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News sources and perceptual effects: an analysis of source attribution within news coverage of alleged terrorist plots.

Matthews, J., 2010. News sources and perceptual effects: an analysis of source attribution within news coverage of alleged terrorist plots. Doctoral Thesis (Doctoral). Bournemouth University.

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Studies of source-media relations have tended towards two principal frameworks for analysis: developing a structural approach, where access is determined by the source's position within the dominant hegemony (Hall et al. 1978); or through sociological enquiries, which examine the relationship between journalists and their news sources (Gans 1979; Schlesinger 1990). There is, however, a much smaller body of research that has considered the influence of news sources upon audiences. This thesis develops an audience centric approach to sourcing, in order to understand how journalists may influence audiences' interpretation of a story through the attribution of information to particular types of institutional sources. This issue is considered through the media discourse of Islamist terrorism, to explore the potential for source attribution to influence audiences' perceptions of alleged terrorist plots. The justifications for focusing upon this issue are twofold. First, news coverage of suspected terrorist plots has raised questions over the position and types of sources appearing in reports. Second, news media reporting of terrorism has become synonymous with unofficial sources and leaked information. Accusations have been made, particularly following news of a foiled kidnap plot in January 2007, that government sources had relayed intelligence or operational information about the threat to a select group of journalists. For some, these charges evidence the social and political construction of contemporary terrorism, a condition, which it has been argued, is engineered by elites to make a raft of legal responses politically acceptable to the electorate (Jackson 2006; Mythen and Walklate 2006). This thesis explores source attribution upon audiences' perceptions of terrorism through two stages of empirical research. A content analysis of UK newspaper coverage of five alleged terrorist plots and a media experiment that simulates exposure to three different types of source attribution. The results reveal that veiled references to public institutions were predominant within coverage, however, contrary to conspiratorial approaches to political discourse,government sources were not influential in supporting details of a specific threat.Furthermore, that sourcing may simply arise as a feature of the news narrative to each event. The findings also suggest that sourcing was indicative of a broader shift in the media discourse of terrorism, with more recent coverage seeking to address public concerns over the way official or government sources communicate information about the threat from terrorism. For news audiences, the results show that the more powerful cumulative effects of trust in the media and concern over terrorism undermine any influence source attribution may have upon audiences' perceptions of the credibility of a story reporting an alleged terrorist plot. Moreover, taken together the findings demonstrate that the effect of subtle or nuanced variations in the presentation of media content upon audiences is limited and that the attitudinal and demographic characteristics of audiences serve as more significant determinants of audiences' perceptions of news.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Additional Information:If you feel that this work infringes your copyright please contact the BURO Manager.
Group:Faculty of Media & Communication
ID Code:16207
Deposited On:22 Sep 2010 10:51
Last Modified:09 Aug 2022 16:02


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