The purpose of this work was to find out, by deploying quantitative and qualitative research methods, how the newspaper Le Matin (LM) represents foreigners to its readers.
The findings of the quantitative approach – classic content analysis – allowed us to establish some fundamental traits of LM’s representation of foreigners.
LM’s representational practice can best be described as one that gives the subject of foreigners in Switzerland very frequent, considerably salient and highly professional treatment. LM represents foreigners to its readers as not only an omnipresent subject, but one that is worth their attention.
A determinant feature is the association of foreigners with crime, violence and misdemeanor activities. This lawbreaking profile heavily influences how the newspaper construes the foreigners. Their depictions are dominantly marked by negative connotations.
Within this context, foreigners are represented to a significant extent as a subject of policy debate and legislation. Young foreigners tend to be seen as a concern or threat.
In addition to the lawbreaking profile, asylum-related types are very prominent in LM’s representational practice, especially in stories in which foreigners are the ‘focus’.
Even though LM paid significant attention to Muslim foreigners within the period of our study, our findings suggest this is not a central feature of its ‘regular’ representational practice. Muslim foreigners are construed as a matter of concern, but also as potentially ‘integrable’.
There is evidence suggesting, if not a contradiction, at least a potentially more nuanced approach. Notably the representation of ‘bi-nationals’ points towards a certain openness to foreigners through a model of ‘integrability’.
The range of sources resorted to by LM is heavily dominated by state and government representatives, which confirms the representation of foreigners as a subject of policy debate and legislation. Expert knowledge is also resorted too, although to a lesser extent. State law-enforcement agencies play a significant, pervasive role. ‘Political’ sources belong mostly to centre-right and right-wing tendencies. Male sources are preponderant.
Foreigners themselves, as well as sources related to them, do not get too loud a voice, although they are not completely silenced either.
The qualitative methodology – semiotic analysis of photographs – allowed us to identify some of the elements operating at the level of deep-seated cultural myths.
We identified the idea of a society besieged from within by foreigners who do not ‘abide by the rules’ before the passivity of the political elites. We explored the concerns of a society feeling helpless in the face of a ‘flood’ of aliens that take their jobs. We looked at the fears of a society worried about the ‘culturally other’ in its midst, but still willing to maintain a self-representation linked to a ‘humanitarian tradition’.
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