Examining the Linkage Between Journalistic Performance and Citizen Assessments of Media


Lee B. Becker, Tudor Vlad and Cynthia English


The measures of press freedom widely used in the academic literature and by advocates for developmental assistance incorporate measures of journalistic performance. Professional evaluators are asked not only to assess whether the media are able to operate independently of government but also whether they actually do operate in service of the democratic goals of societies. Research has shown that these established systemic measures of media freedom are internally consistent, highly intercorrelated, and reflect known changes in media systems across time. Some research also has shown that these measures of media freedom based on the assessments of elites also are correlated with measures of public opinion. Using limited samples, researchers have shown that those countries ranked high in media freedom by elite evaluators are those in which the general population also reports the existence of media freedom. One of the anomalies of the earlier work has been the finding that confidence in the media on the part of the citizenry is empirically unrelated to press freedom. The research reported here explains that anomalous finding by showing that differences in the social and political environments of countries had masked the relationship between press freedom and confidence in the media.

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