Dilemmas in media coverage of war and terrorism discussed

December 11, 2007

Media coverage of war and terrorism continues to raise ethical dilemmas for journalists and news producers. From the personal risk to journalists of reporting from Iraq and Afghanistan to decisions about re-broadcasting 'citizen journalist' footage, Al-Qaeda propaganda videos or hostage tapes, every week brings new difficulties about how to convey news in a credible way to increasingly distrustful and choosy audiences.

These dilemmas will be discussed this evening (Tuesday 11th December) by media professionals and academics at a debate entitled 'Media and Terror', at the Frontline Club in London, sponsored by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC).

Led by Dr. Andrew Hoskins, Associate Professor in Sociology at the University of Warwick and Dr. Ben O'Loughlin at Royal Holloway, University of London, the debate marks the launch of a new journal entitled Media, War and Conflict published by Sage (mwc.sageppub.com) and a new research monograph by Hoskins and O'Loughlin entitled Television and Terror: Conflicting Times and the Crisis of News Discourse, published by Palgrave Macmillan.

Hoskins and O'Loughlin argue that television news since 9/11 has been marked by a series of uncertainties about the representation of terrorism and war.

Speaking ahead of the event, Dr. O'Loughlin said, "Recent years have delivered a series of conflicts and catastrophes, from natural disasters such as Hurricane Katrina and the Asian Tsunami to the 7/7 bombings and war in Iraq. Many feel we are living in conflicting times. But do our media bring us news that is proportionate and contextual" Does the media really help us understand these events, whether they are distant or close to home" Does our news do terrorists' work for them by relaying their demands to viewers in Britain" These are dilemmas for journalists and news professionals but also for viewers, who must decide what news they find credible and trustworthy in the face of an ever expanding choice or menu of news channels and websites."

Television news balances between bringing the world's wars and catastrophes into the West's horizon of responsibility, whilst simultaneously blocking them from clear view. Firstly, television news amplifies and brings together different threats and insecurities (economic, human, environmental) in a number of intersecting ways. It does this through:

Secondly, television news contains and softens threats and insecurities through:Dr. Hoskins commented, "The journal Media, War and Conflict is the first journal to be dedicated to the field, uniquely providing a leading forum for debate between academics and professionals in journalism and the military. In an age of rapid cultural, political and technological shifts, the journal explores the relationship between the military and the media as central to the transformations in the ways wars are legitimised, fought, and historicised."

Speakers at the workshop include: There will also be a presentation of outputs from the recent Economic and Social Research Council funded Shifting Securities project by Prof. Marie Gillespie, The Open University, Prof. James Gow, King's College, London, Dr. Andrew Hoskins and Dr. Ben O'Loughlin. The project explored how cultural and religious diversity affect news reception and the specific responses of British Muslims to media and security policy. It has also highlighted how changes in the technologies, ethics and practices of journalism shape the security stories and how they are interpreted.
-end-
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:ESRC Press Office:Alexandra Saxon Tel: 01793 413032/07971027335, email: alexandra.saxon@esrc.ac.uk
Danielle Moore Tel: 01793 413122, email: danielle.moore@esrc.ac.uk
Phillippa Coates Tel: 01793 413119, email: phillippa.coates@esrc.ac.uk
Dr. Andrew Hoskins andrew.hoskins@warwick.ac.uk Tel: 07766 311310
Dr. Ben O'Loughlin Ben.OLoughlin@rhul.ac.uk Tel: 07957 661308

NOTES FOR EDITORS:

  1. The event is sponsored by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) New Security Challenges programme, Sage, Palgrave Macmillan, Routledge, and held at 19:15 at the Frontline Club (http://www.frontlineclub.com/).
  2. More details of the just published Television and Terror by Andrew Hoskins and Ben O'Loughlin can be found here: http://www.palgrave.com/products/title.aspx"PID=275721
  3. The ESRC Shifting Securities project has been funded under the Economic and Social Research Council's New Security Challenges research programme. The aim of this Programme is to promote research into security which builds on, but also moves beyond, into security which the traditional pre-occupation with military conflict between states. The programme will focus on international security but defined broadly to include threats to groups as well as nations; to the biosphere as well as the polity, and from military to political, economic and environmental security. For more information on the New Security Challenges Research Programme please visit: http://www.newsecurity.bham.ac.uk/
  4. For more information on the ESRC Shifting Securities project visit: www.mediatingsecurity.com.
  5. The Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) is the UK's largest funding agency for research and postgraduate training relating to social and economic issues. It supports independent, high quality research relevant to business, the public sector and voluntary organisations. The ESRC's planned total expenditure in 2007/08 is £181 million. At any one time the ESRC supports over 4,000 researchers and postgraduate students in academic institutions and research policy institutes. More at http://www.esrcsocietytoday.ac.uk


Economic & Social Research Council

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