Week 7 reading: “Media, War and Conflict”

This week reading “Media, War and Conflict” by Shawn Powers and Mohammed el-Nawawy, analyze the media viewing habits of specific countries for three major media. In detail, it is an analysis of media viewing habit, cultural, political and cognitive dispositions of viewers of Al Jazeera English in comparison of CNN International and BBC World. The article presents two key findings: first, viewers worldwide turn to broadcasters to affirm rather than inform the so the existing stereotypes are likely to strengthen. Second, the longer the viewers watch on Al Jazeera English, the less dogmatic they become in thinking and more open to other alternatives and opinions.

The article introduces that after the dramatic development of satellite televisions, experts think the news media will create a global media sphere which encourages public conversation and cultural exchange between diverse communities. But, in reality, it results in segmentation of target audiences where viewers turn to broadcasters that would fit with their existing norms and opinions.

It said only when we exclude the principles for ‘war journalism’, broadcasters can help improve cross cultural understanding and reconciliation.

The author Hafez, K challenged the view that satellite TVs homogenized the cultures saying that there is not enough evident. He said only significant chunk of humanity has technology to access foreign broadcasters and majority of people’s media habit and how they organize their lives are not changing as much as assumed. He argued that media ‘follow’ rather than ‘lead’ the public opinion. The news media typically work toward the ‘affirmation and legitimation of national politics’ instead of ‘challenging people’s perspectives or providing competing world views’.

He thinks the scholars are overestimating the role of media as the Fourth Estate. It is true that media should provide balance and fair views of cross border issues but it is still within the boundary of running a business. Needless to say, challenging the prevalent beliefs or taking sides with others, would results in losses of readerships or viewers and then losses of revenues and advertisements as well as the influences. No mainstream media, except the one running on funding from foreign sources, dare to defy the opinions of majority and follow the existing trend. Being a outcast is death sentence for media.

On the other hands, professional journalists believe that media doesn’t need to ‘educate’ the people. The famous quotation says that media does not tell the people ‘how to think’ but tells them ‘what to think about’. According to this belief, the media should merely serve as the reflection of public opinion and not required advocacy or urges for change.

This view seemed to be right until extremism and ultra nationalism kicks in. One would argue against it pointing out pre-World War II Germany and some fundamentalist societies of today. It is arguable that when the majority favors upon the path to extremity and confrontation, it puts the media in difficult positions and ethical dilemma of whether to merge with the majority’s views or not.

Here comes my ultimate question: if the majority in a society committed to the norms and cultural beliefs that are not fits with universally acclaimed rights and standards, should the media serving that audiences resist the prevalence views and provide opposing views risking of its own survival?  

It is notable that the increasingly globalized media seemed to be shaping a globalized civil society but actually, the global public has been becoming balkanized as they choose specific media and communication networks that are in line with their existing ideological views. The survey conducted by Pew Global Attitudes Project revealed how the mainstream media failed to improve the cultural understanding, given the negative perception of the Muslims and Westerners persists on each other.  Critically, when it comes to covering international conflicts, the balkanized media are far from mediating and even potential of deteriorating them.

The author Shinar.D argues that since the media’s professional standards thrive on drama, sensationalism and emotions, it is more compatible with war than peace.

Similar account of author Daya Thussu and Wolfsfeld G affirms that the nature of media favor the conflicts, riots and war than peace time filled with tedious closed door negotiations. Therefore, news media has more incentives overstatement, sensationalization and trivialization of violence and conflicts to maintain viewership and audience attentions. Rather than informing to a variety of people, today’s media are often target particular segments of people reflecting ‘dominant national frames’ in contextualization of international events.

For these reason, I found that Conflict reporting has become focus of many journalism trainings.

I think the increase supports for discussion and training in Conflict reporting for emerging journalists could alleviate the intense but there is still underlying needs to please the majority of audience.

Question 2: What could be long term solution for the media to avoid them from framing international issues in their national and cultural context?

At that point, I believe the author Samuel Huntington’s “Clash of Civilization” thesis is relevant with the current landscape. As the world and societies become more and more globalized, increased interactions between communities makes their civilizational identities stronger than ever and critical of others that challenges their social norms and cultural mores. Thus, the media serving the communities are more likely to response to culture bonded perceptions and national benefits. It is evident that despite their appearances as international entities, CNN’s reporting on Iraq war is more positive and focused toward United States national security while Al Jazeera’s reporting on the same issue was more critical of US invasion on Iraq and explored the dark sides.

Generally, Samuel Huntington’s prediction ‘the fault lines between civilizations will be the battle lines of the future’ is plausible and it is almost absolute truth in observing the current conflicts around the world. The ethnic conflicts in Kosovo, escalated defiance toward Russian government in Chechnya, separatist efforts in China’s Xinjiang provinces, communal riots between Buddhist and Muslims in Burma, advances of Muslim rebels in southern Thailand, tension between India and Pakistan and undeclared war on Israel by Arab nations, all of these major issues are reflecting the Samuel Huntington’s thesis because these are all clash of different civilizations occurred at borderlines of two different civilizations.


However, a closer look on world international conflicts and diplomacy will give you a different thesis: persisting war between two Koreas and Taiwan’s resistance on China’s claims are potential triggers of a full scale war. But these are nothing to do with the Culture and more of clash of ideologies. In additions, the overlapping territorial claims by China and South East Asian countries on South China Sea are another possible flash point for future conflicts and surprisingly Vietnam, the closest cultural cousin of Chinese civilization, is the main defender of its national benefits against China’s territorial advances. In close observation to Asian diplomacy, it would found the intertwine alliance between China, Pakistan and North Korea at one side and Japan, India and South Korea at other side. The simple idea of “Enemy of enemy is my friend” seemed to be working well while nations and societies likely to rally on cultural similarities in some cases.

Here comes my next question: What is the role of the culture in media? Is Culture ultimate factor in shaping the media portrayal and should all media portray those with similar cultures positively and those with different culture negatively, if their individual interests are not included?

These are my thoughts and questions on this week’s reading.


Reflection on Oct. 7 Readings

The article Al-Jazeera English and global news networks: clash of civilizations or cross-cultural dialogue? presented some intriguing and critical points. It was fascinating to read about Al Jazeera English, the self-proclaimed “voice of the South” and to think how this nework, in less than a decade, has become a critical major player in the international media sphere. It will be interesting to see if, in the coming years, a larger number of Western viewers seek to step outside the box and seek out alternative news sources instead of the usual, cookie-cutter options.

I was drawn to the concept of “contextual objectivity” mentioned in the article as “a term used to describe the necessity of television and media to present stories in a fashion that is somewhat impartial yet sensitive to local sensibilities.” I wonder if it is realistic to think that the media can ever fully escape this type of “necessary” bias?

I was also interested in Thussu’s theory mentioned in the article. He stated the demand for the 24-hour news cycle has created “sensationalization and trivialization of often complex stories and a temptation to highlight the entertainment value of news” is a telling statement. There has already been a cause for concern that American news networks, including CNN, have succumbed to melodrama and sensationalism in the interests of increasing viewership and bringing in the dollars. It makes one wonder if the idea of a national “trusted news source” in the US will exist in the future?

Globalization, Media and Communication

This week’s readings were a stimulating introduction to my field of interest especially the,”…correlation between national response to global media and the stages of economic development” (Price, 228). Price begins his analysis of approaches to a global market for information and of course the influences that alter national responses to this phenomenon. Considering the agenda a nation’s government seeks to fulfill, it can either promote global influences or restrict it in order to protect the government’s power. We see how globalization can affect, firsthand, the distribution of news in Shawn Powers and Mohammed el-Nawawy’s article.  Their conclusions essential support that even within a globalized community, people still revert to news outlets that reinforce their opinions.

Beginning with Price’s chapter, I wanted to refer back to the example of the Haitian and Dominican bilateral effort to limit radio use for national purposes in order to, “’[t]olerate in their respective territories the activities of any individuals…that have as their objective the disturbance of the domestic peace…”’ (Price, 230). He explains that this response is due to both countries’ desire to achieve stability after military action took place on both sides of Hispaniola. How can this ruling be counteractive in the quest of broadening relations and establishing social peace? And how can the global community influence countries away from pacts like these, that contribute to social misunderstandings, and strained diplomatic relations that both Haiti and the Dominican Republic still face today.

The entire purpose of Al-Jazeera English and global news networks: clash of civilizations or cross-cultural dialogue was to promote the assertion that, “global news media in general are not facilitating a cross-cultural dialogue, but rather supporting political opinions that may indeed reinforce perceptions of a clash of civilizations”. How do you shift people’s perception of the role media plays from supporting their views, to demanding news outlets to provide a holistic account of events, if they are not aware of Al-Jazeera’s news resources?

Globalization, Media, & Communication: Anaysis, and the Cross Cultural Dialogue of Al-Jazeera English

Here are my thoughts on this week’s readings:

1. I liked Price’s characterization of new international communication models as being more multi-lateral than those of the past; moving from a state’s interaction with its populace and a separate interaction with other states, to populations, sub-cultures, international corporations and actors (such as NGOs), states, and a bevy of other targets or ‘consumers.’  I haven’t warmed to the newer metaphor of transnational communication as an ‘ecology,’ but the way that Price puts it here, with Castells’ network society as the facilitating habitat, it proves its use in describing the phenomenon of multi-lateral communication we see today.  It also suggests at the possibilities this kind of communication could evolve into.


2.  I truly appreciated Powers’ and el-Nawaway’s introduction of Al-Jazeera English, and treatment of their goal to represent the “South,” quoted in their article by the deputy manager for news and programs as “symbolic” for “the voiceless.”  Launched in 2006, it seems that most audiences of international news outlets such as CNNI and ALJE, or Al-Jazeera America (launched on cable news August 2013) have confirmed Powers’ and el-Nawaway’s foundation argument that people of like-minded views communicate their views to each other across nations, continuing to seek views aligned with their own.  I do not really see the growth of these ‘alternative voices’ as an indication that audiences with conservative, nationalist views are seeking or listening to the alternative voices, rather, that there was a much larger alternative audience in the first place which now has a news outlet.

3.  Again, with the Powers and el-Nawaway article, I am impressed in their ability to quantify their study findings into a conclusion that news media today affirms rather than informs their audience.  Personally, I have just become a more serious consumer of news media since beginning this masters program.  I have noticed that the three major cable news networks in America, CNN, MSNBC, and FOX News each tend to pundit, rather than report.  They report what national figures said about an event, rather than reporting on the event itself, they fail to search for original data and accounts, and rather seem to share that information amongst themselves.  Indeed, the only substantive differences amongst these three networks seem to be the audiences they target by use of partisan opinion.  Al-Jazeera America since its launch this summer offers a wholly different approach.  They report on a wider array of stories, they often have reporters on the ground at the scene of the event, and they bring in scholarly experts, rather than the ‘Washington elites’ who frequent the other three larger networks.  It will be interesting to see what affect their news-media style has on the ‘American news media ecology’ …

Oct. 7th Reading Reflections: “Al-Jazeera English and global news networks”

  • Upon beginning to read this week’s assigned Al-Jazeera article, I couldn’t help but make an immediate connection between the presented debate about global media and a topic of discussion in my SIS 641 class. In the article, the authors suggest in their findings that “viewers worldwide turn to particular broadcasters to affirm rather than inform their opinion.” I wish I could say this was a novel conclusion, but it’s not. Selective perception, selective attention, and selective inattention are attributes to which humans are naturally predisposed to exhibit, not a symptom of the communication systems used in global media broadcast. We inherently create biases in order to confirm our beliefs. Why? Because, especially in times of apparent threat, it is highly important to has consistency in our belief systems.
  • The other central debate of this article is whether global media systems are creating a “global public sphere” or adversely inciting the balkanization, or geopolitical separation of broadcasting. The article goes on to supply evidence that corroborates both sides of this argument, only to come to a somewhat vague conclusion which still oscillates between both hypotheses. This redirected conclusion refers back to my previous point addressing human tendencies towards selective perception and attention. What I would like to know is a more definitive answer, but the lack thereof makes me distrustful of the debate as a whole. So my next question is, what do we really need to be asking ourselves about the merging global public sphere? Rather than focusing on whether or not it exists, which a semblance of one clearly does and has been emerging for some time…
  • In the case of Al Jazeera English, assuming the legitimacy in findings of a positive correlation between length of time listening to AJE and increased open-mindedness in its audience, would this not also be considered a form of strategic communication with the intent of shaping ideologies? Is this intended result decreasing dogmatic thinking or just redirecting it?

Oct. 7 Reflection

I found the findings in the Al Jazeera English and Global News article about viewers choosing news media to affirm their ideological beliefs most interesting. I find myself and those around me exhibiting these behaviors. I’d also add that one’s choice of news media, particularly the big cable news channels, has become a sort of “identifier” for individuals. Their choice of cable news programming is somewhat a defining trait for their ideological tendencies. If audiences choose media channels that affirm their beliefs, how do we seek to spread different opinions and tolerance? Does it then become the responsibility of the media outlets to diversify their programming?

The Al Jazeera article also reminds me of a study I once read in the trades (I don’t remember which one, may have been Variety or MediaWeek) that analyzed the type of programming on MSNBC, CNN, and Fox News. They found that an overwhelming percentage across all networks was dedicated to commentary, somewhere above 60-70%. Commentary inherently has ideological biases. Thus, I would argue that, at least in the US, cable news media increases the divide among different ideologies. It would be very interesting to see this study done on an international scale with BBC, CNN, and Al Jazeera.

Price states that “cyberwar involves actual disruption of the enemies’ information space.” Could we categorize secret surveillance in this category? Though it can be viewed as “national security” for one country, it can be viewed as an attack to another.

Globalization, Media, and Communication

I really enjoyed the article when it confirmed my idea that people’s perceptions and beliefs are hardened and reinforced by the networks that they choose to watch. This even happens in a social media outlet as well. We choose to “follow” on twitter people or companies that interest us or share similar qualities, thus solidifying our personal attitudes. Do you think it is healthy for people to attach themselves to media outlets that voice conflicting ideologies? Would this make us a more “global” thinker or would it just create stress and dissatisfaction with the “opposing side”?

Do we think that the media truly wants to “inform the public”, or is it more about affirming those viewers that watch their program? Is it about drawing the most viewers for business sake? I imagine it would be a difficult line to figure out how to balance informing the masses without diluting the information to fit a certain type of audience.

This type of emotional draw that I mentioned before is highlighted in the article when they talk about “war journalism”. I found that this was a very interesting when they discussed how the media’s principles are incompatible with peace principles. How can we lessen this gap between what is secret, private, and behind closed doors and the desire for the journalist to have open access and a deep desire for drama?