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Saturday, July 20, 2013

International Issues Paper

Daniel Hawk and Jenik Hakhamzadeh

 International Issues Paper: Essay on Media and Historiography 

Whether it is apparent or not, media is writing the history of modern world. The development and ever evolving technology of electronic media has allowed man to capture and record important events. Scholars suggest that media and the manner in which it presents today’s most significant events will be the basis of the future generation’s concept of history. This means that a hundred years from now, our great grandchildren will refer to such events as portrayed by the mass media. 

However, some communication scholars argue that mainstream media tends to ‘”frame” certain events. The concept of framing comes from the idea that media has the power to draw the public’s attention on a particular topic. As media gatekeepers decide and select which topics to present, it also decides which topic is important and more significantly how the public will interpret that particular event. In short, media not only dictates the audience what to think, but also how to think about it. Therefore, today’s events which will be history tomorrow are all dependent on how mass media will present it.

This paper will discuss how media writes and presents tomorrow’s history. It will do so by analyzing how four international papers that features the recent news of North Korea’s nuclear attack plan. The newspapers which will be used will include United Kingdom’s Express, Canada’s National Post, Australia’s The Sydney Morning Herald, and United States’ The New York Times. This paper will focus solely on the news published from April 12 to 13, 2013. It will examine and compare how each paper presents the issue as well as how each presents and ignore certain aspects of the story. Finally, it will tackle how media produces such stories.

Print Media and North Korea’s Missile Attack Plans
            One of the most recent news that graced the international headline is North Korea’s plan to launch a missile attack against other countries. It was only last month when this totalitarian nation began issuing threats against the United States and South Korea regarding a pre-emptive nuclear strike. This news was featured by various international sections of newspapers around the world. It is however interesting to note how different newspapers presented and approached this issue in varying ways.
            The Australian newspaper The Sydney Morning Herald for instance, printed the article with the running title “Who’s afraid of Kim Jong-un?” In this piece, the author began by stating about North Korea’s “talent for outrageous threats and provocation”. The article continues by providing the readers with a brief summary about how North Korea retaliates with the United Nation’s Security Council imposed new sanction following the regime’s nuclear weapon test last February. This has then pushed the country to end the 60-year armistice that ended the Korean War, cut the lines of communication with Seoul, and ordered troops to be ready to “cut the windpipes” of their enemies. Similarly, the threat involves “wiping out” a South Korean island as well as to wage an “all-out war” including threats of nuclear strikes against the United States. It is also notable how the article emphasized that the new regime has only been in power for sixteen months, more importantly, the report mentioned that “North Korea under Kim Jong-un is stable. There is no sign of any opposition to the dynastic succession, and the barriers to change are tremendous”. This therefore means that the medium-range ballistic missile test is just another weapons test (Dorling, 2013, p.1).

            In this article, it is apparent that the writer seems to present reasons why North Korea’s threats are nothing but empty threats. The reasons are similarly backed by some logical evidences. What was most compelling about the reason was the fact that the writer pointed out that the North Korean military has not fought any war for the last 60 years, although it has a track record of “small” deadly attacks on its neighbor South Korea. More than the logic and the reasons that this article employs, it is the idea that the news of threats is in fact just some other news. Even the title itself seems to downplay the issue. The manner in which this news was reported seems to go in contrast with how mainstream media typically hypes and blows up news about threats of attack. This is for instance evident in how United Kingdom’s Express presented the news.

            The April 12, 2013 edition of Express published the article “North Korea states ‘nuclear war is unavoidable’ as it declares first target will be Japan”. The write up reports about the commentary carried out by the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) that the community country of North Korea will attack the island due to Tokyo’s standing order to destroy any missile heading towards Japan. The report continues by offering KCNA’s warning that “if Japan execute the threat to shoot down any North Korean missile, such a “provocative intervention would see Tokyo – an enormous conurbation of 30 million people – consumed in nuclear flames”. Similarly, the report included “fiery” statements from North Korea such as “the Korean Peninsula has been reduced to the biggest nuclear hotspot in the world making the outbreak of a nuclear war on this land is unavoidable”. The news also includes the belief that the launch is a build-up to the anniversary of the birth of its late leader Kin Il-Sung. Accordingly, the report ended with the lines from North Korea: “No force on earth can block the just cause of the army and the people of DPRK” (Meredith, 2013, p. 1).

            Unlike the first newspaper article from Australia, this British daily seems to present the issue in such a way that raises fear among the readers. The content which includes statements of threat indicates the idea that the nuclear war is indeed unavoidable. Throughout the article, it is also evident how the writer continues to reiterate the inevitability of war as it selected to include the statements such as “The North has declared it is confident of final victory”. Such statements therefore suggest that the news by itself is aimed at stirring emotions of panic and fear among the readers.

A parallel approach seems to be evident in the Canadian newspaper The National Post. It April 12, 2013 issue reads the headline “North Korea nuclear test likely after embarrassing failed rocket launch” which reports about the failed rocket launch of the communist state led by a new leader who is just in his late 20s. According to the report, the rocket flew just for a few minutes before exploding over the sea. The report continues by saying that this failure launch is regarded as the first public embarrassment of the new regime.

The paper, however, continues by adding the high possibility of a missile attack in order to prove that North Korea is indeed serious with in its plans: “Regional powers are worried that the North is using launches to perfect technology to enable it to build a missile capable of delivering a nuclear warhead to the United States”. The writer also added by saying that “If the United States, Japan and South Korea do ratchet up pressure on North Korea that could lead to a show of defiance from the North such as a nuclear test, or an attack like the one in 2010 that saw it shell a South Korean island, killing civilians”. Apart from this the paper included a statement from a senior South Korean defense ministry official which mentions the possibility of an additional long-range rocket launch or a nuclear test and military provocation is very high (Duncan and Park, 2013).

            Much like the approach taken by the British daily, this report by the Canadian newspaper seem to emphasize on the high possibility of nuclear and missile attacks. This is mostly evident the choice of statement that the writer included in the write up. Apart from this, the title itself already indicates the high probability that North Korea will push through with its plans in an attempt to undo to the public setback. More significantly, the article seem to also cause the reader to panic as it included the threat could be similar to the 2010 attacks of the North to a South Korean island which led to the death of civilians. It is also interesting to point out that the article missed the fact that the artillery shells fired in Yeonpyeong’s island killed on two civilians and injured nineteen. Apart from this, the article omitted the fact that Pyongyang’s missile program has been derived from the 1950’s Soviet Scud Technology which has exhibited slow progress for the past three decades. Instead, this article focused more the plans to use missiles to attack rather than the actual facts.

            Accordingly, this approach is also visible in the article of the US Newspaper The New York Times. The April 12 article which is entitled “Bomb North Korea, before it’s too late” discusses the increasing threats of the communist country to the United States. Again, much like the first article, this one gives a brief history regarding North Korea’s threats. The article however explains that the Korean “crisis now a strategic threat to America’s core national interest”. It then continues by saying that “the best option is to destroy the North Korean missile on the ground before it is launched. The United States should use a precise airstrike to render the missile and its mobile launcher inoperable”. Apart from this, the writer continues by warning that if the United States allows North Korea to continue its threatening behavior, it will jeopardize the economies of its neighboring countries and will similarly cause South Korea, Japan and other countries to develop their own nuclear weapons. Furthermore, the writer states that the “United States and its allies in the East Asia have a legitimate right to self-defence and they have a deep interest in deterring future threats on this scale”. The article ends by saying that this type of pre-emptive action would be the best resource as it would save lives and preserve peace (Suri, 2013).

                Much like the news from United Kingdom and Canada, New York Times’ approach towards the issue seem to lean towards the belief that the nuclear strike from North Korea is imminent. In this article however, the writer seem to focus on the threat itself by offering a solution which is to implement a pre-emptive action to bomb North Korea before it does the United States. And although the paper offers a “solution” it is evident that it did not include important facts that would cause the reader to think that perhaps the North is simply making empty threats. This includes the country’s history of not waging any attacks for more than half a century. Rather, this article mainly focused on the recent happenings that will lead the reader to think that the news about the North Korean threat is as true as it can get. Consequently, the manner in which it is written induces a sense of fear and panic among the readers.

Media Framing
            The four articles analyzed in this paper, although having one topic for its contents are evidently approached in a variety of ways. While the Australian newspaper downplays the news of nuclear attacks by offering reasons why it will not push through, the daily paper from Canada, United Kingdom, and the United States seems to present the news as something that is imminent. This is expressed in lines which predict who the communist state of North Korea is capable of killing hundreds of innocent civilians. There is also an obvious emphasis on the idea that North Korea is already testing several missiles which therefore suggests that it is already practicing or preparing its attack against the United States, South Korea, and Japan. And although these newspapers are simply “reporting” the news, it is important to note that the writers and the media gate keepers are responsible for how the news is written and presented. And in this case, the last three articles are communicated in such a way that the issue is hyped and seemingly blown out of proportion. It is in this context, that one can apply the concept of media framing.
            In media studies, framing is referred to as the social construction of a particular social phenomenon. This means that media, through its capability to select and organize which news to present, also has the power to draw the public’s attention. By adding, ignoring, and empahsizing specific facts and values of an issue, media is framing the way in which people will perceive the issue. Hence, the process involves influencing an individual’s perception regarding what topics are important and at the same time, it creates a mental representation of the issue (UT, 2012,p.1). The newspapers from the United Kingdom, Canada, and the United States, for instance, presented the news in such a way that the readers will believe that the threat of nuclear attacks is unavoidable. This is because the article selected lines and statement that could induce the reader to interpret its possibility. As such, people exposed to his news will accept the constructs as part of reality.

            The manner in which mainstream media is now presenting the facts or news therefore means that the readers must be more critical with the news handed to them. This means that the readers and the public in general must not simply accept whatever is presented by the media but rather, we must exercise media literacy and critical thinking. This means thoroughly evaluating, assessing, and reconstructing news and other facts presented by mainstream media.

Dorling, P. ( 2013 April 12). “Who’s afraid of Kim Jon-un”. The Sydney Morning Herald.
Duncan, M. & Park, J. (2013 April 12). “North Korea nuclear test likely after embarrassingfailed
rocket launch”. National Post. Retrieved 24 May 2013, from
Meredith, C. (2013, April 12) “North Korea states ‘nuclear war is unavoidable’ as it declares first
target will be Japan”. Express. Retrieved 24 May 2013, from
Suri, J. (2013 April 12). “Bomb North Korea, Before It’s Too Late”. The New York Times.
University of Twente. (2012). Media Framing. Retrieved 24 May 2013 from

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