Posts tagged ‘news’

6 April 2011

Wallonia occupies Brussels

5. April 2011. Ghent. A decision by the French Community of Belgium to rename itself the Fédération Wallonie-Bruxelles (Wallonia-Brussels Federation) could mark a dramatic shift in Brussels’ status. The French Community, one of the three official institutions with legal responsibilities for particular geographic regions within Belgium, has shifted its discursive boundaries. Will the Flemish Community reply by renaming itself the Flanders-Brussels Federation?

“If you change the language, you change the world” commented one bystanding linguist in Ghent on Tuesday.

23 January 2011

Queer teens, LGBT issues and mediation

Two emails I received this week with quite different takes on the media images of LGBT public. First, the abstract of a paper by Jeffrey A. Bennett in Critical Studies in Media Communication 27(5): 455-476. Queer Teenagers and the Mediation of Utopian Catastrophe.

Recent cover stories about queer teenagers mark a noticeable shift in the discourse surrounding lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) publics. Contemporary media reports have repositioned the multifarious identities of queer teens as sites of unease for contemporary queer politics. Employing a framework that emphasizes the dialogical relationship among the tropes of utopia and apocalypse to scrutinize media coverage, this analysis explores the anxieties and possibilities generated by queer teens. Young queers are simultaneously understood as both political separatists from earlier movements, as well as disinterested assimilationists. The thematics of sexual fluidity and neoliberal individualism are highlights of this discourse, each being carefully tempered by the cultural force of assimilation.

Second, a more number-crunching style of analysis by Media Tenor.

LGBT Image Tied to DADT, Marriage

US TV coverage stays focused on two central topics

New York, January 21, 2010. Social policy issues related to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people are arguably some of the most controversial in the US. Two main topics, same-sex marriage rights and the US military’s Don’t Ask Don’t Tell (DADT) policy, have largely defined the media coverage related to LGBT themes since 2004.

In fact, Media Tenor’s data show that US TV coverage of LGBT themes is dominated by these two issues. While occasional coverage has been offered on other LGBT topics since 2004 – including teen suicide related to anti-LGBT bullying, the passage of LGBT-inclusive hate crimes legislation, LGBT-focused protests by extremist religious groups, and high-profile celebrities in the LGBT community – LGBT issues as presented to the TV audience have boiled down to love and war.

Media Tenor has found that spikes in US TV coverage on LGBT themes since 2004 correspond to specific advocacy, judicial and legislative events on related issues. The high volume of coverage in the first quarter of 2004, for example, was the result first of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court informing the state senate that civil unions were an inadequate alternative to marriage for same-sex couples in the state. This resulted not just in a path to legalized same-sex marriage in the state (which would begin later that year in May), but in San Francisco city and county officials issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Over a four day period adjacent to Valentine’s Day, thousands of marriage licenses were issued, an event which received significant media coverage and began the legal wrangling over same-sex marriage in California, despite the fact that the San Francisco licenses were later ruled invalid. That legal wrangling continues to this day in the form of appeals cases regarding Proposition 8, which banned same-sex marriages in the state after a period, not directly connected to the San Francisco licenses, of legalization.

Other increases in coverage volume reflect similarly dramatic events, although none made quite as compelling a visual story – a key element in television news selection – as the San Francisco licenses. In the second quarter of 2008, coverage spiked again in response to two critical court cases: one which struck down California’s ban on same-sex marriages (which then became in available in June of that year, until they were disallowed by the vote on Proposition 8) and another in which the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals issued a ruling that declared DADT unconstitutional in a case brought against the US Air Force. Finally, the last half of 2010 saw significant coverage on LGBT topics as increased pressure from advocacy groups and Congressional debate about DADT, which was ultimately repealed during the lame-duck session, came i nto focus. There were also several lower-profile state-level legislative and judicial events related to same-sex marriage rights during this time.The Southern Poverty Law Center, a US NGO dedicated to fighting hate and bigotry through monitoring activities, legal advocacy and education, in its most recent Intelligence Report (Winter 2010) focused on LGBT people as the minority most likely to be targeted by hate crimes based on a 14-year analysis of federal hate crimes data. However, other statistics related to LGBT people have been more positive, including a Roper poll conducted in August 2010 that found, for the first time, that a majority of those polled feel the federal government should recognize same-sex marriages (52% compared to 46% in 2009). Media Tenor data show these attitudinal disagreements on LGBT-related legal rights reflected in the US TV coverage, which tends to showcase both those celebrating advances in LGBT rights and as well as those in oppositi on, generally due to concerns about “family values” or military readiness – positions generally associated with conservative politics in the US.

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30 August 2010

Putin, Bush and the photo-op

Things are changing among Euro-American Putin observers. Even the New York Times today compares Putin’s antics in chasing photo-ops as a hard man with Bush’s.

2 March 2010


Accusations are all you need to get into the mainstream news media apparently.

Can you believe what our Prime Minister did with a tangerine?

But can you believe that my phone call ended up in the Financial Times? And on the BBC show The Bubble (14 mins 15 secs in to be precise). And The Telegraph and The Sun. And animated by a Hong Kong news channel…

And it’s on wikipedia. So is Robert Popper a media hoax genius or is he hoaxing us that he hoaxed the media — is he actually simply a fan trying to renew Gordon Brown’s image?

Thanks to Nick for the tip.

11 October 2009

The Yeltsin Scandal

Who’s ruining Russian democracy? Stephen F. Cohen has long been arguing that Gorbachev was the real democrat and it all went to anti-democratic hell with Yeltsin, long before Putin turned up, or Medvedev followed.

A recent interesting media analysis by William Dunkerley, media business analyst and consultant, points to a similar argument. The media scandal, says Dunkerley is “the Western press’ inexplicably lenient treatment of the Yeltsin presidency, especially in comparison to his successors”. Some extracts:

[The Yeltsin Scandal begins with a drunken Boris Yeltsin hailing a cab in his underwear across from the White House in Washington. But that’s just the beginning. This story includes murder, unthinkable acts of military aggression, and journalistic malfeasance. At its heart, it’s really a story about the media and how they have bungled the coverage of Yeltsin and his successors. You’ll never look at media reportage of Russia in the same way!]

Over the years, Yeltsin has been characterized variously as a hero who brought down communism, as the foremost proponent of Russia’s transformation to democracy and a market economy, and as a stalwart of Russia’s free press.

Beyond that popular imagery, however, there was a less attractive side. Yeltsin presided over a looting of state assets that created a circle of newly-minted tycoons that helped to protect Yeltsin. In addition, acting against the constitution, Yeltsin dismissed the duly elected parliament. And when the members refused to go, he brought in tanks to shell the parliament building in a confrontation that ultimately claimed approximately 150 lives. Somehow he was able to win reelection in a contest where he held roughly a 5 percent approval rating going into the election season. Ultimately, Yeltsin led the country into a financial collapse near the end of his presidency.

A Closer Look at Yeltsin

As a case-in-point, I examined the New York Times coverage of Yeltsin’s shelling of the parliament in 1993. That was one of Yeltsin’s most egregious acts. The Times ran a story entitled “SHOWDOWN IN MOSCOW: Tactics; Yeltsin Attack Strategy: Bursts Followed by Lulls.” Here are some excerpts illustrating how the Times covered the story:

“The assault on the Russian Parliament building today was a textbook example of the decisive application of military power…

“And as the daylong assault went on, it was clear that Mr. Yeltsin’s commanders had decided on gradualism…

“The Russian troops were looking for Bolshoi Devyatinsky lane … where the defiant lawmakers had maintained their headquarters…

“With the outcome of the battle never in doubt, the clear preference of the military was to scare the anti-Yeltsin demonstrators into surrendering and to limit casualties…

“The only question was the number of lives that would be lost. And that was largely left up to the rebels as they were alternately bombarded with shells and appeals to surrender.”

Just note how soft this coverage is. I’m not taking sides on whether Yeltsin’s actions were appropriate or not. But, the Yeltsin side is characterized as valiant and measured. The other side is characterized as defiant and to blame for its own fate. The story has a factual basis. The president really did launch a tank assault on the parliament. However, the circumstances clearly seem to be spun in a way that tempers that stark reality.

17 April 2009

Police assault during G20

G20. London. 1 April. A police officer assaults Ian Tomlinson, pushing him from behind. He falls to the ground. Shortly after, he dies. An official police statement announces he died from the effects of a heart attack. Apparently, another police statement says that protesters hindered medics from helping him. Findings of a second postmortem released today show that Tomlinson died from an abdominal haemorrhage.

The Guardian’s video of the incident, including slow version and commentary:

This event offers a quick academic or student a perfect opportunity for some ‘investigative discourse analysis’ (let’s call it IDA). Meaning: gather the news coverage texts from the “critical discourse moment” (Chilton), i.e., the initial incident. How was it reported? how quickly did Ian Tomlinson’s death disappear from the media radar?

Optimally, to contextualize the textual analysis in wider relations and practices, conduct some interviews with key actors (journalists, editors, police spokespeople, political spokespeople working during the G20 meeting…). The incident is still recent; they will be able to give the analyst a clear and legitimate version of what they recall.

Off to press with the analysis.

5 March 2009

Jon Stewart on CNBC and the financial crisis

Best counter-discourse on the financial crisis is once again provided by Jon Stewart on the Daily Show.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

25 February 2009

Discourse and ethnography

Leon Barkho’s paper “The Discursive and Social Power of News Discourse: the case of Aljazeera in comparison and parallel with the BBC and CNN” in the latest issue of Studies in Language and Capitalism (3/4) (p.111) combines textual (CDA) analysis with ethnographic analysis (e.g.,  observation, stories, field visits, interviews, media reports and style guidelines).

21 February 2009

Politkovskaya’s killers

Anna Politkovskaya’s sister rejects the idea that the Kremlin was responsible for ordering the killing of the critical Russian journalist on 7 October 2006. Channel 4’s report on the verdict of the trial of four men suspected of the killing can be seen for one week by going to Channel 4 News and scrolling down to “Thurs 19 Feb Part 4: Anna – CIA”. All four were found not guilty on 19 Feb.

Channel 4 provides extensive details of the case, the four men, the issues of impunity facing Russia’s legal system, the contradictory evidence, etc.

More importantly, it includes (minute 4:06) an interview with Anna Politkovskaya’s sister, Elena Kudimova, who thought that there was enough evidence to convict the four in court yesterday. She said, however, that she is not interested in who finally pulled the trigger, but in who ordered the killing.

She also pointed out that what Anna wrote about still continues today, i.e., that law enforcement officers are connected to organised crime. To which Jon Snow replied:

Jon Snow: Do you think the finger of suspicion actually extends right inside the Kremlin?

Elena Kudimova: No, I don’t think so. Anna wrote about many other people, especially in the Caucasus, who also quite disliked her writing. I don’t mean necessarily Chechnya, it is also Dagestan and Kabardino-Balkaria and Ingushetia.

I was waiting to see how Jon Snow would follow up on this, and perhaps expand on her suspicions. But his next question draws attention back to Russia’s political/legal systems:

I mean, are you surprised that it even got to a trial at this point? And is there a chance that another trial, of more important people, might be held?

Multiple discourses in any one text, indeed.

25 January 2009

Homecoming Scotland

BBC World reports this morning on tonight’s 250th anniversary of Scottish poet Robert Burns, and the festivities kicking off “Homecoming Scotland 2009”, an initiative to attract more tourists to Scotland. The BBC adds:

For some, there is a niggling doubt that the SNP will use the Homecoming year to promote its own version of Scottish nationalism.

My goodness, that is a surprise. Who’d have thought that the Scottish National Party would use a celebration of Scottish nationalism to promote Scottish nationalism.

Photo from BBC

Photo from BBC