(Dr. Brooke Barnett) School of Communications
American journalists entered a new era of breaking news
coverage as they watched and reported on the September 11
terrorist attacks. Previous research documented this breaking
news model, but did not account for how American journalists
cover terrorist attacks that happen abroad.
Previous research showed that during the September 11
coverage, journalists broke traditional journalistic rules.
Four years after September 11, did CNN cover the terrorist
attack in London with more objectivity than the September 11
This study attempts to answer that question with a content
analysis of the breaking news coverage after explosions
rocked London’s transit system on July 7, 2005.
CNN’s first five hours of breaking news coverage on
July 7, 2005 was coded for quantitative categories such as
reporting anonymous sources and rumors and the amount of time
spent working outside of the traditional journalistic role.
This coverage was compared with a previous September 11 study
that used the same coding sheet. The data show that CNN
journalists who covered breaking news of both terrorist
attacks broke out of traditional journalistic norms,
reporting rumors, using anonymous sources and including
personal references in their reporting.
This study also revealed differences in CNN’s coverage
of domestic terrorist events as compared to those abroad.
Preliminary results show the reporters violated traditional
journalistic norms less often during the coverage of the
subway bombing. Potential reasons for this difference such as
lessons learned from the September 11 coverage, the need to
be more patriotic during the domestic threat, and an
ethnocentric frame of the events will be discussed.
(back to main page)