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Framing Terror: The Strategies Newspapers Use to Frame an Act as Terror or Crime

Bibliography:
Morin, A. (2016). Framing Terror: The Strategies Newspapers Use to Frame an Act as Terror or Crime. Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly, 986-1005.

Summary: This study includes a comparative analysis of news reporting of the 2009 Ft. Hood, Texas shooting by U.S Army psychiatrist Major Nidal Malik Hasan and the 2013 Washington, D.C., Navy Yard shooting by “…Navy contractor and former Navy reservist,” Aaron Alexis (Morin, 2016). Morin identifies these incidents as comparable attacks; however, coverage and language styles would lead one to believe differently. Morin delves into the question of how these differences in framing occurred and the media’s role in “…[contributing] to the discourse of terror” in the need to gain ratings through an appeal to a larger audience (2016). Morin argues that “terrorism, media, and politics have developed a symbiotic relationship”, not claiming that these events should not be covered but rather that a spectacle-like approach instills a fear and lack of security in the receivers (2016). Identifying seven rhetorical strategies, 102 stories on Ft. Hood and 54 on Navy Yard were studied from the following newspapers: The Wall Street Journalism, The New York Times, and USA Today (2016). Using a “qualitative framing analysis,” Morin looked into “script structures,” “thematic structures,” “syntactic structures,” and “rhetorical structures”, resulting in an unsurprising conclusion that the approaches of framing these stories were drastically different (2016). Ft. Hood was framed as “terrorism,” greatly due to the assailant’s “ethnicity, religion and immigrant background,” while Navy Yard was framed as “crime” as the focused was placed on the attacker’s mental illness (2016). Morin goes on to discuss the topics of othering, framing of the story line, labeling, contextualization, victims and heroes, exceptional versus unique incidents, and meta-narratives.

Summary written by Debra Mason

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