Making news out of Al-Jazeera: a comparative content analysis of American and British press coverage of events and issues involving the Arab media

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Kim, Nam-Doo

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In recent years that involved the U.S.-led wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the Qatar-based satellite TV network Al-Jazeera became both an important source of news and a controversial actor signifying a challenge to U.S. foreign policy. This cross-national study compares journalistic responses to the rise of Al-Jazeera in the U.S. and Britain, considering both newspaper editorial policy and national context as possible reasons for differentiation. From multi-theoretical perspectives, the researcher examined the extent to which the two countries’ newspapers (1) diversified use of Al-Jazeera as a source of news, (2) expanded the range of non-official voices in coverage of issues involving Al-Jazeera, and (3) employed normative ideas about journalism to recognize the value of Arab journalism or problematize the U.S. handling of Arab media. The findings indicated that the differences between the pro-war and anti-war press were far more pronounced than were the differences between the U.S. and British press, not only in their editorial view of Al-Jazeera but also in other features of reporting. In addition, the results of a thematic analysis showed noticeable differences between the two countries’ anti-war newspapers, in that the New York Times frequently invoked themes “defending” Al-Jazeera, while the Guardian favored themes “attacking” the U.S. government. Further implications of the findings are discussed.