International Journal of Communication;Vol 13
University of Southern California, Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism
Metadebates concerning how the news media deal with extremism have intensified in the digital media landscape. This article analyzes metajournalistic discourse following a controversial studio interview with the spokesperson of a Norwegian Salafi-jihadist group. To illuminate how boundaries of appropriate public debate are negotiated, the article analyzes how this journalistic performance was debated among journalists and commentators, news sources, and readers in online comments sections. The study demonstrates how editorial legacy media invite a broad metadebate but control and define the debate by positioning themselves as defenders against extremism, evoking normative ideals of the role of journalism in democracy and foregrounding the preventive, clarifying, and cohesive effects of including extremist voices. News sources and online commenters are notably more critical, emphasizing the negative consequences of inclusion and warning that inclusion may serve to consolidate extremist views, amplify threats and prejudice, and make extremists the symbolic representatives of Muslims in general. Theoretically, the article contributes to the literature on media and extremism, media criticism, and mediated negotiations of the boundaries of public debate.