From investigative to critical local journalism

A quantitative content analysis of critical reporting in local Swedish newspapers with a new analytical focus




Local journalism, Investigative journalism, Critical journalism, Watchdog journalism, News


Journalism is considered to fulfil a societal watchdog role. However, research indicates that local news rarely lives up to established state-of-the-art definitions of investigative journalism. Therefore, this article argues that the assessment of local accountability journalism must include research on the extent to which it assumes a societal watchdog role in a more basic sense, namely by being critical of events and conditions in the local society in some way. A content analysis of approximately 1600 articles in three local Swedish newspapers shows that criticism, even in its mildest form, constitutes less than a fifth of the overall output, and that journalists themselves are the agents of criticism in less than 15 % of the critical articles, disregarding editorials, and that they more often criticize national than local power. In news articles, journalists are less often agents of criticism than both politicians, the public, and representatives of organizations. Actors in the public sphere are targets of criticism in 75 % of the critical articles, whereas those articles rarely target the private sector or civil society.


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How to Cite

Danielson, M., & Nykvist, A. (2023). From investigative to critical local journalism: A quantitative content analysis of critical reporting in local Swedish newspapers with a new analytical focus. Journalistica, 17(1), 192–211.