Browsing by Organization "Swedish School of Social Science, University of Helsinki"

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  • Haavisto, Camilla (Helsingin yliopisto, 2011)
    This study deals with how ethnic minorities and immigrants are portrayed in the Finnish print media. The study also asks how media users of various ethnocultural backgrounds make sense of these mediated stories. A more general objective is to elucidate negotiations of belonging and positioning practices in an increasingly complex society. The empirical part of the study is based on content analysis and qualitative close reading of 1,782 articles in five newspapers (Hufvudstadsbladet, Vasabladet, Helsingin Sanomat, Iltalehti and Ilta-Sanomat) during various research periods between 1999 and 2007. Four case studies on print media content are followed up by a focus group study involving 33 newspaper readers of Bosnian, Somalian, Russian, and 'native' Finnish backgrounds. The study draws from different academic and intellectual traditions; mainly media and communication studies, sociology and social psychology. The main theoretical framework employed is positioning theory, as developed by Rom Harré and others. Building on this perspective, situational self-positioning, positioning by others, and media positioning are seen as central practices in the negotiation of belonging. In support of contemporary developments in social sciences, some of these negotiations are seen as occurring in a network type of communicative space. In this space, the media form one of the most powerful institutions in constructing, distributing and legitimising values and ideas of who belongs to 'us', and who does not. The notion of positioning always involves an exclusionary potential. This thesis joins scholars who assert that in order to understand inclusionary and exclusionary mechanisms, the theoretical starting point must be a recognition of a decent and non-humiliating society. When key insights are distilled from the five empirical cases and related to the main theories, one of the major arguments put forward is that the media were first and foremost concerned with a minority actor's rightful or unlawful belonging to the Finnish welfare system. However, in some cases persistent stereotypes concerning some immigrant groups' motivation to work, pay taxes and therefore contribute are so strong that a general idea of individualism is forgotten in favour of racialised and stagnated views. Discussants of immigrant background also claim that the positions provided for minority actors in the media are not easy to identify with; categories are too narrow, journalists are biased, the reporting is simplifying and carries labelling potential. Hence, although the will for the communicative space to be more diverse and inclusive exists — and has also in many cases been articulated in charters, acts and codes — the positioning of ethnic minorities and immigrants differs significantly from the ideal.