Right-wing, populist, controlled by foreign powers? Topic diversification and partisanship in the content structures of German-language alternative media

Müller, Philipp ; Freudenthaler, Rainer

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/21670811.2022.2058972
URL: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/10.1080/21670811.2...
Document Type: Article
Year of publication Online: 2022
The title of a journal, publication series: Digital Journalism
Volume: tba
Issue number: tba
Page range: 1-25
Place of publication: London [u.a.]
Publishing house: Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group
ISSN: 2167-0811 , 2167-082X
Publication language: English
Institution: School of Humanities > Institut für Medien- u. Kommunikationswissenschaft
Subject: 070 News media, journalism, publishing
Abstract: This study investigates the overall topic compositions and traces of right-wing populist partisanship in the content structures of German-language digital alternative news outlets. We argue that a topically heterogeneous landscape of right-wing populist alternative news outlets could maximize the reach of right-wing populist messages. Using LDA topic modeling, we explore the topical structures of nine different outlets (n = 66,965 articles) and empirically identify meaningful groups of outlets. Our analyses suggest the existence of two topically heterogeneous clusters of alternative news media: (1) core right-wing populist outlets, with around 45–50% of articles coming from topics that are related to right-wing or populist politics; and (2) topically diverse outlets. The latter group's topic selection also reveals right-wing populist partisanship, but less prominently so, while putting more emphasis on general interest news topics, such as sports, economy, or international relations. This group also includes Russian state-owned RT deutsch and Falun Gong-affiliated Epoch Times whose institutional roots, however, are only partially reflected in their topic selection. Additionally, longitudinal analyses reveal an increase of populism-related topics in both groups around the election date of the 2017 German federal election.

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