conflict & communication online, Vol. 6, No. 1, 2007
ISSN 1618-0747




Nicole Haußecker
News coverage of terrorism. An analysis of TV reportage on the terror attacks in Kenya 2002

After the strong criticism of media reportage on terrorism, especially after 09/11/2001, the theoretical backgrounds of selected points of critique are to be considered, and another terrorist incident, the attacks in Kenya on 28 November 2002, will be examined using content analysis methods.
The aim is to provide evidence on the content and formal attributes of television reportage of a terrorist incident. For this purpose the focus is placed on the following three research questions:
1. What news factors play a role in the selection and intensity of the reportage on the terrorist incident?
2. Is emotionalism used in the reportage on the event?
3. In the reportage on the incident, are there negative stereotypes and/or prejudicial images of the Islamic and Arab world as the enemy?
The results of the study show expected tendencies, not only in regard to the attributes of terrorism reportage, but also in regard to broadcaster convergences and divergences in the dual system.
The news value of terrorist incidents is initially very high, however, due to various news reporting factors, after the third day an incident distinctly loses attention in the reportage.
The use of emotionalizing means is empirically confirmed. Not only emotional language and ways of speaking, but also above all forms of explicit emotionalization are present. Thereby the suspicion is strengthened that, depending on the broadcaster, the media to differing degrees take up the mood of fear associated with terrorist incidents.
A direct portrayal of Islam as the enemy was not detected in the reportage. However, latently negative evaluation tendencies, as well as negative stereotypes with regard to the Arabic and Islamic world are present, which reinforce the negatively stamped image that arose since 9/11/2001. The mostly narratively stage-managed fixation on Bin Laden und al Qaida is superficial and neglects possible backgrounds, as well as contextual placement.
Despite the critical voices since 9/11/2001, the called-for change in terrorism reportage is not taking place to the desired extent. The aspects that were found fault with then continue to be present, but vary with the broadcaster.


  full text in German  
On the author:
Nicole Haußecker, M.A., born 1978 in Jena/Thuringia. Studies of media-sciences, psychology and sociology at the Friedrich-Schiller-University (FSU) Jena and the University of Leipzig. Master thesis on the media coverage of terrorism in TV-news.
Since 04/2006 doctoral candidate at the FSU, she is presently working on her PhD thesis on "Tendencies of Terrorism Coverage in TV-News and their Effects on Recipients. A Time-Series Analysis, concerning the Co-Variation of Media Coverage about Terrorism and Public Opinion."
Working areas: media- and communications-psychology, news-research, crisis- and war-coverage; special interest in the relationship between media and terrorism.
Address: Friedrich-Schiller-University, Department of Psychology, Communication Psychology Unit, Am Steiger 3, 1, D-07743 Jena (Germany). Website: