Committee Chair Pratab Bhanu Mehta chaired his final Holberg Committee meeting on 9 February, when the five members met to deliberate on the shortlist candidates for this year’s Holberg Prize and to put forward their recommendation to the Holberg Board. Although there were many strong candidates, the committee members were unanimous in their decision.
A total of 87 nominations for 81 candidates were received for the 2018 Prize, and of these, eight were on the shortlist. Most of the 81 candidates were primarily affiliated with US institutions, with Europe coming in second. Still, many of them also hold positions at universities and research institutions in other parts of the world.
On 13 February, the Holberg Board formally selected the recipients of the 2018 Holberg Prize and Nils Klim Prize, respectively. The decision will be announced on 14 March, at 09:00 AM at the Library of Humanities, the University of Bergen.
Dealing with Populism
In connection with the Holberg Committee Meeting there was also a Holberg Event at the Royal Norwegian Consulate General in Amsterdam. After introductions by Ambassador Martin Sørby and a presentation of the Holberg Prize by Chair of the Holberg Board Sigmund Grønmo, Professor Claes de Vreese held a lecture on “Dealing with Populism: A Challenge for the News Media.”
In 2004, de Vreese was the very first recipient of the Nils Klim Prize, awarded by the Holberg Prize organization to researchers under the age of 35, also in humanities, social sciences, law and theology. He is now Professor and Chair of Political Communication at the University of Amsterdam.
"I wish to draw on research from the social sciences and the humanities and translate this into practical advice for the media," exlpained de Vreese. He also underscored that he referred to populism more as a communications phenomenon than an inherent political category.
Some traits that may be identified with populism in this sense include the tendency to present oneself as representatives of “the people” in the struggle against corrupt and dysfunctional elites, and an exclusionist language, through which certain groups are described as “the other.” This may refer to various forms of exclusion and opposition, such as exclusive rights of a nation or ethnic group, or, for instance, the rights of the working class in the face of a corrupt banking system.
In Muddy Waters we need Transparency
As for the spread of populism, De Vreese pointed to five main causes: economic conditions, globalization, variations in supply and demand for populist rhetoric in different contexts, the electoral system – and, last but not least, the behaviour of the media and rapid changes in the media landscape.
De Vreese then discussed ten specific pieces of advise for the media, among them: Do not cover politics as if it were a continuous campaign. He used Donald Trump’s campaign and presidency as an example: “The coverage that is being offered in US politics,” he said, “is too close what we see during election time.” This has a potential negative effect, that can lead to increased political cynicism amongst the electorate.
De Vreese also called for a high level of transparency with respect to media and how they produce their coverage. “In a situation where journalism and the media are under fire, making sure that this kind of legitimacy as a profession is being earned, is important,” he stressed.