Media coverage of war and terrorism continues to raise ethical dilemmas for journalists and news producers. From the risk to journalists of reporting from Iraq and Afghanistan to decisions about rebroadcasting ‘citizen journalist’ footage, Al-Qaeda propaganda videos or hostage tapes, every week brings new difficulties about how to convey news in a credible way to increasingly distrustful and choosy audiences. These dilemmas were discussed on Tuesday 11th December by media professionals and academics at a debate entitled ‘Media and Terror’, at the Frontline Club in London.
Led by Dr. Ben O’Loughlin of Royal Holloway, University of London and Dr. Andrew Hoskins, Associate Professor in Sociology at the University of Warwick, the debate marked the launch of a new journal entitled Media, War and Conflict published by Sage and a new research monograph by Hoskins and O’Loughlin entitled Television and Terror: Conflicting Times and the Crisis of News Discourse, published by Palgrave Macmillan.
Hoskins and O’Loughlin argue that television news since 9/11 has been marked by a series of uncertainties about the representation of terrorism and war. O’Loughlin spoke about ways for news media to convey events in a form that enable news consumers to engage with distant suffering and conflict. If events are presented as open to political intervention – that policy dilemmas remain unsolved, and a difference can still be made– this reduces the likelihood of compassion fatigue, fatalism and disengagement among news viewers. However, in Television and Terror Hoskins and O’Loughlin explain why it is that just as news brings the world’s wars and catastrophes onto the West’s horizon of responsibility, it simultaneously blocks them from clear view, failing to provide proportionate analysis of whether Western interventions are succeeding or what success might mean.
Other speakers included Prof. Philip Seib of the Annenberg School for Communication, University of Southern California , Prof. James Gow of King’s College, London , and Prof. Stuart Croft of the University of Warwick and Director of the Economic and Social Research Council’s (ESRC) New Security Challenges programme. The event was sponsored by the ESRC, Sage, Palgrave Macmillan, and Routledge.