The terminology in comparative research tends to be ambiguous and confusing. We can talk about cross-country, cross-national, cross-societal, cross-cultural, cross-systemic, cross-institutional, trans-national, trans-societal and cross-cultural (Hanitzsch, 2009a: 414). These terms are used synonymously for comparative research to refer to certain types of comparisons (Oyen, 1990: 7). The wide range of possibilities shows that there is no a common agreement on what kind of research can be classified as comparative. There are scholars such as Edelstein (1982) that speak of comparison between two or more nations, and others, like Beniger (1992), who argue that all social research is comparative. What is certain is that throughout history a vast body of studies and research in this field have been developed. Hanitzsch (2009a: 414-416) explains it through four paradigms:
1) The United States and the rest, paradigm that dominated communication studies and media from 1950-1960. Exemplified by the influence of the work done by American researchers such as Lerner (1958) in his work The passing of traditional society; or Four theories of the press, of Sieber, Peterson and Schramm (1956).
2) North and South, paradigm characterized mainly by political processes that took place in Europe and UNESCO, due to inequality between the industrialized North and the developing South. It was this controversy that led UNESCO to recognize the need for a new world order and communicative approach. This was one of the reasons that resulted in a study in 29 countries viewing the image of foreigners, replicated in the 90’s with a sample of 38 countries (Sreberny-Mohammadi, Nordenstreng and Stevenson, 1984).
3) The West and the West, was the dominant paradigm in this field between 1980 and 1990. It was driven by the research carried out in Europe, marking the beginning of the comparative research becoming methodologically more advanced. During this period, investigations focused in Western countries due to their similarity and, therefore, by their comparative capabilities. Highlight research conducted by Köcher (1986); Esser (1998); or Donsbach Patterson (1996).
4) The West and the rest of the world, is the latest paradigm where academics are interested in the study of certain journalistic cultures globally, even though most studies rely on Western concepts. The greatest example of this trend is found in Weaver (1998), which in The Global Journalist conducted a total of 20,280 surveys in 21 countries. Other recent examples are found in the work of Shoemaker and Cohen (2006) in News Around the World, and the work carried out by Hanitzsch and his collaborators in Worlds of Journalism project started in 2007 and which today continues.
Something that these international studies have shown in journalism is that the advance of globalization coincides with convergence in guidelines and in journalistic practices. The idea of objectivity and impartiality dominates newsrooms worldwide, indicating a diffusion of professional ideologies or ideological transfer from West to East (Golding, 1977: 292). These similarities are shown in professional routines, in editorial procedures and socialization processes that exist in different countries (Hanitzsch, 2009a: 422-423; Löffelholz and Weaver, 2008: 3-4). At the same time, many of these studies have shown that substantive differences continue to prevail, and that the practices and journalistic views are deeply marred by the colours of the national media systems (Pfetsch and Esser, 2003: 13; Donsbach and Patterson, 2004: 281-282; Hanusch, 2009: 613-614; Löffelholz Weaver, 2008: 8-9; Hanitzsch, 2009a: 413). These divergences highlight the possibilities of studies in this field. Therefore, comparative analysis appears as the only possible way to investigate the theoretical question that explains the relationship between journalists, political and cultural contexts (Blumler and Gurevitch, 1995: 76; Canel Crespo and Sanders, 2010: 12 – 14; Pfetsch and Esser, 2003: 13; Hallin and Mancini, 2004b: 2-5).
Despite the fact that comparative research has, for years, offered no ideas beyond a mere description of similarities and differences (Hanitzsch, 2009a: 413), currently such comparative studies are essential not only to establish generalizations of theories and results, but also require us to recheck our interpretations of transnational cultures for inconsistencies or differences (Kohn, 1989: 713). Therefore, we must approach the international comparative study according to the concept of hybridization (Pfetsch and Esser, 2003: 13-17) in which the analysis of the whole (transnational cultures) is always more than the sum of its parts.