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Journalist Fellows' Papers

Political Scandals in Finland and in the UK: How Do the Media Cultures Differ?

Reuters Institute Fellow's Paper

“Political scandals are essential for democracy and for freedom of speech. Even though political scandals may sometimes feel superficially ‘grubby’ or ‘sleazy’, they still manage to reveal something about the very essence of political power,” says RISJ journalist fellow Anne Moilanen.

Having worked as journalist and as a minister’s special advisor, Anne used her own experiences from Finnish politics to help her to write her research paper 'Political Scandals in Finland and in the UK: How Do the Media Cultures Differ?' This is how Anne describes her research:“In Finland, political scandals were rare before the 1980s, but since then have increased. In the UK, political scandals have been commonly featured in newspapers for centuries. Visibility in the world has irreversibly increased.  Nowadays, every single detail in a politician’s life may become public. For politicians, a good reputation – which takes years to build and may be demolished in days – has become one of their most crucial resources.”

“The most common form of political scandal in Finland is a financial political scandal, but there are likely to be more sexual political scandals in the future. The most typical British political scandal has been a sexual one, and the large number of scandals can be seen as an endorsement of the freedom of the British press. Still, the golden era of classical political scandals in the UK seems to be over. Since the phone-hacking disaster, newsrooms have become much more cautious about reporting politicians’ wrongdoings. Data scandals represent the new form of political scandals.”

One of the core findings in Anne’s research is that even though the most ambitious Finnish and British journalists are “scalp hunters”, only Britons admit it. “Compared to their British colleagues, Finnish political journalists seem to be less aware of, or less willing to admit, the power that they possess as media representatives. Finnish political correspondents describe their work more as reporting just pure facts, without any awareness of their own possible agenda, which would, in political scandals, typically be to get politicians sacked.”

As with all Fellows’ research papers, any opinions expressed are those of the author and not of the Institute.

Image: REUTERS/Issei Kato