Similar citizen portrayals? Converging media-based othering in tabloids and broadsheets
Political communication researchers studying the news media coverage often distinguish between broadsheets and tabloids when sampling relevant news outlets. But recent work has pointed towards a ‘tabloidization’ of news coverage, complicating the empirical distinction between the two. Computational methods for text analysis can help us better understand how distinct the news coverage between these two types of news outlets is. We take the Brexit referendum as a case study illustrating various aspects in which broadsheets and tabloids cover an issue permeated by othering and divisive rhetoric. We focus on Brexit-related news coverage before and after the referendum (N = 32,946) and use word embeddings to analyze the portrayal of different groups of citizens that can generate an in- and outgroup divide. First, we document the presence of media-based othering in the form of overly similar migrant and European Union citizen representations that are, in turn, very dissimilar to the UK citizen representation. Second, we show partial convergence between tabloid and broadsheet newspapers, as differences in the degree and characteristics of media coverage are rather small and specific.