The media are normatively expected to play significant roles in conflictual discussions within national and international communities. As previous research shows, digital platforms make scholars rethink these roles based on media behavior in online communicative environments as well as on the structural limitations of the platforms. At the same time, traditional dichotomies between information dissemination and opinion formation roles, although seemingly universal, also vary across cultures. We look at four recent conflicts of comparable nature in the United States, Germany, France, and Russia to assess the roles that legacy media have performed in the respective ad hoc discussions on Twitter. Our approach differs from previous studies, as we combine content analysis of tweets by the media and journalists with the resulting positions of the media in the discussion graphs. Our findings show that, despite the overall trend of the “elite” and regional media sticking to information dissemination, online-only media and individual journalists vary greatly in their normative strategies, and this is true across countries. We also show that combining performance in content and social network analysis may allow for reconceptualization of media roles in a more flexible way.
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