Only a tiny proportion of the cultural regulatory system to which people must
relate can be communicated through signs in the street or in law
regulations. A considerably greater part of our understanding of the
circumstances and restrictions of the community happens through informal
talk, for instance in the form of gossip. The media scandal as a phenomenon
reveals these often unspoken and emotionally regulated cultural agreements.
It makes the boundaries of cultural life visible, allowing us to examine
those boundaries by talking about them and exploring them emotionally
together. What the book has brought out is the circular character of the
news food chain where gossip, journalism, the exercise of public authority,
and political considerations form an intricate network, without clear
hierarchies or directions for the flows of information. In this sense,
gossip-influenced and gossip-dependent journalism is not by definition bad
or inferior. Undoubtedly, more studies on news journalism need to be
conducted with respect to its oral, informal methods – not least now, in the
midst of the shift of journalism from industrial production to an
emotionally charged networked environment.
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The introduction provides a detailed survey of existing research in the
media-scandal domain. The author’s own perspectives are introduced, with an
emphasis on ethnological and phenomenological theories which demonstrate the
importance of understanding the scandal as a cultural phenomenon. The
purpose is partly to explore the emotional experience of being the main
figure of a media scandal, partly to study the complex media system that
creates the scandal. What does the scandal feel like for the person who is
affected by it, and what can these emotions teach us about both people and
media? This book brings out more or less forgotten universal human
existential aspects of media scandals, among other things by paying
attention to the emotions of the affected parties.
This part of the book presents fundamental themes in the interviews with the
central figures of the scandals and their partners. Several respondents
testified to how their previously ‘given’ existence was transformed into an
unfamiliar and terrifying chaos where nothing was the same. Every one of the
affected people testified individually to tangible feelings of unreality and
loneliness in the wake of the media scandal, a loneliness that was both
voluntarily chosen and forced on them. Many of them dwelt on the experience
of being stared at. Some people with a superficial or non-existent
relationship to the protagonist of the drama seemed to respond to the
scandal by staring intently at the scandalised person from a distance.
Others demonstratively averted their eyes. It is a function on the part of
the scandal, the author argues, that it causes guilt and shame in the
affected individual as well as a feeling of being deprived of dignity in the
full glare of publicity. Scandals are shame- and degradation-rituals,
symbolic occasions where people are exiled into the guild of the guilty.
In this part of the book, the analysis of the relationship between the
interpersonal and the mediated dimension of the public scandal is taken a
step further. The chapter shows that these dimensions are more or less
interwoven, a circumstance to which media researchers have not paid much
attention because they have usually chosen to focus on the media themselves,
employing a narrow definition of the ‘media’ concept. The overall question
is: How is a media scandal possible, and through which media is it created?
On close examination, it becomes clear that scandals have been mediated for
centuries, and that general person-to-person conversations about them have
played a notable part in that process. In a historical perspective, the oral
distribution of news should in point of fact be considered a form of