The search for common ground in conflict news research: Comparing the coverage of six current conflicts in domestic and international media over time

Christian Baden*, Keren Tenenboim-Weinblatt

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

33 Scopus citations

Abstract

In its search for media influences in violent conflict, most existing scholarship has investigated the coverage of specific, salient conflict events. Media have been shown to focus on violence, sidelining concerns of reconciliation and disengaging rapidly as time proceeds. Studies have documented ethnocentric bias and self-reinforcing media hypes, which have been linked to escalation and radicalization. However, based on the existing studies, it remains hard to gauge if the unearthed patterns of media coverage are generally pervasive or limited to a few salient moments, specific conflicts or contexts. Likewise, we cannot say if different kinds of media apply similar styles of conflict coverage, or if their coverage is subject to specific contextual or outlet-specific factors. In this article, the authors compare the contents of both domestic and foreign opinion-leading media coverage across six selected conflicts over a time range of 4 to 10 years. They conduct a diachronic, comparative analysis of 3,700 semantic concepts raised in almost 900,000 news texts from 66 different news media. Based on this analysis, they trace when and to what extent each outlet focuses its attention on the conflict, highlights specific aspects (notably, violence and suffering, negotiations and peaceful solutions), and presents relevant in- and out-groups, applying different kinds of evaluation. The analysis generally corroborates the media’s tendency to cover conflict in an event-oriented, violence-focused and ethnocentric manner, both during routine periods and – exacerbated merely by degrees – during major escalation. At the same time, the analysis highlights important differences in the strength and appearance of these patterns, and points to recurrent contingencies that can be tied to the specific contextual factors and general journalistic logics shaping the coverage.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)22-45
Number of pages24
JournalMedia, War and Conflict
Volume11
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - 1 Mar 2018

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017, © The Author(s) 2017.

Keywords

  • comparative analysis
  • conflict news
  • ethnocentrism
  • longitudinal content analysis
  • peace journalism
  • violence focus

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