Media and Bureaucracy: Investigating Media Awareness Amongst Civil Servants

Rune Karlsen, Kristoffer Kolltveit, Thomas Schillemans, Kjersti Thorbjørnsrud


Scholars claim that civil servants are increasingly having to engage in media management and be aware of how events are presented in the press, with this media awareness being said to threaten civil servants’ traditional bureaucratic values. In this article, we argue that media awareness is unevenly spread in public bureaucracies, and rather is contingent on individual and organizational characteristics. More specifically, we present the hypotheses that media awareness depends on the amount of media related work, the amount of media attention on the organization in which they work, as well as the civil servants’ fundamental views on the role of the media in society. To test the hypotheses, the article utilizes a large-N survey of civil servants in Norwegian ministries and agencies. The results show that the vast majority of civil servants care about how issues appear in the press. Further on, we find that civil servants’ media awareness coexists with traditional bureaucratic values, offering some relief to scholars who fear the disruptive effects of the media in public administration. As the hypotheses suggest, we find that this media awareness is linked to civil servants’ actual media-related work. However, the analysis shows that civil servants working in organizations with a lot of media attention are, in fact, are less aware of the media.

Key words: media, bureaucracy, civil servants, values, ministries, agencies, Norway

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Scandinavian Journal of Public Administration

School of Public Administration, Box 712 - SE-405 30 Göteborg

ISSN: 2001-7405, E-ISSN: 2001-7413