The Media's War on Terror

  • Devon Mitchell Simons

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


The goal of this thesis is to provide a clearer understanding of the evolution of the War on Terror Narrative. It does so by identifying and analyzing the boundaries of key media frames operating within the Narrative, across multiple terror events through close analysis of live-media coverage. The resulting methodology can be visually represented in a matrix grid, and may be applied to other media formats and news topics such that media narrative mapping might enhance our understanding and appreciation of the effects and nature of contemporary masscommunication. The Central Research Question: How did the War on Terror Narrative evolve in American rolling television news between 2001-2013; and can this evolution be more precisely identified and analysed by tracking pre-selected media frames across multiple terror events?

This thesis found, through a mixed method examination of six case studies, that the media’s War on Terror Narrative began with nearly identical rhetorical patterns as those of the Bush Administration’s War on Terror; but the two Narratives diverged along party lines during President Obama’s first term. This thesis also found that the coverage of successful and failed terror events varied based on the proximity of the event to the east coast of the United States; and, that this physical distance was more significant in determining the degree of media coverage an event received than the success or failure of the event itself. This thesis found that the consistent identification of specific media frames across a span of 12-years was a useful new method of framing and narrative analysis that broadened certain understandings of contemporary mediation and mediatization. The originality of this thesis in pre-selecting media frames and analyzing their changes against multiple case studies was ultimately successful, and establishes grounds for future research efforts towards understanding how violent media narratives respond to (and are processed by) corporate media networks and rolling television news.
Date of Award2018
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Aberystwyth University
SupervisorJames Vaughan (Supervisor) & Alistair Shepherd (Supervisor)

Cite this