Teach-in On Media Response to Terrorist Attacks

From the MIT News Office: “Teach-in looks at world media response to terrorist attacks”:

“This is not to downplay the power of corporate media ownership and the narrowing of viewpoints caused by competition within the media to maintain profits,” said Henry Jenkins, director of the Comparative Media Studies program (CMS). The vitality and honesty of the media can and should be enriched by an active citizenry, he added.

“We should educate ourselves on the conventions of journalism. We can protest biases as we encounter them. And once major events have passed, we have an obligation to remember media behavior and continue to analyze it. We must ask, ‘What kinds of media does democracy need?'” Jenkins said.

Ingrid Volkmer, a CMS visiting scholar, commented on international media operations in the past two weeks.

She noted that with 400 satellites orbiting the earth, news reaches far beyond what was imaginable in McLuhan’s era of the late 1960s. “The global discourse is not yet established by CNN or any other media,” she said. The initial flood of images may come via CNN, but today that’s just the first phase of coverage and interpretation, she said. The next phases occur at the regional, local and personal levels.

“Regional media set a local tone very quickly, framing US images and translating them to local cultures. In Spain, the images from New York are framed by references to Basque separatists; in Britain, by references to the strength of the US-UK alliance; in France, by references to their suffering from Arab and Muslim attacks,” Volkmer said.

Jing Wang, the S.C. Fang Professor of Chinese Language and Culture, commented that superpower politics still dominate interpretation of international news.

“There are Muslim independence movements in western China which the Taliban has refused to hand over. A US attack on Afghanistan wins China hegemonic presence in its west,” she said. An outpouring of sympathy from the Chinese for the American people went hand in hand with awareness that the US attack would advance and express its own hegemony by attacking Afghanistan.


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