Mediated Conflict

The issue of how conflict is to be reported has to do with the relationship between media actors (be they photographers and correspondents on the ground, editorialists in the home office, or the outlets they work for and the people and organizations who own them) and military and political actors (the last two not entirely easy to distinguish between in times of war).

history of media-military relations • elite-driven theories • neo-pluralist accounts • propaganda bias •war as infotainment •media witnessing  

To think about: Is contemporary mediated conflict best studied from the starting point of ‘techno-wars’, ‘virtual conflicts’, or from the authenticity claims of social media footage disseminated by citizen witnesses? Is Snowdengate an example of change (technological advances having made industrial-scale data-mining possible) or continuity (the watchdog role having been played since before 1949, the year Orwell - himself a journalist - wrote 1984)?  

Key Concepts: indexing theory, CNN effect, soft power

Further reading: media and war; surveillance, security forces and the media

Picture: Photojournalist documenting war and conflict. Hundreds of journalists, photographers and cameraman in the world have been killed, injured, kidnapped, threatened or sued. Credit: ChameleonsEye / Shutterstock.com

Primary Sources

Your local or university library may have a newspaper archives that you can use to access reports of wars or violent conflicts. Increasingly, broadcasters are making selected parts of their archives available via their websites, so it can be a good idea to start there, or on their Youtube channels. Al Jazeera has published primary source material relating to ‘Kenya’s Death Squads’ or counter-terrorism unit. http://interactive.aljazeera.com/aje/KenyaDeathSquads/ For material on the First World War, visit the BBC’s specially curated website: http://www.bbc.com/history/0/ww1/ Media material is among the primary sources relating to the Cold War to be found at the Miller Center, University of Virginia, website: http://millercenter.org/academic/dgs/primaryresources/cold_war. Reports from the Illustrated London News on the American Civil War has been digitized by Emory University Libraries and can be accessed at http://beck.library.emory.edu/iln/volume.php.

Research topics

There is every indication that 2015 will provide as many conflicts for scholars to study as previous years. The crisis in the Ukraine has put the spotlight on Russia Today, a global news channel financed by the Russian government that broadcasts on Youtube as well as on cable (https://www.youtube.com/user/RussiaToday). A comparison of reporting in a newspaper or television channel from a NATO country before and after the withdrawal of NATO forces from Afghanistan in December 2014 could reveal differences in coverage and narrative frames. Wars and armed conflicts of the past are always solid topics for the researcher interested in studying bias. The centenary of World War One, which continues until 2018, is providing a wealth of media material, debate and retrospectives to analyze from a variety of points of departure. The debate on the poppy exhibition at the Tower of London would be one point of entry. The December 2014 renewal of ties between the US and Cuba has also produced a wealth of retrospectives on the Cold War that can be used as a point of entry to the study of mediated conflict.