nova scotiaBURNING A Critical Discourse Analysis of The Chronicle Herald's cross burning series Jolene Titus GPRL 6103 April 2011
The Story Behind the Story
February 2010 – Nathan and Justin Rehberg, Caucasian, burn a cross on the lawn of a biracial couple in Hants County, Nova Scotia.
February 2010 – March held in Windsor, Nova Scotia to show support for the couple
Spring / Fall 2010 – Court appearances and pleadings
January 2011 – Brothers sentenced for inciting hatred by burning a cross
February 2011 – The Chronicle Herald runs a four-day series on last year's cross burning incident to find out the “story behind the cross-burning.”
To understand how, through these four texts, The Chronicle Herald treated the cross-burning incident and the topic of racism.
To understand how the texts contribute to broader discourses about racial relations in Nova Scotia.
This is a gap in empirical research on the issue of racial treatment by media in Nova Scotia.
Racism and Media
Media tell us what to think about and how to think about it. (agenda setting theory) (McCoombs, 1994; Griffin, 2009)
Under-representation of Black perspectives in media. (Mahtani, Henry & Tator, 2008; Miller, 1994, Miller 2005/2006)
Media stories reinforce negative stereotypes of minorities and furthers a distinction of “otherness”. (Henry & Tator, 2003).
Lack of racial representation in news coverage and in the newsroom. (Miller, 2005/2006)
Critical Discourse Analysis
Discourse is socially constituted and conditioned (Blommaert & Bulcean, 2000)
“Critical discourse analysts want to know what structures, strategies or other properties of text, talk, verbal interaction or communicative events play a role in these modes of reproduction.” (Van Dijk, 1993, p. 250)
Findings Discourse that furthers racial power inequities through its use of language, subject matter and discourse. Three themes: (1) the construction of difference through otherness and class hierarchy (2) repositioning of victims and villains (3) sustaining power through denial
Difference, Otherness, Class Hierarchy Racial qualifiers
“Once we made contact with Shayne Howe and Michelle Lyon, the biracial couple…” (Brooks Arenburg, 2011b, ¶ 17).
“[Nathan] had recently returned from Halifax to live at his mother and stepfather’s house with Mason, who is part Hispanic (Brooks Arenburg, 2011d, ¶ 35).”
“We’re not taught what is the truth," said Michael Paris, a black man who lives in nearby Windsor” (Brooks Arenburg, 2011e, ¶ 8) (Emphasis added).
Repositioning Victims and Villains Article #1 Article #2 Article#3
Repositioning Victims and Villains Justification of action/role of gossip Paragraph 10-12 “…it was the kind of talk [the gossip] that followed the brothers wherever they went. At school. At parties. Socializing with friends. Even when visitors came to their home. He couldn’t take it,” said Alisha Caldwell, 17, Justin’s girlfriend of almost six years. “…it hurt us.” (Brooks Arenburg, 2011c, ¶10-12) Paragraph 37-38 “But in the months after the rally, things began to change, the couple said. People stopped waving as they drove past and the family felt uncomfortable again in their community. On April 17, Lyon’s car was torched while parked at her father’s home in Avondale.” (Brooks Arenburg, 2011c, ¶37-38).
Sustaining Power through Denial Defining racism and hate through “cross burning”
Mississippi if the North: Is this label deserved? (Headline, 2011e).
Photo caption “I see my house getting burned down…my family getting hurt….me getting killed. That’s what I see when I see a burning cross” (Shayne Howe) (Brooks Arenburg, 2011a).
“Justin Rehberg said he saw the cross-burning ‘more as vandalism than ..... a direct response to’ Howe’s skin colour. ‘I just didn’t want to do damage toanything.” (Brooks Arenburg, 2011a, ¶ 43-44).
Future Considerations Explore how the news is produced (stories decided) to shape this and other stories related to racial issues in Nova Scotia. Larger social and news agendas must also be considered. How does The Chronicle Herald treat racial issues in other stories? How did other news outlets treat this particular issue? What was the response from readers?
References Blommaert, J., & Bulcaen, C. (2000). Critical discourse analysis. Annual Review of Anthropology, 29, 447-466. doi: 0084- 6570/00/1015-0447 Brooks Arenburg, P. (2011a, February 2). Nova Scotia burning. The Chronicle Herald, pp. A1, A6. Brooks Arenburg, P. (2011b, February 2). How this series was produced. The Chronicle Herald, p. A2. Brooks Arenburg, P. (2011c, February 3). Why did they do it? The Chronicle Herald, pp. A1, A4. Brooks Arenburg, P. (2011d, February 4). ‘The cross-burners’. The Chronicle Herald, pp. A1, A4. Brooks Arenburg, P. (2011e, February 5). Mississippi of the north: Is this label deserved? The Chronicle Herald, pp. A6, A7. Griffin, E. (2009). A first look at communication theory (7th ed.). New York: McGraw Hill. Retrieved from http://www.afirstlook.com/main.cfm/theory_resources/Agenda_Setting_Theory#contentTop Henry, F., & Tator, C. (2003, February). Deconstructing the “rightness of whiteness” in television commercials, news and programming. (Report submitted to the Centre of Excellence for Research on Immigration and Integration). Retrieved April 3, 2011, from http://www.pmc.metropolis.net/generalinfo/info_content/Final%20Report%20- %20Henry,%20Frances.pdf Mahtani, M., Henry, D., & Tator, C. (2008). Representing race: Are Canadian news media racist? In J. Greenberg & C. D. Elliott, Communication in question. Competing perspectives on controversial issues in communication studies (pp.120-130). Toronto, On: Nelson. Miller, J. (1994, July). How Canada’s daily newspapers shut out minorities. Media Magazine.Retrieved April 3, 2011 from Media Awareness Network: http://www.media- awareness.ca/english/resources/articles/diversity/papers_minorities.cfm Miller, J. (2005/2006). Who’s telling the news? Racial representation among news gatherers in Canada’s daily newsrooms. International Journal of Diversity in Organizations, Communities and Nations, 55(4), 133-142. Retrieved from http://ijd.cgpublisher.com/product/pub.29/prod.251 McCoombs, M. (1994). New influence on our pictures of the world. In J. Bryant & D. Zillmann(Eds.)., Media effects: Advances in theory and research (pp.1-16). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum. Van Dijk, T. A. (1991). Racism and the press. London: Routledge. Van Dijk, T. A. (1993). Principles of critical discourse analysis. Discourse & Society, 42(2): 249-283. doi:10.1177/0957926593004002006