Serving the Media Ministers: A Mixed Methods Study on the Personalization of Ministerial Communication
Figenschou, Tine Ustad
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The personalization of politics has received much attention in both the political science and political communication literature, but the focus has almost entirely been on party leaders and prime ministers. This study investigates the personalization of ministerial communication in Norway, a type of decentralized personalization. It combines a survey of communication workers; in-depth interviews with politicians, communication workers, political reporters, and top-level civil servants; and ethnographic observation inside a ministry. The article goes beyond media-centered perspectives and identifies several potential drivers and barriers to personalization processes. Based on our mixed methods approach, we find that ministerial communication in Norway is strongly centered on the minister in both reactive media management and the proactive promotion of the minister and new policies. This decentralized personalization is driven by both demands from the media and the strategic adaptation by political and administrative actors within ministries. Based on the rich empirically grounded insights, the article discusses how the interplay between the logic of the contemporary commercial news media, political ambitions, internal administrative ambitions, and changes in executive government shapes the personalization of ministerial communication, and illuminates how these multiple drivers of personalization are mutually reinforcing.