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Remediating jihad for Western news audiences: the renewal of gatekeeping?

Gatekeeping is an important concept and practice for understanding both the ongoing transformation of the news media industry and the study of journalism and mass communication. The ‘connective turn’ (Hoskins, 2011) refers to the ways in which digitization of media content create unprecedented networked, diffused relations between news producers and consumers. It presents a fundamental, ontological challenge to broadcast-era metaphors (gate, channel, flow) and not least to traditional understandings of who news gatekeepers are, where gates lie, the presumed audience, community or culture gatekeeping is done for, and indeed what it means to gatekeep. This challenge becomes evident through the analysis we present of the processes through which four jihadist speeches by bin Laden, Al-Zawahiri and others are translated and remediated from their original websites, languages and contexts by various translation intermediaries and by Western mainstream news, including the BBC. Detailed analysis of four examples demonstrates an apparently simple and settled gatekeeping model that produces systematic patterns of translation, selection and omission whereby lengthy, complex multimodal jihadist productions are reduced to short aggressive outbursts. This gatekeeping, however, is embedded within a much broader communication network the text moves through, including terrorism-monitoring sites, Arabic media, and jihadist websites’ own self-monitoring and feedback services. By ignoring these broader networks and contexts, Western news creates an obstacle to understanding why such texts may be appealing to some Muslim audiences, and offers and delimits a ‘mainstream’ understanding which other research indicates Muslim and non-Muslim audiences are dissatisfied with. We recommend further research to follow how original productions are gatekept for many purposes by many sets of actors, so that we can begin to understand how media ‘messages’ move beyond the control of their originators. A focus on multilingual, multiplatform gatekeeping helps illuminate how the loci and forms of power and authority are changing in the connective turn, and to which media practitioners and scholars must adapt.

Project contact: 

Ben O'Louglin,

    Project members: 

  • Dr Ben O'Loughlin is a Reader in International Relations at Royal Holloway, University of London. His current research interests lie in the area of international political communication, particularly the relationship between media, war, new security challenges and conflict. He is co-Director of the New Political Communications Unit, and MSc Coordinator (Politics Programmes).

    Andrew Hoskins is Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of Warwick, UK, and director of the Warwick Centre for Memory Studies.

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