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Alarming Reports

Alarming Reports: Communicating Conflict in the Daily News

Andrew Arno
Copyright Date: 2009
Edition: NED - New edition, 1
Published by: Berghahn Books
Pages: 216
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  • Book Info
    Alarming Reports
    Book Description:

    News stories provide an essential confirmation of our ideas about who we are, what we have to fear, and what to do about it: a marketplace of ideas, shopped by rational citizen decision makers but also a shared resource for grounding our contested narratives of identity in objective reality. News as a fundamental social process comes into being not when an event takes place or when a report of the event is created but when that report becomes news to someone. As it moves off the page into the community, news discovers - through its interpretations - its reality in the lives of the consumers. This book explores the path of news as it moves through the tangled labyrinth of social identities and asserted interests that lie beyond the page or screen. The language and communication-oriented study of news promises a salient area of investigation, pointing the way to an expansion, if not a redefinition of basic anthropological ideas and practices of ethnography, participant observation, and "the field" in the future of anthropological research.

    eISBN: 978-1-84545-915-4
    Subjects: Anthropology, Language & Literature, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-v)
  3. List of Figures
    (pp. vi-vi)
  4. Acknowledgements
    (pp. vii-viii)
  5. CHAPTER 1 News and the Anthropology of Conflict Communication
    (pp. 1-18)

    Studying mass mediated news as conflict communication, charting the social career of an alarming report as it moves off the page or screen and into the flow of social life, poses significant methodological challenges for anthropology. News is often an important part of conflict talk in a community, and anthropology clearly has staked a distinctive, if only incipient, claim on news as an object of study through the ethnographic literature on conflict talk and disputing in cultural contexts. For example, in the 1980s, Donald Brenneis and Fred Meyers presented a collection of essays by Pacific anthropologists in which language and...

  6. CHAPTER 2 The Dark Side of the Media: News as Control Communication
    (pp. 19-37)

    In Volume I of his trilogy,The Dark Side of the Dialectic,Alvin Gouldner discusses the relationships in modern society among ideologies, social movements, and the news.

    Movements are those sectors of the public responsive to the mobilizing efforts of ideologies; they share an ideology that, on the one side, interprets the news and, on the other, provides an awareness of their own social identity from reports in the news media. News generates ideology-centered social identities which, in turn, are now media-constructed and defined. Thus social movements in the modern world are both ideology and news-constructed. (Gouldner 1976: 100)


  7. CHAPTER 3 Two Theories of News: The Civic Model and the Conflict Discourse System Model
    (pp. 38-58)

    Journalism, as mentioned in the first chapter, is sometimes seen as an evil act. Harsh criticism of the mass news media—lambasting them for negativity, bias, and superficiality, to name just a few of the major charges—seems to be a permanent fixture of political speechmaking in the United States, and opinions expressed in private conversations often follow the same lines. Even journalists themselves join the refrain at times. For example, John Tierney, in a 2005 op-ed piece for theNew York Times,argues that the press should no longer aggressively cover—that is, with gruesome pictures and details—the...

  8. CHAPTER 4 The News Act: News Analysis and Semiotic Theory
    (pp. 59-81)

    Books about the news are generally about what is wrong with the news. They warn readers that there is something very seriously wrong and perhaps even dangerous about the way the news media operate, and they often find a remarkably ready and willing readership. Apparently it is easy to persuade the reading, talking public that there is a connection between a variety of social problems and the media. In an influential, best-selling example,Breaking the News: How the Media Undermine American Democracy,James Fallows (1997) reports that the news media are degrading the political economy of the country. If this...

  9. CHAPTER 5 News and Law as Conflict Communication Systems
    (pp. 82-114)

    Communication about conflict is a constant and widespread activity, taking place in virtually every social setting. It can be found in all cultures, at every level of social interaction from the collective and global to the intimate, and across activity domains such as business, politics, religion, and, at a more general level, identity construction. And yet despite the tremendous variation among the many ways that it finds expression—ways that are influenced by cultural convention, technology, and institutional constraints in each setting—it provides a workably clear-cut conceptual focus, being both relatively easy to identify in its many forms and...

  10. CHAPTER 6 News in Extra-Textual Terrain
    (pp. 115-141)

    The precise problem I want to address here, as suggested in chapter 2 in relation to Miyazaki’sThe Method of Hope,is the fading out of individual agency in news theory. InMissing Persons: A Critique of Personhood in the Social Sciences,Mary Douglas and Steven Ney criticize the asocial, autonomous, and rationally calculating person—a fiction of classical economic theory—that has come to be accepted as common sense reality in US public discourse (Douglas and Ney 1998). For example, the marketplace of ideas, or Civic, model applies classical liberalism to the understanding of news, and it appears to...

  11. CHAPTER 7 Policy Talk: In Law, on the Street, and on Television
    (pp. 142-171)

    Perhaps the most fundamental and longest debated issue in understanding communication about conflict in all of its forms is the relationship of is toought. In legal cases, legislative processes, journalism, and in empirical social sciences, the rules, values, and goals that are invoked to manage conflicts are grounded in descriptive representations of social reality. A rule-or value-based statement of what people ought to do in conflict management discourse must, to make sense, be validated by actual social experience. While theoughtof rule application may not be explicit in self-consciously objective, unbiased journalism or ethnography, straight description evokes a...

  12. CHAPTER 8 Order, Disorder, and the News Media in Western Society: Whose Side Are They On?
    (pp. 172-190)

    Politicians, bureaucrats, generals, and so on, are often shocked—hocked!—by the cheeky, oppositional nature of news coverage that always seems to focus on what goes wrong and can serve to undermine the efforts of those in power. For example, Ari Fleischer, former press secretary in the second Bush administration, says in his memoir,Taking Heat,“the overly adversarial nature of the press and the relentless quest for conflict are creating a divide between writer and reader, reporter and viewer, journalist and source,” and he adds that, “bad news travels through the press with a greater velocity and intensity than...

  13. References
    (pp. 191-202)
  14. Index
    (pp. 203-208)