What makes for a critical press? A case study of French and U.S. immigration news coverage

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This article measures and explains criticism in U.S. and French national newspapers during the 1990s and 2000s. Criticism is operationalized in terms of discrete critical statements directed at governmental, political party, business, civil society, and foreign/ international organizations or officials; such critical statements, which take various forms-administrative, character, truth, ideology, policy, and strategy-offer a more comprehensive measure of criticism on a day-to-day basis than the occasional in-depth investigative report. While state intervention is often argued to have a censoring effect, this study finds that the more "statist" French press presents a greater density of criticisms than the U.S. press. French newspapers that receive the highest direct subsidies are not less critical of the government or dominant party than other French (or U.S.) newspapers. French newspapers exhibit a slightly higher degree of political parallelism, but in both countries newspapers tend to aim the greatest amount of criticism toward the party in power, whether Left or Right. Relatively higher French criticism is also facilitated by a distinctive French journalistic cultural form, the "debate ensemble," that, in contrast to U.S. "dramatic narrative," organizes the news as a clash of critical opposing viewpoints.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3-24
Number of pages22
JournalInternational Journal of Press/Politics
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2010


  • Comparative research
  • Democracy
  • Journalism
  • Newspapers
  • North America
  • Western Europe

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Communication
  • Sociology and Political Science


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