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This chapter focuses on media organisations and journalists as sources of outside-in warnings of conflict. Conflict prevention scholars have touched on media’s role in preventive action, but not studied it in any depth. International political communication scholarship offers few relevant insights about the media as warners, as it concentrates on their role during crises or in the build-up to military interventions and wars. This chapter fills this gap by presenting original empirical research on how and when journalists communicate warnings and under what conditions these warnings may gain traction with officials and decision-makers. Our investigation is theoretically grounded in the persuasion framework of Chapter 2, but we also draw on insights from studies about the media as communicators that are in many ways distinct from other outside-in warners such as NGOs. There are three parallel research lines: (1) textual analysis of media coverage showing how news outlets have warned about eight different crises, (2) analyst surveys, and (3) interviews with foreign correspondents and capital-based foreign news editors, officials and NGO staff. Newspapers were selected according to variation across reach, political orientation and nationality; are from countries committed to conflict prevention (US, UK, France, Germany); and cover the whole political spectrum.
After the ‘CNN effect’ concept was coined two decades ago, it quickly became a popular shorthand to understand media-conflict interactions. Although the connection has probably always been more complex than what was captured in the concept, research needs to be updated in order to better understand the multifaceted contemporary environments of both media and conflict. There are growing numbers and types of media sources, and multiple interactions between media and conflict actors, policymakers and engaged publics from the local to the global and back. We argue that understanding the impact of media reporting on conflict requires a new framework that captures the multilevel and hybrid media environments of contemporary conflicts. This study provides a roadmap of how to systematically unpack this environment. It describes and explains how different levels, interactions, and forms of news reporting shape conflicts and peacebuilding in local, national and regional contexts, and how international responses interact with multiple media narratives. With these tools, comprehensive understandings of contemporary local to global media interactions can be incorporated into new research on media and conflict.
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