What is it about?

In the study we develop a systematic framework for the study of populist newsfeeds. A newsfeed is an online genre often used by a populist party when releasing news that look like reports, but are in fact political propagandas. Some populist parties use web and social media platforms to broadcast their propagandas in order to avoid the scrutiny of established media outlets.

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Why is it important?

There are two ways to study populism. One comes from political science and concentrates on how some politicians and parties manage to collect large voter support. They often do that by positioning themselves as the only force acting in the interest of the citizens (populus in Latin). To build the following such politicians do not avoid vilifying the elites and demonizing the immigrants. The other way comes from rhetoric and attends to the language and communication devices that are used by populists to appeal to the crowd, to stir up emotions and conjure representations that are effective for mustering political support. We found this was the case with the website of an American grassroots populist party The Tea Party, whose “news” we sampled in early 2019. The Tea Party is decidedly conservative and libertarian and adheres to the values of the US Constitution. It also has a relatively narrow sense of American patriotism. However, in recent years it has embraced the ideas and attitudes that are now popularly known as Trumpism. To identify the typical measures that make populist news popular with voters we drew on journalistic notions of news value and on linguists’ work on styles. In this way we could see how populist news items made use of certain keywords and formulations in headlines. We discovered that much attention was paid to elite individuals and covering what they did or said, as if politics was mainly done by prominent leaders only. Secondly, there was a lot of focus on negative news related to corruption, illegality and crime. Thirdly, we noticed many words that imply impact and influence of politics on everyday life of citizens.


Newsfeeds are characterized by casual style of expression that avoid political jargon. They are marked by colloquialisms sourced from conversational style and by repetitive and stereotypical representations of “us” versus “them” or “right” vs. “wrong.” Needless to say, these stylistic devices are recruited to praise populist leader(s) and ridicule their opponents.

Dr hab. Katarzyna Molek-Kozakowska
University of Opole

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This page is a summary of: Casual, Colloquial, Commonsensical: A News Values Stylistic Analysis of a Populist Newsfeed, Journalism Studies, April 2021, Taylor & Francis,
DOI: 10.1080/1461670x.2021.1913627.
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