The Economic Change of 2008 in the Media

The study examines the role of journalism in the building of trust in the economy and the legitimation of economic policy during the economic crisis of 2008. The crisis is seen as an international economic and political phenomenon, which national policymakers, economic elites and journalists are forced to “naturalize” to their own publics.

Economic crises are typically preceded by an unfounded trust in economic growth and net asset values. Crisis ensues as faith eventually falters and economic actors seek to secure their own assets. Both publicity and journalism have a role to play in the transformation of trust into fear. Public debate can be seen as affecting the trust of both the consumers and the investors, as well as having an effect on the follow-through of various policy definitions. Experts presenting their estimates of the state and development of the economy either generate trust in the growth of the economy or warn about economic risk factors. The need to maintain trust in the economy and the requirement to give out correct information can thus come into conflict.

The study utilizes both the methods of quantitative and qualitative content analysis. The analysis compares reporting on the economy and economic policies in Helsingin Sanomat, Kauppalehti and Financial Times. In this comparison arrangement, Financial Times represents journalism directed at international economic and political elites, while the national publications represent journalism directed at various national publics. The research data consists of news articles, spanning from January 1, 2007 to March 31, 2009, that deal with recurrent economic events, discussions and, more precisely, stories relating to the economic crisis itself. Answers to the following five analysis tasks are sought by means of content analyses.

1) What kinds of phases can be found in reporting as expectations of a moderate recession turn into a severe economic crisis? What kinds of predictions do the stories present about economic development; do they refer to previous predictions?

2) What sort of temporal development do the characterization of the estimates on the economic state (optimism/pessimism) and the emotiveness of the stories follow? What kinds of differences are there between different newspapers? What sorts of references to emotional states or, for example, to guilt, causes and responsibility can be found in the stories?

3) To what degree do different interest, expert and civic groups participate in the discussion concerning economic policy? What is the interpretation community that “naturalizes” the global crisis as a part of shared reality?

4) How diverse is the argumentation on the state of the economy and the economic policy? How do different groups, in the newspapers examined, try to convince the readers on one hand of the necessity of proposed policies and on the other their significance? What are the central strategies like? What about their critique and alternatives? Where or to whom are the causes of the crisis pinned down? How is this evident in the argumentation?

5) How do the national and international perspectives unfold in different media in different stages of the crisis? How is the relationship between the global and the national economy explained in newspapers?

By means of term searches into electronic newspaper archives, the discussion trends are examined also in the long run. In practice this concerns the degree to which certain words related to the economic crisis and the recession appear in newspaper articles between 2006 and 2009. The results are then compared to other statistical indicators describing trust in the economy.

In addition, the students’ journalism critique project group from the department of journalism and mass communication conducts expert interviews to further support the project’s question phrasing.

Contact persons:

Esa Reunanen

Tel. +358 3 3551 7482

Anna Simola

Tel. +358 3 3551 8061


Helsingin Sanomat Foundation

Duration: 2009-2010