• Are Newspapers’ Online Discussion Boards Democratic Tools or Conspiracy Theories’ Engines? A Case Study on an Eastern European “Media War”

      Slavtcheva-Petkova, Vera; University of Chester (SAGE, 2015-10-23)
      This article analyzes quantitatively and qualitatively 1,583 comments by national newspapers’ online readers in Bulgaria. It investigates readers’ reactions to articles discussing the media war between the biggest press groups—one owned by a Member of Parliament known as “the Murdoch of the East.” The study explores how these stories influence the relationship between newspapers and their readers, and whether they enhance the democratic potential of online discussion. The results show a higher level of reader engagement than in established democracies or nondemocracies. The online space provides an arena for democratic conversations and it is also used as an engine for conspiracy theories.
    • Europe - a default or a dream? European identity formation among Bulgarian and English children

      Slavtcheva-Petkova, Vera; Mihelj, Sabina; University of Chester ; Loughborough University (SAGE, 2012-11-21)
      This article examines the formation of European identity among children in two very different countries: the traditionally Eurosceptic United Kingdom and the enthusiastic EU newcomer, Bulgaria. The paper revisits existing debates about the relationships between European identity, knowledge and the political and historical context, paying particular attention to the meanings attached to Europe. It demonstrates that children who identify as European are more likely to see Europe in geographic terms, which facilitates the perception of the European identity as ‘default’. In contrast, children who refuse to describe themselves as European see Europe as an exclusive political entity, associated with high standards and distant elites. These perceptions are significantly more common among Bulgarian children, who often depict Europe as a dream, and perceive the European identity as an ideal they aspire to reach. The article also shows how ethnicity and the images of Europe influence the relationship between national and European identities.
    • Fighting Putin and the Kremlin’s grip in neo-authoritarian Russia: the experience of liberal journalists

      Slavtcheva-Petkova, Vera; University of Chester (SAGE, 2017-05-16)
      Russia is one of the most dangerous countries for journalists and the conflict with Ukraine and Russia’s involvement in Syria present even further challenges for the future of Russian journalism. In addition to the financial pressures, physical attacks, abductions and harassment, liberal journalists now face an increasing threat to the democratising role they see themselves as playing. President Vladimir Putin’s soaring popularity and the elaborate range of tactics used to suppress press freedom are forcing liberal media to rethink their mission(s) and identity(ies). This paper presents empirical evidence on the range of tactics used by Russian authorities as well as the coping strategies adopted by journalists. The study shows that some Russian media and journalists demonstrate a great degree of resilience in their efforts to expose wrongdoings and hold the powerful to account. The article questions the applicability of Western-centric normative media system theories because it shows that the breadth, depth, and mechanisms of control in modern-day Russia are very different from the ones used during Soviet times, and yet, Russian media and society do not appear to be on a linear journey from authoritarianism to democracy. The article presents the findings of a semi-ethnographic study of some of Russia’s most influential liberal news outlets – Novaya Gazeta, Radio Echo of Moscow and Radio Free Europe/Liberty. The study was conducted in May 2014 in the midst of the conflict with Ukraine. It involved observations of editorial meetings, documentary analysis and interviews with editors, deputy editors and journalists.
    • Mental pictures: citizen or consumer?

      Rutherford; University of Chester (SAGE, 2008-07-01)
      This journal article discusses media images relating to health care.
    • Towards a Sociology of the EU: The Relationship between Socio-economic Status and Ethnicity and Young People’s European Knowledge, Attitudes and Identities

      Slavtcheva-Petkova, Vera; University of Chester (SAGE, 2015-07-26)
      This article explores the relationship between social backgrounds—socio-economic status and ethnicity—and European knowledge, identities and attitudes to European Union (EU) membership in two member states—the Eastern European newcomer Bulgaria and the Western European notoriously Eurosceptic United Kingdom. Itadopts an empirical sociological approach in line with recent calls for more sociological input into EU studies. By drawing on 174 individual interviews with 9-/10-year-old primary school pupils, the article is focused on young people: a group that ‘holds the key’ to the future of the EU, yet is entirely neglected by academics and policy makers. The findings suggest that despite the substantial national differences, the significance of socio-economic status and ethnicity is strong cross-nationally. European identity is largely elite and racialized and those at the margins of society in my sample are not at all involved in the European project. A key theoretical contribution this article makes is to move beyond mono-causal explanations by providing an account of the intersection of national context, socio-economic status and ethnicity in relation to young people’s European identities.
    • “We Are Not Fools”: Online News Commentators’ Perceptions of Real and Ideal Journalism

      Slavtcheva-Petkova, Vera; University of Chester (SAGE, 2015-12-14)
      Twenty-five years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, Eastern European countries face an increasing threat to their media pluralism and democracies after a lot of media corporations fell in the hands of local owners. The region is plagued by “mini-Murdochs,” and Bulgaria is a case in point. This study investigates a subset of Bulgarian online newspaper readers’ perceptions of the state of journalism. The article presents the results from a qualitative analysis of 1,583 comments about the media war between the country’s biggest press groups. It focuses on 178 comments that discuss the role of journalists. Readers differentiate between “ideal journalism” and “real journalism.” The former is based on an idealized view of journalists as detached watchdogs, whereas the latter depicts a dire picture of journalists as manipulative servants of their owners. The virtual space is a vibrant arena for democratic discussions and can also potentially serve as an accountability tool for journalists. A reconceptualization of Habermas’s public sphere is needed if we are to more clearly understand how vibrant online spaces contribute to democracy even if they fall short of his normative ideal.