News coverage of the U.S. war with Iraq: a comparison of the New York times, the Arab news, and the Middle East times

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Lee, Chang-ho

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This dissertation investigated how The New York Times, The Arab News, and The Middle East Times reflected their national interests in their coverage of the Iraqi War. It was assumed that The New York Times and Arab newspapers would express different attitudes toward the war since the former belonged to a country supporting the conflict and the latter to countries that opposed it. Based on the indexing hypothesis and existing literature on war coverage, it was expected that the media would reflect their respective national perspectives on foreign policy in such a crisis. To test this hypothesis, articles, editorials and opinion pages between the start of the war on March 20, 2003 and the official declaration end of the war on May 1, 2003 were sampled. In total 502 stories were used for content analysis. Overall, the results satisfied the initial expectations of the study. The New York Times emphasized U.S. war efforts, citing primarily U.S. officials while the Arab newspapers devoted more space to antiwar voices, citing primarily Arab sources. These papers were slightly more critical of U.S. interests in the Gulf region than The New York Times. The coverage of The New York Times, however, was more thematic than that of Arab newspapers. In describing Hussein image, The New York Times emphasized his negative image slightly more than the Arab newspapers. It also carried more stories describing the purpose of the war according to the U.S. administration whereas the Arab papers more often emphasized the aggressive and illegitimate aspects of the war. Overall, these results suggest that The New York Times took a more prowar tendency while Arab newspapers reflected a more antiwar stance. Thus, national interest became an important factor influencing media coverage of conflicts. Considering overall findings, The New York Times followed the interests of an attacking country whereas Arab newspapers reflected the interests of an attacked country. Thus, the former emphasized the process of combat, U.S.-led construction of post-war Iraq, military operation, and war victims of coalition forces. On the other hand, the latter devoted more space to antiwar demonstrations or responses, war effects on society, and Iraqi victims.