Explaining external influence on journalists in Switzerland

Project period: 2021 – 2022

with Lea Stahel

Project funded by the Fund for the Promotion of Young Academics (FAN)


In this project,

Journalists today not only feel economic pressure within their media companies. They are also the target of coercive influence by interview partners, politicians, and disgruntled readers. The corresponding external influence refers to all active methods, perceived by journalists as invasive and inappropriate, used by actors outside journalistic organizations to influence editorial content. It includes verbal pressure and abuse, defamation, physical violence, vandalism, positive and negative economic sanctions such as bribery and threats of legal action. The much-discussed increase of external influence in Western democratic societies is observed with concern, as it threatens freedom of expression and of the press. However, very little is known about the phenomenon, its extent, and its causes. This project pursues the following questions: How often do journalists in Switzerland experience different forms of external influence and by whom and why? How does external influence affect journalistic work? We use a sociological explanatory model that incorporates individual and organizational factors. We test the model in an online survey of a nationally representative sample of journalists in Switzerland.