Journalism and the political

Journalism and the political: Discursive tensions in news coverage of Russia. By Felicitas Macgilchrist. (Discourse approaches to politics, society and culture 40.) Amsterdam: John Benjamins, 2011, Pp. xiv, 248. ISBN 9789027206312. $143 (Hb).

Reviewed by Josep Soler-Carbonell, University of Oxford

Three keywords that can be proposed to define this work are discourse, journalism, and politics, to which can be added Russia and foreign news, in order to achieve a more contextualized perspective. The book’s aim is to look at how journalism constitutes, affects, and is affected by the political, suggesting a new and more radical relationship (i.e. transformative) between journalism, discourse, and power. The book contains a preface at its beginning, and a thematic index can be found at the end of the book. Notes are introduced in the form of footnotes within each chapter.

The book is organized into three main parts. Preceding these parts is an introduction describing the scope of the book, its objectives, and the theoretical background that shapes its analysis, departing from and building on critical discourse analysis, post-foundational political theory, and journalism studies. Here, the author also discusses her methodology and research strategy, which is a qualitative analysis.

Part 1 of the book is comprised of Chs. 2–5. In it, the author offers an analysis of several events of importance involving Russia and its discursive construction from abroad. This includes issues of civil society, human rights, democracy, and non-governmental organization legislation (Ch. 2); Gazprom and the Russia-Ukraine conflict (Ch. 3); the death of former spy Alexander Litvinenko (Ch. 4); and, in Ch. 5, the Russian-Chechnya conflict, from Budennovsk (1995) to Beslan (2004). Part 2 (Chs. 6–8) sets out to explore in more detail the events presented in previous chapters from a journalistic point of view: ‘Responsibility management’ (Ch. 6), ‘Balance and binaries’ (Ch. 7), and ‘Complexity reduction’ (Ch. 8).

Finally, Part 3 (Chs. 9 and 10) provides the conclusion of the book. Particularly relevant is Ch. 9 (‘“Positive” discourse analysis’), which offers an analysis of the results and key points elucidated in previous chapters. Moreover, an analysis of the events presented in the book is combined with fieldwork conducted by the author between 2005 and 2008: open interviews with nine correspondents based in Moscow; shorter interviews and discussions with reporters and editors in the United Kingdom, the United States, and Germany; and further correspondence with some of these informants.

Overall, the book makes a positive contribution to the field of critical discourse analysis, offering well-conducted and well-illustrated analyses of relevant events from Russia and their treatment by and from foreign newspapers and journalists. It is, therefore, a recommended book for courses in the upper-undergraduate divisions or postgraduate studies dealing with (critical) discourse analysis, journalism and media studies, cultural and social anthropology, political science, and international relations, particularly in those institutions and research centers with a strong core of Slavonic and East European Studies.