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The Strategic Bias: How Journalists Respond to Antimedia Populism

Panievsky, A. ORCID: 0000-0001-9296-7670 (2022). The Strategic Bias: How Journalists Respond to Antimedia Populism. The International Journal of Press/Politics, 27(4), pp. 808-826. doi: 10.1177/19401612211022656


As populist campaigns against the media become increasingly common around the world, it is ever more urgent to explore how journalists adopt and respond to them. Which strategies have journalists developed to maintain the public's trust, and what may be the implications for democracy? These questions are addressed using a thematic analysis of forty-five semistructured interviews with leading Israeli journalists who have been publicly targeted by Israel's Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu. The article suggests that while most interviewees asserted that adherence to objective reporting was the best response to antimedia populism, many of them have in fact applied a “strategic bias” to their reporting, intentionally leaning to the Right in an attempt to refute the accusations of media bias to the Left. This strategy was shaped by interviewees' perceived helplessness versus Israel's Prime Minister and his extensive use of social media, a phenomenon called here “the influence of presumed media impotence.” Finally, this article points at the potential ramifications of strategic bias for journalism and democracy. Drawing on Hallin's Spheres theory, it claims that the strategic bias might advance Right-wing populism at present, while also narrowing the sphere of legitimate controversy—thus further restricting press freedom—in the future.

Publication Type: Article
Additional Information: This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License ( which permits any use, reproduction and distribution of the work without further permission provided the original work is attributed as specified on the SAGE and Open Access page (
Publisher Keywords: antimedia populism, journalism, journalistic professionalism, bias, balance, self-censorship, Israel
Subjects: J Political Science > JA Political science (General)
Departments: School of Communication & Creativity > Journalism
SWORD Depositor:
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