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  • News Narratives across Borders: The Convergence of Interests and Patterns of Meaning in International Media Coverage of Disaster

    Jamie Matthews

    Chapter from the book: Jonsson, H et al. 2021. Narratives Crossing Borders: The Dynamics of Cultural Interaction.

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    Shared narratives emerge across transnational news, circulating meaning and contributing to how publics process and make sense of significant issues and events (Cottle, 2014; Pantti, Wahl-Jorgensen, Cottle, 2012). These narratives are also reflected in the spaces made possible by digital communication technologies, including social media, and the through the formation of transnational discursive communities. Disasters, or at least those that meet the criteria of proximity for Western media (Benthall, 1993; Gans, 1980), are exemplars of such global media events, where analogous narratives or frames are rendered in media coverage across national borders. The evidence from studies of national media, however, suggests that journalistic narratives to disaster tend to reinforce a discourse of difference between spectators and sufferers through the representations of those communities and societies affected by disaster (Bankoff, 2011; Joye, 2009).

    This chapter considers how difference is reinforced in transnational news narratives of disaster through the circulation of cultural stereotypes, arguing that the prominence of stereotypes are a consequence of the processes of domestication that shape the characteristics of news and the dominant news flows in the global media system. More specifically, that to enable accounts to resonate with audiences, news is often packaged and adapted to a national context (Gurevitch, Levy and Roeh, 1992), which can be achieved by using familiar images of different societies and cultures to provide a link for audiences when covering distant events (Tanikawa, 2017). At the same time, as news and information becomes increasingly deterritorialised the overlaying of cultural frames to inform and explain a disaster in one national context may evolve across media coverage in others, contributing to the development of shared narratives to a single event. This is facilitated, for example, by the flow of information from news agencies and international news organisations, in particular those emanating from the core (the West) to the periphery (Wu, 2003).

    To elucidate these mediation processes across borders, the chapter will draw on one recent case study of disaster journalism to consider how essentialist notions of Japanese culture emerged as a unified narrative across international news coverage of the tripartite disaster of March 2011, reflecting its position as a dominant Western discourse on Japan.

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    How to cite this chapter
    Matthews, J. 2021. News Narratives across Borders: The Convergence of Interests and Patterns of Meaning in International Media Coverage of Disaster. In: Jonsson, H et al (eds.), Narratives Crossing Borders. Stockholm: Stockholm University Press. DOI: https://doi.org/10.16993/bbj.j

    This is an Open Access chapter distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (unless stated otherwise), which permits unrestricted use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. Copyright is retained by the author(s).

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    Published on June 15, 2021


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