Mass Media Occurrence as a Political Career Maker

Annelien Van Remoortere*, Stefaan Walgrave, Rens Vliegenthart

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


Ample work in political communication showed that high-level politicians get more media attention than their lower ranking colleagues. With power comes media attention. More than hard work, charisma, or experience, it is the political function performed by politicians that is the crucial factor in explaining how much media attention they receive. But what about the opposite relationship: does media attention also generate power? In this paper, we examine the media path leading to power. Basically, two important career steps of politicians are assessed: becoming a party leader and becoming a minister; we test whether, compared to those who did not make a top career, the politicians who came to take these steps were more prominent in the media before they moved up and became elite politicians. We draw on the case of Belgium here and leverage on a longitudinal automated media content analysis (2000–2020) combined with a data set of 532 national/regional politicians and their careers. The study finds that media occurrences matters for being promoted to a top function in Belgium, more so for becoming a minister than for becoming a party leader. Furthermore, rejecting our initial idea based on political mediatization theories, the influence of media occurrence does not seem to increase through time for both functions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)201-218
JournalInternational Journal of Press/Politics
Issue number1
Early online date3 Jun 2021
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2023
Externally publishedYes


  • elite politicians
  • media attention
  • minister
  • party leader
  • political careers


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