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Local Political News Reaches More People

The local news media has lost its dominant position as a mediator of news during elections. According to a unique report, social media channels and Facebook, in particular, have assumed a leading position. - How news is spread has changed radically, says Lars Nord, professor of media and communications. But what is key for people's engagement in media is that there are locally disputed issues.

For the first time since 2006, the media's importance for local elections has been studied. The report 'Media and the 2018 Local Election' finds itself in an entirely new media world in which social media and mobile platforms have fundamentally changed media consumption.

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- We still live in a world where local news has value, but the what that it reaches people has changed, says Lars Nord at Mid Sweden University.

Social media has up a position alongside the editorial staffs in a shared hub where news provided by traditional media and political parties is republished, spread and debated. It is critical for both the debate and the engagement that there is a disputed political issue in the election. The is demonstrated by the hospital dispute in Sollefteå, where the local Facebook page called Framtidens sjukhus with over 14,000 members became a driving force in opinion-building and thus strengthened the local political debate.

- It is the interaction that is central. Social media does not replace local newspapers, it contributes to more people learning about the content, which can be good from a democratic perspective, says Gunnar Nygren professor of journalism at Södertörn University.gunnar_nygren.jpeg

He stands together with media researcher Sanna Volny, who also works at Södertörn University and Lars Nord, who is behind the report that is a collaboration between Mid Sweden University, Södertörn University and Medier & demokrati at Lindholmen Science Park.

Name of the report: Media and the 2018 Local Election - Old players in new digital arenas

Background: In a unique research project from 2018 - 2019, Mid Sweden University, Södertörn University and Medier & demokrati at Lindholmen Science Park have collaborated to study and analyse various local and regional elections. The last time a similar study was conducted was in 2006.

sanna_volny_1.jpgThe study provides: a local and regional perspective of the media's role and importance in the 2018 election and was written by media researchers Lars Nord, Gunnar Nygren and Sanna Volny.

The study includes: daily newspapers, public service, hyperlocal media and social media with a local focus. It also incorporates the local media and parties' Facebook pages.

Three regions were involved in the study: Stockholm County, Västernorrland and Östergötland. Västernorrland/ Östergötland were also part of an earlier study from 2006. And five municipalities: Huddinge, Sollefteå, Sundsvall, Linköping and Ydre.

In collaboration with: the SOM Institute at the University of Gothenburg, a nationwide questionnaire on how to provide an informational basis to determine how to vote in local elections and how to evaluate the information from different types of media channels was distributed.
On Monday 20 May, the project's results were presented and a final report was issued at a seminar in Stockholm.