Issue August 2012; 5(2)

mwc coverARTICLES

Jiska Engelbert and Patrick McCurdy
A threat to impartiality: Reconstructing and situating the BBC’s denial of the 2009 DEC appeal for Gaza

Abstract In January 2009, the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) denied a request from the Disaster’s Emergency Committee (DEC) to broadcast an emergency appeal to relieve human suffering in Gaza in the wake of the Israeli ground offensive ‘Cast Lead’. The decision marked the first time in the over 40-year relationship between the two organisations that a request was refused by the BBC, but an appeal went ahead. BBC Executives argued that airing the appeal could pose a threat to public confidence in the BBC’s impartiality. This article, both descriptive and exploratory in scope, first reconstructs a chronology of this ‘impartiality argument’, providing a detailed overview of the key players, the (historical) relationship between them, and the run-up to and aftermath of the BBC’s decision. The second part of the article analyses the BBC’s denial of the DEC request and explores how the BBC’s concerns over impartiality articulate its new ‘wagon wheel’ approach to impartiality. Finally, the authors study the BBC’s decision and the – rekindled – centrality of impartiality within the context of the BBC being increasingly bound by the nature of its brand and the visibility of the Middle East conflict.

Yusuf Kalyango, Jr. and Fred Vultee
Public attitudes toward media control and incitement of conflicts in Eastern Africa

Public opinion research in two post-conflict African countries, Ethiopia and Rwanda, offers new insights into how audiences view the trustworthiness and performance of different media and different ownership sectors. This survey examines how citizens of Rwanda and Ethiopia describe the role of mass media in covering conflicts and in stoking the attitudes that can lead to or worsen conflicts. State-owned media are widely used as a source of news, yet are also widely distrusted, particularly when covering conflicts. They are also seen as less reliable than the privately-owned media. Still, different levels of use and confidence in state media suggest that top-down reconciliation efforts can have measurable results. Media can play a role in damping the flames of ethnic conflict, much as they can play a role in fanning those flames.

Jeffry R Halverson and Amy K Way
The curious case of Colleen LaRose: Social margins, new media, and online radicalization

This article examines the case of the American terrorist Colleen LaRose, known as ‘JihadJane’. By employing social theories and psychological approaches to terrorism, the authors argue that the online radicalization of marginalized individuals like LaRose must be understood through personal histories and existing social and cultural tensions, rather than the seductive power of extremist ideologies. Therefore, in the age of new media, countering the emergence of such individuals requires societies to face challenges akin to preventing other forms of domestic extremist violence, such as school shootings.

Holger Pötzsch
Framing narratives: Opening sequences in contemporary American and British war films

This article analyses the function of opening sequences in war films. With reference to Erll’s studies on film and memory, the author suggests that, besides initiating processes of framing film worlds, opening sequences also activate a certain memory-making rhetoric that enables potential impacts on historical discourse and memory politics. He subdivides this last function into three rhetorical modes of cultural memory – an objectifying, subjective and reflexive approach. Subsequently, the author provides close readings of the opening sequences of various contemporary war films to exemplify and illustrate each function and rhetorical mode. In conclusion, the author connects a recent surge in films employing a subjective and reflexive rhetoric to changes in imaging technologies.

Klas Backholm and Kaj Björkqvist
Journalists’ emotional reactions after working with the Jokela school shooting incident

Journalists’ psychological distress after working with the Jokela school shooting incident was examined with a mixed methods research design using a sample of 196 journalists (27 on the scene, 169 working indirectly with the crisis). Quantitative results were compared to those of a control group of 297 journalists. Results from the quantitative data showed that in all journalists investigated, a minority indicated a level of PTSD, depression, secondary traumatic stress and burnout sufficient for being labeled as belonging to an ‘at risk’ subgroup. However, no significant group differences were found. In regard to journalists working with the shooting, previous personal traumatic exposure significantly predicted more distress due to the assignment, while work-related exposure did not. An analysis of qualitative data showed that the incident provoked work-related ethical difficulties, as well as a range of personal post-trauma reactions in journalists. The criticism of journalists after the incident provoked additional personal stress in a group of journalists.


Philip Hammond
Book Review: Pockets of Resistance: British News Media, War and Theory in the 2003 Invasion of Iraq

Thomas ER Maguire
Book Review: Digital War Reporting

Stijn Joye
Book Review: Media Witnessing: Testimony in the Age of Mass Communication

Fernando Resende
Book Review: Beyond Duty: Life on the Frontline in Iraq

John W Robertson
Book Review: The Political Economy of Media and Power