The Elites of the Media versus the Elites of Politics in Poland

by Zbigniew Oniszczuk (Volume editor) Dagmara Głuszek-Szafraniec (Volume editor) Mirosława Wielopolska-Szymura (Volume editor)
©2020 Edited Collection 174 Pages


This book is the fruit of scientific research conducted using quantitative and qualitative methods regarding the mutual relations between the media elites and the political elites in Poland. The authors of this work focus on several virtuous aspects of this issue: on the characteristic model of opinion-forming journalism, also on the differences presented by female and male journalists in the assessment of the relations between politicians and journalists, as well as on the differences between local and national level of mass media in terms of external and internal autonomy of journalists, next on the importance of opinion-forming media in the process of creating a sense of political subjectivity in their recipients, and finally on the phenomenon of politicization of cultural issues in opinion-forming weeklies in Poland.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title Page
  • Copyright Page
  • Acknowledgments
  • About the editors
  • About the book
  • Citability of the eBook
  • Contents
  • Introduction
  • 1. Theoretical and Practical Aspects of Relations Between Elites in the Mass Media and Politics
  • 2. Political Journalism in Poland
  • 3. Gender of Journalists and Their Opinions on the Relationship Between the Media and Politics
  • 4. Professional Autonomy of Local and National Journalists
  • 5. Opinion Weekly Magazines in Shaping a Sense of Political Subjectivity
  • 6. Politicization of Press Coverage on Culture in Opinion Weeklies – Word and Image
  • 7. Conclusions: Media and Politics in Poland – A Model of Mutual Relations
  • List of Figures
  • List of Pictures
  • List of Tables
  • References
  • Index
  • Notes on Contributors

Zbigniew Oniszczuk


The shape of modern democracy increasingly rests upon the nature of interdependencies connecting political elites with elites derived from the mass media. This thesis has been borne out since the mid-1990s, when the concept of political parallelism entered the world of media and political literature, drawing attention to the growing scale and importance of interrelations between the two elites, stimulated by the process of progressive dependence of the political sphere on the mass media. In the post-communist countries of Central and Eastern Europe, this process is additionally determined by the exacerbating polarization of the political scene, which is reflected in the political polarization of the mass media. Therefore, it can be assumed that mutual relations between the political elites and media elites create a specific culture of reciprocal contacts, on the one hand, characterized by a rational desire to dominate and use the other party instrumentally, and on the other, in the emotional sense, based on the feelings of suspicion, mistrust, or even hostility. Such a situation would make it difficult to build a socially justifiable political culture of mutual communication, taking into account the different principles and logics underlying the other party’s actions. This would also have a negative impact on the nature of political culture existing in a given country and society, which could undermine the proper functioning of the democratic system.

Is this actually the case? Only empirical research that verifies the assumptions can provide a convincing answer to this question. This volume is the fruit of scientific inquiries carried out within the research project of the National Centre for Science, which concerned the relationship between the mass media and political elites in Poland. The research was carried out in three main stages.

The first stage involved an analysis of the content of publications in four opinion weeklies, i.e. Newsweek Polska, Polityka, Do Rzeczy, and Wprost, released in 2015, an exceptional year for the political sphere in Poland, when presidential and parliamentary elections were held. In total, 11,000 independent publications underwent a classical quantitative and qualitative analysis, based on a categorization key containing 61 variables. Their analysis showed that political issues constitute the most popular topic in each of the surveyed weeklies, discussed on average in every third publication. Unfortunately, issues connected with the ←9 | 10→relations between politics and the media were incidental, thereby constituting a margin for political journalism.

The second stage of research included an anonymous Internet survey. This time, the selection of sample was of key importance. It was decided to use a purposive sample, which is justified when the examined community is in some way amorphous, which is the case with the political elites and elites deriving from the sphere of mass media, as access to both groups is free, which makes it so difficult to precisely define their social structure that it is impossible to distinguish a representative random sample. The purposive sample is therefore a selection of typical individuals, characteristic for a given community. With this in mind, it was decided to first notify all MPs, senators, and well-known journalists from the national media, and then to send an online questionnaire to them. The surprisingly weak response from this community resulted in sending an online survey to well-known politicians and journalists who are active on the regional and local level. Overall, despite the fact that the questionnaires were sent to their available e-mail addresses twice or thrice (the MPs and senators), only 110 journalists and 80 politicians completed them. It is therefore difficult to talk about the representativity of the study. Still, it has a significant diagnostic value, as it shows certain noticeable tendencies and phenomena, important for the research problems undertaken. At the same time, it documents a clear reluctance of Polish journalists and politicians to make the nature and scope of their interdependencies public.

The third stage of research focused on conducting in-depth interviews with those politicians and journalists who decided to participate in this form of research project during the questionnaire surveys. A total of 25 problem questions were answered by 34 journalists and politicians (17 from each group of respondents), demonstrating interesting aspects of mutual contacts and relations, connected first and foremost with the form and character of the interrelations, perceived in the personal and systemic contexts.

The effects of the three aforementioned stages of empirical research were used in this collective work, comprising a total of six chapters arranged according to the degree of generality of the topics they address. The volume opens with a chapter by Zbigniew Oniszczuk (Theoretical and Practical Aspects of Relations Between Elites in the Mass Media and Politics), which constitutes an introduction to the issues discussed in this volume as it describes the theoretical and practical dimension of relations between the political and media elites. What is more, the author focuses on defining the notions of political elites and elites deriving from the sphere of mass media as well as on presenting the state of research on the level of awareness of these elites concerning their mutual relations in Poland and Germany.

←10 |

Next, in her text (Political Journalism in Poland. The Coverage of Politics and Journalism in Opinion Press) based on the results of the analyzed content of publications in the surveyed opinion weeklies, Dagmara Głuszek-Szafraniec characterizes a distinctive model of Polish opinion journalism. Its main feature is the total criticism of the world of politics, determined by the noticeable political polarization of the surveyed weeklies as well as of the entire media system in Poland.

In Katarzyna Brzoza-Kolorz’s chapter (Gender of Journalists and Their Opinions on the Relationship Between the Media and Politics), the subject of analysis are the results of surveys conducted among national, regional, and local media journalists, considered in terms of environmental assessment of relations between the spheres of mass media and politics. Although the respondents unanimously observe numerous possibilities of mutual interaction, there are differences in the views presented by female and male journalists. Men are mostly more convinced of the greater influence of the mass media on politics than their female colleagues. Women, on the other hand, unlike men, see a stronger impact of the political sphere on the mass media.

Another topic of research on the journalistic perception of the relationship between the political system and the media system (Professional Autonomy of Local and National Journalists) is undertaken by Monika Kornacka-Grzonka, for whom the level of external and internal autonomy is of particular importance. Based on the results of journalistic questionnaire surveys, the authoress demonstrates that there are no fundamental differences between local and national journalists in terms of external autonomy understood as freedom from influences exerted by various persons, institutions, and external circles. Whereas, with regard to internal autonomy (freedom of choice of themes and the way they are covered as well as freedom of contact with politicians), significant discrepancies can be observed, as local journalists are much more often subject to pressure exerted by editorial offices, strongly connected with local authorities and business.

The chapter by Bernard Grzonka and Patrycja Szostok-Nowacka (Opinion Weekly Magazines in Shaping a Sense of Political Subjectivity) draws attention to the importance of opinion media in the process of creating a sense of political subjectivity in their recipients, which has a significant impact on the implementation of the idea of participatory democracy. Based on the content analysis of the four surveyed opinion weekly magazines and the survey conducted among journalists, the authors indicate those elements of journalistic culture of reporting on political issues that may be important for shaping the readers’ sense of subjectivity or political alienation.

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Closing the volume, Mirosława Wielopolska-Szymura and Matylda Sęk-Iwanek’s chapter (Politicization of Press Coverage on Culture in Opinion Weeklies – Word and Image) documents the phenomenon of politicization of cultural issues in opinion weekly magazines in Poland. As their research methodology, the authoresses use the results of quantitative content analysis combined with qualitative analysis of texts and visual elements. This allows them to illustrate the scope of politicization of cultural messages in particular opinion weeklies, as well as to point out important features of ideological and political discourse through the exemplification of politicized texts on cultural issues. Visual elements (illustrations, photographs, graphics, or collages) play a significant role in this discourse, among which satirical cartoon is particularly popular.

As can be easily noticed, the range of problems raised in this volume is very broad. Therefore, concluding the introduction, I should only hope that the reading of the chapters presented below will inspire and encourage further researchers to study the relations between the world of politics and the world of media, which after all are of fundamental importance for the development of states and societies.


ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2019 (November)
Political Journalism Media Autonomy Political Subjectivity Politicization of Culture Journalistic Culture Politicization of the media
Berlin, Bern, Bruxelles, New York, Oxford, Warszawa, Wien, 2020. 174 pp., 36 fig. b/w, 22 tables.

Biographical notes

Zbigniew Oniszczuk (Volume editor) Dagmara Głuszek-Szafraniec (Volume editor) Mirosława Wielopolska-Szymura (Volume editor)

Zbigniew Oniszczuk (PhD) is a researcher in media studies at the Institute of Political Sciences and Journalism at the University of Silesia (Poland). He is the author of nearly 80 articles and dissertations dealing with mass media issues, their relationship with the political system, media participation in political communication and public relations, and changes in the media systems. Dagmara Głuszek-Szafraniec (PhD) is a researcher at the Institute of Political Science and Journalism at the University of Silesia (Poland). She is the author of numerous articles on media systems in the world published in academic periodicals and co-author of publications on media images of the reality. Her areas of interests focus on changes taking place on foreign media markets and concentrate mainly on the Spanish model. Mirosława Wielopolska-Szymura (PhD) is a researcher at the Institute of Political Science and Journalism at the University of Silesia (Poland). Her scientific interests are focused on radio studies in the context of public service broadcasting and intercultural and international communication as well as in sociocultural impact of the media.


Title: The Elites of the Media versus the Elites of Politics in Poland
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176 pages