This article proceeds from the assumption that entertainment texts—particularly controversial ones—function in a broad intertextual field and that their political significance does not lie solely in their value as stand-alone texts, or in their direct influence on political knowledge, attitudes, opinions, and behaviors, but in their ability to instigate politically relevant discussions in other media venues. Focusing on the mediated discourse surrounding two controversial U.S. docudramas, The Reagans and The Path to 9/11, this study examines the political qualities of the public discourse surrounding these docudramas in the U.S. news media and investigates which factors were significant predictors of political substance in this discourse. Based on a distinction between “issue substance” and “media substance” as the two major types of political substance that emerge in the discourse surrounding controversial texts, the analysis demonstrates how these types of political substance varied across the two docudramas and across various dimensions of the discourse, among them the time in which the discussion took place. The analytical framework presented in this article is offered as a platform for future examinations of the contribution of media-centered political scandals to public discourse, the conditions under which entertainment texts spur substantive political discussions, and the complex interactions between journalism, entertainment, and politics in contemporary media environments.
This article examines the strategies and practices by which the Israeli news media negotiated and (re)appropriated a Lebanese documentary that was produced in cooperation with a French company and was purchased and broadcast by an Israeli commercial channel. Using this transnational textual event, the article explores the dynamics, opportunities and pitfalls associated with transcultural exchanges that take place in a conflictual, translocal context, and the ways in which such exchanges are shaped by an interplay of material-institutional and discursive-symbolic dimensions. The article also provides a multi-layered framework for analyzing the broadcasting and journalistic practices surrounding such textual events, and establishes the relationship between appropriation and witnessing strategies. I show how the Israeli media—driven by commercial interests and applying complex forms of witnessing and appropriation—worked to sustain national myths and suppress the potentially disruptive aspects of the documentary, while at the same time exposing the weaknesses of these myths, as well as the limits of the State's power. Emerging from this case study is a complex picture of the multifaceted roles played by national news media in a transnational economy, and of the ways in which commercial media interests serve as both hegemonic and disruptive forces within the context of the Israeli-Arab conflict.
How does the journalistic community negotiate its identity, boundaries, and authority in relation to individuals and cultural forms that challenge the definitions of who is a journalist and what constitutes journalism? And how does it do so against the background of a growing academic validation of these alternative news venues? This study focuses on the figure of Jon Stewart, host of Comedy Central’s The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, and on the stages and strategies by which Stewart was embedded into mainstream journalistic discourse, and in which journalists negotiated Stewart’s definition, authority, and position vis-à-vis the U.S. journalistic community. By examining the journalistic discourse over a period of nine years and adopting a cultural, inter-textual, process-oriented approach, the paper seeks to go beyond the framework of “paradigm repair,” attempting to account for journalism’s changing identity and boundaries, while paying particular attention to the ways in which those boundaries are shaped by a complex interplay among different players within, on, and outside the margins of the journalistic community. The paper also suggests that Stewart’s relatively successful co-optation was due to a fit between the normative and epistemological assumptions of three central players — the journalistic community, political communication scholars, and Stewart himself.
This article explores the myriad uses of television drama in mediated political discourse using the case study of 24, Fox's counterterrorism drama. It examines references to 24 in articles and columns of nine major daily newspapers, magazines, and political Web sites from 2001 to 2007 and demonstrates how the show was invoked to support and express different political opinions, how political identity and media preferences were reconciled, and how different categories of use interacted with different political allegiances, as well as different assumptions about the ontological and epistemological status of the show. The study shows that while, at one level, fictional events and characters can function in political discourse in similar ways to nonfictional people and events, the “ontological openness” of politically relevant fictional texts serves as a resource for political discourse that is not readily available through nonfiction media texts. Finally, this article is an attempt to revisit and develop the concept of inter-textuality as a way to account for the complex interactions within the contemporary media environment, analyze media-related practices beyond direct viewing experiences, and bridge text-centered and audience-centered approaches to communication studies. Within this framework, journalists and political commentators are viewed as both mediators of other media texts for their audiences and as audiences in their own right who use these popular texts to negotiate and express their own identities and ideologies.
This article develops the concept of non-closure in sustained news stories, based on the case study of Ron Arad, an Israeli soldier who was taken captive in 1986 and whose story still continues to produce headlines in the Israeli press. Coverage of the Arad case was examined in the three major Israeli daily newspapers for a period of 17 years, and the textual mechanisms through which the story has been kept alive were identified. The article offers an analysis of three central non-closure strategies: maintaining suspense, thickening the plot, and keeping the protagonist alive. It is suggested that these strategies enhance readers' involvement with the journalistic texts and function as a bridge between the ritual and information transmission functions of news. Non-closure is thus conceptualized as a force that operates alongside the well-studied forces of closure and renders individual news pieces as episodes in a serial narrative rather than self-contained narrative units.
The introduction of the internet to ultra-Orthodox Jewish society has presented an acute dilemma. While seen as a potential carrier of secular values and officially banned, the internet also presents significant socio-economic opportunities for a community in which women are often the sole providers. This research focuses on the discursive strategies ultra-Orthodox women internet users employ to legitimate their use of this controversial technology. A glaring disparity was observed between these women's actual, subversive technology-related practices and the rhetorical construction of the same practices, which attempted to portray them as congruent with community values. We suggest that when investigating the domestication of new technologies, examining technology-related discourse may be no less important than the more common to date focus on practice.