 March 2012, there was an organized extensive marketing campaign “Let’s Treat the Professor” (“Pacienāsim profesoru”), during which the wafers were sold with discounts. By the way, NP Foods delivered a package of the new wafers to the professor as a Christmas gift in December 2011. Such measure is a typical example of risk communication strategy.

Certainly, a company can achieve the win-win situation in its closest vicinity using the risk communication. On one side, the purchasers see that the wafers have become more healthy (now the content of the harmful fat acids constitutes 0.2% in the new wafer products) on the background of the other existing and unimproved unhealthy products (ice cream, chips, popcorn, etc.). On the other side, the image of the Danish professor-carrier of the bad news, has been demonized and determined to the level of a caricature due to the marketing campaign and his fatal error. “Effective public relations efforts can build community support through collaborative, community based decisions regarding the kinds of risks that exist” (Heath, Palenchar, 2000).

The wait-and-see aggressiveness of company’s crisis PR may be explained with the fear from reputation damage. Sure, the wafer producer NP Foods fought for its reputation, which requires “regulatory moral correctness” (Röttger, 2009) in the existing “social world” (Habermas, 1984).

Reputation consists of three dimensions – functional, social and expressive (Eisenegger, Imhof, 2009), and the respective “wafer example” shows that the announcement of professor Stender aimed at the social reputation of the producer (social reputation is untouchable until the moment when the attempts of the company to achieve maximum functional success do not conflict with the standards and values of the society) and automatically hurt the functional and expressive dimensions of reputation. The passive and defensive strategy of the producer of wafers prohibited extending the symmetric communication, which in crisis is more important than the product itself. “By buying a product we largely express ourselves as individualities, and at that point every purchaser feels that knowing the moral position of the producer is important. In times when politicians and other traditional authorities lose their prestige and meaning the ethics requirements increase towards the producers (…) mass media and purchasers are the judges in this case.” (Bryntesson, 2002).

In my opinion, the producer did not exercise “the responsibility of performing one’s duties in an ethical (…) and capable manner” (Black, 1997), because PR has been incorporated in the part of communication that stands for credibility already for a long period of time (Bryntesson, 2002).

Of course, the PR strategy of the producer used the classic five “Ps of ethical power” – Purpose, Pride, Patience, Persistence and Perspective (Blanchard, Peale 1988). These five broad principles of ethical behaviour are an excellent guide for public relations practitioners and other professionals. In this particular case with wafers “Selga”, professor Stender, and fear of purchasers from trans fat acids, in my opinion, lacked active feedback communication with purchasers and, most importantly, with doctors and dieticians, who would reinforce the producer’s prestige in the society.

The question, can a crisis (defect) serve, as an effect in PR work, is still open. Many crisis researchers doubt that crises can be used in favour of a company, but it is clear that “we see crises as opportunities for learning and improvement” (Ulmer, 2007). Certainly, crisis solution and crisis communication situations change and today we are unable to establish the exact moment of the end of crisis, since its development may take form similar to the domino effect. Different companies react differently to crises and everyone must consider the immediate mediatisation of incidents.

These are the crisis when it can be observed that the PR field is unique and, due to its originality, cannot be imported or adopted. Any attempt to adopt or absorb the PR experience of America, Great Britain, or any other country into Latvian was decidedly unsuccessful (in both public relations theory and practice). Most trials for this experiment have failed and this means that PR has closer ties with the cultural-community background than we thought before.
This means that the alternative method of understanding this PR crisis is to look at it within the respective time, industry and national development cultural-political context.

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The flow approach and the distance between ‘serious’ and ‘entertainment’ mass communication

The flow approach and the distance between ‘serious’ and ‘entertainment’ mass communication*

Communication roots in the context of environmental culture and communicative inter-textuality. Till now analytics of transmissive communication have paid more attention to analysis of the substance of contents. The communicative studies have been less focused on dislocation of communicative effect.

The experience of the media and PR practice over the recent years shows that the presence of digital communication bonds has largely defined the expansion of new forms of communication. Newszak, or news converted into entertaining, is becoming more and more common not only in the media but also in business communication, including PR.

The distance between ‘serious’ and ‘entertainment’ mass communication is disappearing gradually.

The niche of good journalism is replaced by conditions of ‘good goods’, substantially defining the pattern of substance.

Instead of the item-oriented form of a message increasingly appears the flow-oriented or the fact flow approach. In the history of television CNN was the first to apply the approach, due to the necessity of a continuous supplementation/updating of current news.

Advertisers also requested that. As a result, the most recent news, instead of the most essential, became significant, automatically shifting the accent from the analytical information to descriptive. This approach offers ‘all in a row’, presenting in the order of time flow instead of the importance, creating the illusion that all news is equally important or insignificant.

From here on the so-called parachutejournalist syndrome spreads in the practice of mass media, i.e., a reporter, while in a foreign country, instantly reports on what he/she sees, instead of analysing events in their context using his/her basic competence.

The flow approach largely defines the domination of the form of the message over its content. It also determines the ability of the public to solely perceive stealth conflicts, because events beyond the radar system of the public competence, for most part of recipients, are and stay incomprehensible.

Currently, the flow approach is also dominating over the digital communication, where personalised avatars are acting instead of individuals (social networks Draugiem, Facebook, etc.) and according to Jürgen Habermas „in an up-to date project our mass communication has become an imagined reality on a computer screen”.

The flow approach is also ensured by the use of Photoshop features in the media and mass communication practice, largely transforming the reality and devaluating the quality of contents in the name of form.

*Liepājas universitātes 13. starptautiskajā zinātniskajā konferencē „Sabiedrība un kultūra : haoss un harmonija” 2010.gada 30. aprīlī.

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Censorship – the Mission of the Media

Sandra Veinberg

Censorship – the Mission of the Media


Censorship – the Mission of the Media examines the role of the media in censoring social life events and everyday processes in a popular science way. “Silence is golden; speech is silver” – this clever saying is widely used, and as a policy it helps one to integrate into society. Correct and incorrect exercising of free speech is also characterised by a conclusion made by Ernest Hemingway in that it takes at least two years for a man to learn to speak and at least 50 – to understand what he must not speak about. In her book, Sandra Veinberg discusses this topic is in a more detail. The author considers not only traditional manifestations of censorship but also “self-censorship” and its sources.

Under the conditions of globalisation, where the world has shrunken and the Internet enables unlimited non-conversational communication, where Ryanair and  its cheap flights turn faraway exotic countries into the ‘suburbs’ of our home country, self-censorship becomes  a significant form of communication. What is allowed in one country is forbidden in another. The Danes published their Muhammad cartoons in the Danish newspapers; though protests arose in other countries — thousands of kilometres away from Copenhagen. The phenomenon of trans-border censorship is gradually expanding. The book focuses on different types of trans-border censorship in trying to find out why society still needs “fabrication of enforced acceptance” (Noam Chomsky). In essence, today’s Western democracies are no freer than traditional totalitarian societies.  “Orwellian Big Brother spying on us from above, there are many smaller brothers who won’t leave us in peace.” (Merit Mazzarella).

Vertical censorship is a well-known phenomenon in Syria, Russia, and China. Today’s novelty is censorship globalisation. It does not fit merely within one system of a country’s censorship or public prejudices anymore. It means that the hitherto ”engineering of consent”, common to all societies, does not function anymore, since the media function across national borders via the Internet, and what is volonté generale in one country, may not be so in another.

The media work as censors not only in the interests of the existing power, economic elite or their owners. They help to maintain prejudices, the most typical among manifest themselves as xenophobia. This book examines xenophobia in Western-European countries, taking the media of politically neutral Sweden as an example as well asfocusing on some significant campaigns in the media of other Western-European countries where xenophobia is apparent (the Vogue advertisement campaigns, war journalism, misery memoirs, Günter Wallraf, Fabbrizio Gatti, the Swedish Building Workers’ Union Byggnads PR campaign against guest workers, better known as the Vaxholm conflict.

Censorship used by the media elite (especially in the field of culture) is a generally known phenomenon. This book provides an example — the internal ”censoring” pressure effect of the popular Swedish pop group ABBA in the 70s and 80s in the


Swedish media and opinion-forming culture elite groups. At that time, the Swedish press regarded ABBA as tawdry and even dangerous to the Swedish musical life. It is no secret that the pressure of the media and society largely contributed to the group’s split-up. Vertical censorship in the media had one frame of mind maintaining that such a style mismatches the ruling left-oriented morality and stage paraphernalia.

Horizontal censorship cast the last stone and wiped the phenomenon off the stage and out of the recording studios, although today the fame and success of the super-group are running even higher that it could have been forecasted 30 years ago when ABBA held its final concert.

The question as to who owns the truth in modern society is still open.

Because censorship does not only refer to the assassination of Anna Politkovskaya, as well as of dissidents in dictatorships, the suppression of artists daring to create art breaking the taboo norms of the culture nomenclature (such as Solzenicin, Shostakovich, Chiwoniso Maraire, Anvar Gul, modern ballet troupes in Somalia or Iran, performances of students from the Royal Institute of Art in Stockholm held in St. Görans hospital and in the Swedish underground system in 2009, etc.).

Censorship also emerges in official public opinion studies – in the way of concealing particular news and the deliberate eradication of journalists from broadcasting, the increasing willingness of national security services to control our mail, income, luggage and clothing in the airports.

Censorship is present almost everywhere, and hopefully we will learn to notice it. Let alone because freedom of truth is a value worth fighting for, especially at a time when the financial crisis is ruining the world and when  freedom of speech, as a topic, is no longer central to the field of discourse  in many places. This book tells about this, too.

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