Institutional legitimacy and Russian news: Case studies of four regional newspapers

Wilson Lowrey, Elina Erzikova

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


This article explores institutional influences on Russian news media at the regional level and adopts a new institutional approach to help explain media's response to increased control by local elites. Media in the province operate partly in a clientelist system in which journalists and their organizations provide services to political and economic elites in the region in exchange for desperately needed resources. The poor economic condition of the province and the strongly centralized local government help explain the media's dependency on elite patrons. Yet, the clientelist model is not a perfect fit. Strong influence by local powers tends to erode newspapers' public legitimacy, which both newspapers and the area's elite also need. To stem this erosion, news organizations attempt to buffer themselves from clientelist influences by pursuing practices that reflect the legal-rational ideal type. They pursue ceremonial, skin-deep scrutiny of officials; they engage in artificial forum "roundtables" with officials; and they emphasize the publication of many brief stories to connote progressiveness. Journalists also maintain connections across news organizations, which undermines the organizational boundaries of the newspapers and helps patrons establish individual relationships with journalists, but also allows some semblance of an occupational community.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)275-288
Number of pages14
JournalPolitical Communication
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2010


  • Clientelism
  • Institutionalism
  • Russian journalism


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