British Politics

, Volume 7, Issue 3, pp 272–300 | Cite as

Spin doctors and political news management: A rational-choice ‘exchange’ analysis

  • Thomas Quinn
Original Article


The rise of ‘spin doctors’ and news management is one of the most important changes in British party politics. However, this development has been under-theorised. This article fills this gap in the literature by providing a rational-choice model of news management, in which parties supply information on things such as policies and intra-party gossip to journalists in return for favourable coverage. Basing itself on recent research on the media, the article develops a cost–benefit model of news-story production in which the constant onset of deadlines leaves journalists considerably dependent on official information sources, such as spin doctors. Drawing mainly from the experience of New Labour in Britain, the article discusses various techniques for maximising positive coverage and counteracting negative coverage, and shows how they relate to the theoretical framework. It concludes that news management is inevitable when parties communicate through news media that make their own choices over which stories to run.


political communication news management political parties spin doctors New Labour rational-choice theory 



I thank Nick Allen (Royal Holloway, University of London) and three anonymous British Politics referees for their valuable comments on earlier versions of this article.


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Copyright information

© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Ltd 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Thomas Quinn
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of GovernmentUniversity of EssexColchesterUK

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