Matthias Revers

Political Communication | Sociology of Media and Communication | Political Culture

Research | Publications | Agents of Accountability | Presentations & Talks | Teaching

Pilgrimage to Max & Marianne Weber gravesite, Bergfriedhof Heidelberg, March 2014

My name is Matthias Revers (PhD SUNY-Albany) and I’m currently a Visiting Professor at the University of Hamburg (on leave at the University of Leeds, where I am a Lecturer in Political Communication). Before coming to Leeds I was a Postdoc at the Institute of Sociology at the University of Frankfurt. I’m a Faculty Fellow at the Center for Cultural Sociology at Yale University and a former Fulbright scholar.

My current research encompasses several studies on political polarization in contemporary democracies, including on the moral boundaries of speech, the mediated experience of political antagonism, micropolarization, and right-wing populist journalism. This research involves qualitative field research, surveys, hermeneutic and computational methods of text analysis.

My earlier research deals with professional cultures of journalism and their role in increasingly networked public spheres, for which I conducted ethnographic research on political reporters in the US and Germany over a period of 3.5 years. Most of this research is included in my book Contemporary Journalism in the US and Germany: Agents of Accountability (Palgrave Macmillan USA. Other works of mine have been published in Journal of Communication, Information, Communication & Society,  Media, Culture & Society, Journalism: Theory, Practice & Criticism, The American Sociologist, Kölner Zeitschrift für Soziologie und Sozialpsychologie.

My broader areas of interest are political communication, media sociology, cultural sociology, comparative media research, journalism studies, history of sociology, social theory and qualitative methodology.

Email: m.revers[at]leeds[dot]ac[dot]uk
University of Leeds



My research in recent years has focused on political polarization, which has prompted conceptual work on the rise and fall of participation as a value and civic epistimology (Anderson and Revers, 2018). The starting point for how I think about polarization is political conflict: The public drama of political conflict – what I call performative polarization (Revers, 2022) – and how it influences and seeps into social interaction and personal relationships. This latter interest in micropolarization grew out of a collaborative study (with Stephen Coleman, University of Leeds) on family conflict and estrangement in the context of COVID-19 restrictions and vaccinations in the UK and Germany, based on qualitative interviews with sympathisers and members of anti-vaccination movements in the UK and Germany (Querdenker) and family members of such individuals. A new project (which started in 2023) deals with how to depolarize discussions about climate change (together with Lone Sorensen, University of Leeds, and Michael Brueggemann, University of Hamburg). 

Related research focuses on the contested terrain of the moral boundaries of speech and open discussion (Revers and Traunmüller, 2020; Traunmüller and Revers, 2020; Villa, Traunmüller and Revers, 2021), which initiated public debate about freedom of expression in German universities and inspired an “adversarial collaboration” (moderated by Alex Wuttke, LMU Munich) to design an improved and representative survey in Germany (with Richard Traunmüller, University of Mannheim; Claudia Diehl and Nils Weidmann, University of Konstanz; Mirjam Fischer, University of Frankfurt, and Karsten Schubert, University of Freiburg).

Digital Journalism

In my ethnography of political reporting I examined the digital transformation of journalism in the United States, focusing specifically on Twitter. This research deals with digital journalism and transformations of professional norms (Revers 2014), the reorganisation of spatial and temporal dimensions of news reporting (Revers 2015) and the event-drivenness of technological adoption (Revers 2017). 

Comparative Media Research

My book Contemporary Journalism in the US and Germany (Revers 2017) combined cultural sociology and field theory to study the news profession in Germany and the US. In this first systematic cross-nationally comparative news ethnography, I show that professional authority of journalism requires continuous maintenance and care through performance and boundary work. One of the findings is that German journalism—despite stronger ideological self-conceptions—values professional autonomy just as much as its US counterpart, which is taken (or rather: sees itself) as the epitome for this normative commitment. 


(*peer reviewed, **SSCI ranked)

Working papers

Revers, Matthias. 2022. Performative polarization: The interactional and cultural drivers of political antagonism.


*Revers, Matthias. 2017. Contemporary Journalism in the US and Germany: Agents of Accountability. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

Aberer, Matthias,  Korom, Philipp, Postl, Eva, Reischl, Daniela, Revers, Matthias, and Barbara Schantl. 2006. Wo bleibt heute die Zeitung? Arbeits- und Lebensbedingungen von ZeitungsausträgerInnen. Innsbruck: Studienverlag.

Journal articles

Villa, Paula-Irene, Traunmüller, Richard, and Revers, Matthias. 2021. Lässt sich ‘Cancel Culture’ empirisch belegen? Impulse für eine pluralistische Fachdebatte.  Aus Politik und Zeitgeschichte.

**Traunmüller, Richard, and Revers, Matthias. 2021. Meinungsfreiheit an der Universität: Unschärfen und Strohmänner (Antwort auf Lars Meier). KZfSS Kölner Zeitschrift für Soziologie und Sozialpsychologie. 73(1), pp 137–146.

**Revers, Matthias, and Traunmüller, Richard. 2020. Is Free Speech in Danger on University Campus? Some Preliminary Evidence from a Most Likely CaseKZfSS Koelner Zeitschrift fuer Soziologie und Sozialpsychologie. 72(3), pp. 471-497.

*Anderson, CW, and Revers, Matthias. 2018. From Counter-Power to Counter-Pepe: The Vagaries of Participatory Epistemology in a Digital AgeMedia and Communication. 6(4), pp. 24-35.

*Revers, Matthias, and Brienza, Casey. 2018. How Not to Establish a Subfield: Media Sociology in the United StatesThe American Sociologist. 49(3), pp. 352-368.

**Revers, Matthias. 2016. The Role of Events in ICT Adoption: Same-Sex Marriage and Twitter. Information, Communication & Society 20(10), pp. 1554-1570.

*Brienza, Casey, and Revers, Matthias. 2016. The Field of American Media Sociology: Origins, Resurrection, and ConsolidationSociology Compass, 10(7), pp. 539–552.

**Revers, Matthias. 2015. The Augmented Newsbeat: Spatiality in a Twitterized News EcosystemMedia, Culture & Society 37(1), 3-18.

**Revers, Matthias. 2014. The Twitterization of News Making: Transparency and Journalistic ProfessionalismJournal of Communication 64(5), pp. 806-826.

**Revers, Matthias. 2014. Journalistic professionalism as performance and boundary work: Source relations at the state houseJournalism 15(1), pp. 37-52.

*Revers, Matthias. 2009. Sociologists in the PressThe American Sociologist40(4), pp. 272-288.

Book chapters

Revers, Matthias. 2019. Die Neue Kultursoziologie. In: Fleck, Christian, and Daye, Christian (eds.) Meilensteine der Soziologie. Frankfurt: Campus Verlag, pp. 611-619.

Revers, Matthias. 2019. Habitus. In: Fleck, Christian, and Daye, Christian (eds.) Meilensteine der Soziologie. Frankfurt: Campus Verlag, pp. 574-584.

Revers, Matthias. 2019. Strukturwandel der Öffentlichkeit. In: Fleck, Christian, and Daye, Christian (eds.) Meilensteine der Soziologie. Frankfurt: Campus Verlag, pp. 477-482.

*Belair-Gagnon, Valerie and Revers, Matthias. 2018. Sociology of Journalism. In Vos, Tim P. (ed.) Journalism. Berlin, Boston: Walter de Gruyter, pp. 257-280.

Revers, Matthias. 2016. Digital Media and the Diversification of Professionalism: A US-German Comparison of Journalism Cultures. In Alexander, Jeffrey C., Elizabeth Breese, María Luengo (eds.) The Crisis of Journalism Reconsidered: Democratic Culture, Professional Codes, Digital Future. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Revers, Matthias. 2015. Cultural Sociology, history ofInternational Encyclopedia of Social and Behavioral Sciences, 2nd Edition, Vol 5. Oxford: Elsevier. pp. 498–503.

Book reviews

Revers, Matthias. 2017. Book review: The Media Syndrome, by David L. AltheideContemporary Sociology, 46(6), 650-651.

Revers, Matthias. 2016. Book review: Silvio Waisbord (ed) Media sociology: A reappraisal. Journalism 17(5), 671-673.

Revers, Matthias. 2009. Book review: Telling About Society by Howard S. BeckerActa Sociologica 52(2), 188-189.

Other publications 

Gerber, Alison and Matthias Revers. 2012. The Library of Affecting Social ScienceContexts, 11(1), 76-77

Revers, Matthias. 2011. Media Systems and Media Cultures: News Coverage of Deportation in the US and Austria. Research Report (67p.), Spectro GmbH, Vienna, Austria.

Presentations and Talks

Invited Talks

Ist die Meinungsfreiheit an der Universität in Gefahr? (with Richard Traunmüller), IHF Bayerisches Staatsinstitut für Hochschulforschung und Hochschulplanung, March 9, 2021.

Ist die Meinungsfreiheit an der Universität in Gefahr? (with Richard Traunmüller), Union Stiftung, March 9, 2021.

Who Can Say What, About Whom, and How? The Informal Regulation and Politics of Speech. Religion & Theology Research Seminar, University of Manchester, November 22, 2018.

Flucht, Öffentliches Räsonnement und Engagement: Der Fall Zogaj und danach. Symposion: (Mediale) Repräsentation von Migration / Flucht / Asyl, University of Graz, April 29, 2016.

The Twitterization of News Making: Transparency and Journalistic Professionalism. Workshop in Cultural Sociology, Center for Cultural Sociology, Yale University, April 5, 2013.

Conference Presentations

Performative polarization: The interactional, medial, and cultural drivers of political antagonism. Annual Meeting of the American Sociological Association, Los Angeles, 5. – 9. August, 2022

What Are We Allowed To Say? A Survey Experiment on the Regulation of Free Speech. (with Richard Traunmüller) Annual conference of the European Political Science Association, Vienna, June 21-23, 2018.

The Populist Journalism Challenge: A Comparative Analysis of Right-Wing Media Sites in the USA, Germany, and Austria.” (with Lea Hellmüller) ICA preconference on “Global Perspectives on Populism and the Media” in Budapest, 22 May, 2018.

The Polarization is Mediatized. DGS/DGPuK conference on Medien- und Kommunikationssoziologie, Friedrichshafen, 11-13 October, 2017.

The Role of Events in ICT Adoption: Same-Sex Marriage and Twitter. Annual meeting of the American Sociological Association, Seattle, August 20-23, 2016.

How not to Establish a Specialty: Media sociology in the US. (with Casey Brienza) Annual meeting of the American Sociological Association, Seattle, August 20-23, 2016.

Participatory Journalism and Transformative Events: Covering the Same-Sex Marriage Debate on Twitter. Communication Across the Life Span, Annual Conference of the International Communication Association, San Juan, Puerto Rico, May 21-25, 2015.

Digital Media and the Diversification of Professionalism: A US­-German Comparison of Journalism Cultures. Communication Across the Life Span, Annual Conference of the International Communication Association, San Juan, Puerto Rico, May 21-25, 2015.

Journalistic professionalism and social media: A US-German comparison. Changing Media – Changing Democracy? Exploring the Democratic Potential of Social Media, 20th Anniversary Conference of the Institute for Comparative Media and Communication Studies, Austrian Academy of Science, Vienna, Austria, November 7, 2014.

Political Embeddedness: Boundary Processes in US and German News Reporting. Annual meeting of the American Sociological Association, San Francisco, August 16-19, 2014.

The Augmented Newsbeat: Spatial and Temporal Dynamics in a Twitterized News Ecosystem.

The Twitterization of News Making: Transparency and Journalistic Professionalism.

Journalistic Autonomy as Cultural Practice: Boundary Work and Performance in Political News Production.

Socio-techno-discursive Formations and Mediated Deliberation: What Twitter does to Political Journalism. Cultures and Civilizations in the Contemporary World, Midterm Meeting, Research Committee Sociological Theory (RC16), International Sociological Association, Trento, Italy, June 28-29, 2012.

Polanski und das Verhältnis transnationaler und nationaler Öffentlichkeiten. (with Brian McKernan, Sebastian Moser, and Ian Sheinheit) Neuer Strukturwandel der Öffentlichkeit, Gemeinsamer Kongress für Soziologie der DGS, ÖGS, SGS, Innsbruck, Austria, October 1, 2011.

In the Lions’ Den: Boundary Processes in Political Reporting. Spring Conference of the Center for Cultural Sociology, Yale University, April 29, 2011.

Morally Polluted or Purified Auteur: A comparative analysis of international media coverage regarding the Roman Polanski extradition case. (with Brian McKernan, Sebastian Moser, Ian Sheinheit). Eastern Sociological Society Annual Conference, February 25, 2011.

Deportation and Cultural Conflict: Comparing Media Dramas about Civic Belonging. Konstanzer Meisterklasse “Clash of Cultures?” Universität Konstanz, Germany, July 19–27, 2010.

Media Systems and Media Cultures: News Coverage of Deportation in the US and Austria. World Congress of Sociology, International Sociological Association, Gothenburg, Sweden, July 11-17, 2010.

Embedded in Political Communication. What the Concept of Embeddedness in Economic Relations Explains About News. Annual meeting of the American Sociological Association, San Francisco, August 7-10, 2009.

Mediensysteme im transatlantischen Vergleich: Ein kultursoziologischer Ansatz. Kolloquium des Nachwuchsnetzwerks Politische Kommunikation, University of Mannheim, Germany, June 19, 2009.

Towards a Cultural Understanding of Media Systems. Spring Conference of the Center for Cultural Sociology, Yale University, May 8, 2009.

Public Sociologists in News Media: Enhancing the Image of the Discipline? Annual meeting of the Eastern Sociological Society, Baltimore, March 2-5, 2009.

Sociologists in the Press. Annual meeting of the American Sociological Association, Boston, July 31-August 3, 2008.

Contemporary Journalism in the US and Germany: Agents of Accountability

Palgrave Macmillan, Cultural Sociology Series, edited by Jeffrey Alexander, Philip Smith, David Inglis, and Ron Eyerman


Are Western media systems becoming more American in the digital age? This is often thought to be the case, but Matthias Revers challenges this popular assumption with an nuanced study of contemporary journalism in the US and Germany, arguing that journalistic cultures are not only significantly different from each other still but also variably open and resistant to change. Drawing upon extensive field research of political reporters and examination of discourses of journalistic professionalism as well institutional analysis, Contemporary Journalism in the US and Germany finds that occupational norms and values of journalism in the US are vigorously upheld but in fact relatively porous and malleable. In Germany, by contrast, professional boundaries are rather strong and resilient but treated matter-of-factly. This, Revers contends, is both a consequence of institutional arrangements of media systems and historically evolved cultural principles of journalism in both countries which mutually constitute each other.


“This is first-rate scholarship. Cross-national studies of the news media are unusual; those based on ethnographic research are rare indeed. This rich, well-conceived, and deeply thoughtful work illuminates both German and American journalistic values and practices. It’s a treasure!”
Michael Schudson, Professor  of Journalism, Columbia University, New York

“Matthias Revers has written a terrific cross-national ethnographic study of political news reporting in two leading democracies. He draws out the similarities and differences between Germany and the United States with compelling observations and quotes, and he explains his findings with a sophisticated blend of cultural sociology and field theory. Revers is sometimes critical, but never cynical: one comes away from this book with a renewed appreciation of how much civic values still matter for journalists and why these normative commitments are important for all of us.”
Rodney Benson, Professor of Media, Culture, and Communication, New York University, and author of Shaping Immigration News: A French-American Comparison

“No one is foolish enough to think of news media as a transparent window into political action, but few consider the national differences in how the work that journalists do to construct mediated realities for their readers. This study of local political reporting in Albany and Munich unpacks German and American reporters’ beliefs about professionalism, objectivity and fairness to explain significant differences in how they walk the line between facts and opinion.”
Myra Marx Ferree, Alice H. Cook Professor of Sociology and co-author of Shaping Abortion Discourse

“[A] rich comparative analysis. As a long-standing advocate of such an approach, I can say that Revers’ work is among the most deeply illuminating of them all.” (Jay Blumler 2019)

Table of Contents

Introduction: Textures and Porosities of Journalistic Fields
Chapter 1: Contextualizing US and German Journalism
Chapter 2: The Sacred Discourse of Journalistic Professionalism
Chapter 3: Staking out the Boundaries of Professionalism: Good and Bad Journalism
Chapter 4: Competitive Collegiality: The Press Corps Environment
Chapter 5: Embedded Political Reporting: Boundary Processes and Performances
Chapter 6: Digital Media and the Diversification of Professionalism
Conclusion: Occupational Cultures and Journalistic Fields in Germany and the United States

Courses Taught

University of Leeds
Since 2018: COMM1950 Power, Politics and the Media (BA)
Since 2018: COMM5540/3340 The Reporting of Politics (MA/BA)
Since 2021: PhD Seminar (Ph.D.)

Guest lectures in: Journalism, Politics and Society (BA), The History of Communication (BA), Keywords in Political Communication (MA), Innovations in Political Communication (MA), Journalism: Practice and Policy (MA), Ph.D. seminar

PhD supervision:

Dr. Jose Ortega Chavez: Understanding how the Colombian media intervened in the 2012 -2016 peace negotiation process: a mediatization approach (graduated 2022, co-supervised with Katy Parry; currently Lecturer in Media and Communication, University of Winchester)

Andrew Morris: Ritual, resentful affectivity and relationships: An ethnographic examination of reactionary social movement activists’ spaces (in process, co-supervised with Stephen Coleman)

Sergio Reuben Matamoros: Online civility in news conversations: A disagreeable approach to disagreement (in process, co-supervised with CW Anderson)

Ariadna Obregon Solis: Free speech in Mexican universities (in process, co-supervised with Giles Moss)

Sultan Al-Azri: The influence of social media on first-time parliamentary voters in Oman (in process, co-supervised with Nour Halabi)

Hao Sun: Newsgames and journalistic practices: The roles of newsgames as forms of journalism and the shifts of journalistic practices (in process, co-supervised with Kate Nash)

Goethe-University Frankfurt
Winter 2017/18: The Politics of Free Speech and Diversity (BA)
Summer 2017: Forschungspraktikum Arbeitskulturen im Vergleich (BA)
Winter 2016/17: Institutional Theory (MA)
Winter 2016/17: Berufs- und Professionssoziologie: Lehrerberuf (BA)
Summer 2016: The Digitization of Work/Lives (BA)
Summer 2016: Comparing Work Cultures (MA)
Winter 2015/16: Sociology of Occupations and Professions: Media work (BA)
Winter 2015/16: Perspectives on the Sociology of Work (MA), (with Heather Hofmeister)

University of Graz
Winter 2014/15: Introduction to Sociology (BA)
Summer 2013, 2014: Social Theory (Contemporary Theories of Power and Domination) (MA)
Summer 2014: Advanced Qualitative Methods (MA)
Summer 2013: Methods of Empirical Social Research (BA)
Winter 2012/13: Argumentation and Academic Writing (BA)
Winter 2012/13: Economic Sociology (MA; for students in economics and business administration)
Summer 2012: Media Sociology
Winter 2011/12: Cultural Sociology

Summer 2011: Sociological Theories (BA)