The WMD Coverage of Blogs and Mainstream Media: A Comparison of Two Media Types

Article excerpt

Abstract

This study analyzes coverage of Iranian and North Korean weapons of mass destruction (WMD) by blogs and mainstream media, examining how the two types of media deal with international news, based on the theoretical framework of second-level intermedia agenda-setting. Attribute agendas of blogs are found to be positively correlated with the mainstream attribute agendas with regard to the issue of WMD coverage. The results indicate that despite many distinct characteristics, blogs cover international news in ways very similar to mainstream media

The WMD coverage of blogs and mainstream media: A comparison of two media types

In the contemporary cyberworld, blogging has become a prominent way to communicate. Blogs arguably function as news media providing information to significant numbers of audiences, although it is questionable whether the contents of blogs meet professional criteria of mainstream media journalism. The A-list blogs, commanding great attention online, have made their voices increasingly louder, as the size of blog audiences has exploded (Rainie, 2005). Blogs have gained extensive readership as a result of several important incidents: the 9/11 terrorist attack, the U.S. invasion of Iraq, and the 2004 U.S. Presidential election. Blogs function as news media that attract large audiences with the world of blogs-the blogosphere-being composed of constellations of individual blogs. With millions of different blogs, it is possible that many blogs replicate contents from other blogs as well as from mainstream media.

With regard to blogs, especially political or public affairs blogs, operating as news media with a significant number of readers, it is natural to question whether blogs' coverage of news events is similar to, or different from, that of mainstream media. To answer that question, this study investigates coverage of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) with second level agenda-setting as a theoretical framework. Weapons of mass destruction in Iran and North Korea have been heavily covered both by mainstream media and by blogs since President Bush identified those two nations as members of the "axis of evil." Because intensive coverage has produced large amounts of news reports in both blogs and mainstream media, it is possible to compare how the two media types cover a specific subject.

The goal of this study is to examine coverage of WMD in two different media from two different angles. First, this study compares the blog agenda and the mainstream media agenda at the attribute level for purposes of investigating the relationship of blog coverage with that of mainstream media. Second, the coverage of the Iranian WMD is compared with that of North Korean to find differences or similarities between the two. Based on comparisons from those two perspectives, the study seeks to contribute to an understanding of blog reporting with regard to international news. Further, intermedia agenda-setting at the second level is tested against global issues in the context of international communication.

Agenda-setting

Agenda-setting research has traced how people think about a variety of social issues and how likely their perceived importance of different issues corresponds with media coverage. Since the inception of the agenda-setting concept in the Chapel Hill study (McCombs & Shaw, 1972), researchers have refined the theory in fields such as contingent conditions and have further expanded applications to new arenas including attribute agenda-setting and consequences (McCombs, 2004).

With the advent of the Internet, the agenda-setting theory faces both opportunities and challenges in its application to new communication phenomena introduced by new technologies (Chaffee & Metzger, 2001; Takeshita, 2006), a prominent example being that of blogging. Because blogs are distinguished from traditional media in many different ways, the study of blogs' news coverage offers yet another approach to comprehend the blog phenomenon. …