The mediated veteran : how news sources narrate the pain and potential of returning soldiers
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The “global war on terrorism” has pervaded the social scene following the attacks of September 11, 2001. Although the ripple effects of the wars are continuing to spread across the globe in the various political and foreign policy arenas, the aim of this study is to turn attention to the individuals who bore the battle, have returned home, and now face new challenges. The United States veteran population has experienced an unprecedented increase in numbers as a response to troop withdrawals in Iraq and Afghanistan. Although previous research has considered the potential difficulties veterans face when reintegrating into society, this study goes a step further and investigates how news media sources are called to participate in narrating veteran stories of war and specifically their stories documenting post-traumatic stress disorder. Drawing on a variety of theoretical perspectives and utilizing a multi-methodological approach, this study seeks to answer four central questions: First, how and by what channels do sources enter the news media conversation to comment on the veteran experience? Second, are veterans the main sources narrating their experiences or do other individuals, groups, or organizations speak more often in the news media? Third, what stories circulated and gained traction by narrating the lived experiences of veterans with PTSD? And fourth, what stories did veterans tell about their experiences, and what stories were told about veterans who suffer from PTSD? This study is organized in two distinct parts. Part one employs a quantitative content indexing analysis of four veteran related news media events across various newspaper, broadcast television news, and cable television news outlets in order to determine how sources entered the news media landscape, and who the sources were. Part two turns to examine four dominant news narratives that emerged from the direct quotation and paraphrased remarks gathered from part one’s analyzed news media texts. The study concludes by illustrating the powerful role news media sources play in the news, as well as the stories that emerge to define the lived experiences of veterans who suffer from PTSD.