Below is an essay I wrote comparing two news articles based on theories of global news on the Shamima Begum story.
Link to CNN news report: https://edition.cnn.com/2019/02/14/uk/shamima-begum-london-teenager-joined-isis-gbr-intl/index.html
The news reports that this essay will be comparing are based on the recent global story about Shamima Begum wanting to return back to the UK that took place earlier this year. This story gained a lot of media coverage across the world and was debated by many different news outlets. This essay will compare CNN (Fox, 2019)and theIndependents(Dearden, 2019)approach to reporting this story in terms of style, language, underlying themes and global news worthiness. The comparison will be based on theories such as Tony Harcup’s What Makes News, Gultang and Ruge theory on the Chain of News Communication, Maccombs and Shaw’s Agenda Setting theory and Hallin and Mancini’s Models of Media and Politics.In general terms, CNN reports the story factually and as a global news story about Shamima Begum and the UK, whilst theIndependentreports it as a global story by talking about Shamima in terms of a threat to the world, not just the UK and relates to other news around the world.
One of the first comparisons is how both stories are reported by the news organisations. Hallin and Mancini (2004)state that both the UK and the USA fall under the liberal model and therefore both news stories should be reported in a similar way as informative reporting is the most dominant under this model. This is because they are both Western organisation and share similar features, such as having the freedom to report and say what they want. In both the UK and the US, news organisations are self-regulated, meaning they can report what they want, as long as they don’t break the law. However, in the UK most news organisations are bound by IPSO and follow the Editors Code, enforced by the editor of each news organisation. Unlike the BBC they do not need to be due diligent and can be opinionated. Both theIndependent and CNNhave a slight left political alignment so therefore should give a similar representation of events. However, with this new story that is not the case. One reason for this may be because of the background of the organisations. TheIndependent has links to the Saudi royal family and government, which is known to shape the news stories they publish across all four of their online platforms. Therefore, the critical analysis of the complications of Shamima coming back to the UK that theIndependent focuses on will have been written in the interest of the Middle Eastern audience as well as the UK. Whereas CNNis funded by the people of America via cable subscriptions and advertising and therefore the news story is written for this audience only. Under this model the idea of reporting accurately is very important, and whilst there are differences between both articles, they do give the same key information.
When looking at both of the news articles, one of the key differences is the angle that the articles take. TheIndependentuses fear and the possible repercussions if Shamima was to return to the UK as the main subject, whereas CNNuses human interest and seems to empathise to tell the story of why she wants to return. One reason for this can be explained by Tony Harcup and Deirdre O’Neill’s theory on What makes news (Harcup & O’Neill, 2016). The theory looks at news values and categorises 10 requirements for being a successful news story. Looking at this theory theIndependentrelies on stereotyping and fear (bad news and magnitude) whilst CNN relies on human interest and a level of empathy and both fall under the category of surprise as it is an unusual story. This is to do with what makes news sell, and the angle that is best to take for each individual news organisation. Across the globe there is a large amount of fear surrounding the idea of terrorism, which the theIndependent uses and focuses on to sell the story. In a similar way, it also relies on the pre-conceived stereotype surrounding ISIS and those involved with it. CNN on the other hand don’t have this same selling point as it is an international issue and not a direct threat to them in the US, so instead tells the story of Shamima and why she wants to return to the UK, with focus on her as an individual. This goes against the statement from Ofcom (2007)that stated “News outlets of all kinds often tell the same stories, from the same perspective, using much the same material.”Another reason for the difference in angles of the story links to McCombs and Shaw’s Agenda Settingtheory (2013). This is the theory that the media tells the audience what to think about, rather than what to think. In this case theIndependent is making the audience think about the threat of more terrorist attacks, whilst CNN is making the audience think of the individual and perhaps others in her situation. The reason for this is because in both cases, they are prominent problems across the globe which they may want to bring to light. Also, for CNN, they are known to oppose president Trump and his beliefs, which on this subject was that Shamima should not be allowed back to the UK and may have used this angle to give a different side to what he was saying on the subject. Therefore, the reasoning for the different angles on the story may be due to the news organisations own agenda in both selling the story and in raising awareness to what they believe is the problem.
Similar to Harcup’s What Makes News theory, Johan Galtung and Mari Ruge’s theory of The Chain of News Communication(1965)can be used to discuss the news articles similarities as well as differences. In short, the theory explains why some stories are more successful than others in a similar way to Harcup but goes on to state how some stories are distorted from the facts to fit with the criteria that makes it news worthy. In both theIndependent’s and CNN’s article, it can be presumed that distortion has taken place in order to gain an interesting story – as mentioned earlier CNNuses human interest and theIndependentuses fear. TheIndependentdistorts from the actual news and facts of Shamima wanting to return to the UK by hinting at a larger picture and putting it into a wider context by discussing potential issues, whilst CNN distorts by going into detail about her experience and why she wants to return. Galtung and Ruge state that it is at this point that representation takes place and whilst news organisations try to remain impartial, it is not always possible. Hall (Hall, Evans, & Nixon, 2013)explains, through the constructionist approach, representation is constructed through the words used in an article and a selection and exclusion of reality in a story (distortion). TheIndependent uses militant words such as “terror”, “attack” and “risk”, along with quotes from security officials. Along with the headline “Shamima Begum: Helping Isis bride return to UK would ‘open floodgates’ for terrorists, former terror chief warns”, the wording used creates the feeling of fear. CNN on the other hand uses words and phrases such as “come home” and “fears for her unborn child” in an attempt to create empathy. The use of these words and phrases helps to create very different articles and presents Shamima in two completely different ways, relating back to the issues discussed in the first paragraph.
Finally, the biggest similarity between the two is that can both be described as global news stories. Berglez describes global journalism as “a news style which goes beyond the boundaries of foreign journalism” (2013). CNNis a global story as it is based on the UK, whilst TheIndependentmakes it a global news story as they focus on the issues of ISIS and terrorism making it an issue for the whole of the west rather than just the UK. Again, this links back to the earlier discussed theories, such as Hallin and Mancini’s, which states that both stories should be similar under the liberal model.
In conclusion, there are noticeable similarities between both of the article’s when looking broadly, such as both using distortion and both creating news worthy stories. However, when looking in more depth there are a lot of differences between them in the style, language used and overall representation. Both news organisations seem to report in the same way in terms of global journalism and share similar news values but both tell the story from a different perspective due to what makes the stories news worthy and the opposing agendas of the news organisations.
Berglez, P. (2013). Global Journalism: Theory and Practice (Global Crises and the Media).New York: Peter Lang Publishing.
Dearden, L. (2019, February 26). Shamima Begum: Helping Isis bride return to UK would ‘open floodgates’ for terrorists, former terror chief warns. Retrieved from Independent: https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/shamima-begum-isis-syria-latest-british-citizenship-return-floodgates-terror-security-police-a8798276.html
Fox, K. (2019, February 15). Pregnant ISIS bride wants to return to UK. Retrieved from CNN: https://edition-m.cnn.com/2019/02/14/uk/shamima-begum-london-teenager-joined-isis-gbr-intl/index.html
Galtung, J., & Ruge, M. (1965). The Structure of Foreign News. Journal of Peace Research, 64-90.
Hall, S., Evans, J., & Nixon, S. (2013). Representation.Sage.
Hallin, D., & Mancini, P. (2004). Comparing Media Systems: Three Models of Media and Politics.Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Harcup, T., & O’Neill, D. (2016). What is News? Journalism Studies, 1470-1488.
McCombs, M., Shaw, D., & Weaver, D. (2013). Communication and Democracy: Exploring the Intellectual Frontiers in Agenda-setting Theory.New York: Routledge.
Ofcom. (2007, June 26). New News, Future News: The Challenges for Television News After Digital Switch-over.Retrieved from Ofcom: https://www.ofcom.org.uk/__data/assets/pdf_file/0022/19219/newnews.pdf