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Close, but not close enough? Audience’s reactions to domesticated distant suffering in international news coverage

Eline Huiberts (UGent) and Stijn Joye (UGent)
Author
Organization
Abstract
The interest in audience responses to mediated distant suffering has been growing in the last decade. Earlier research about the mediation of distant suffering was often morally or theoretically based, or textually informed and recent empirical research has often focused on how the theories and text–based studies resonate with empirical research of the audience. Earlier text–based research has found that journalists domesticate news about distant events to bring such events closer by and thus make them more relevant and appealing. Four types to domesticate news about distant suffering were found; emotional domestication, aid–driven domestication, familiarizing the unfamiliar, and “what are the stakes”. These domestication strategies aim to establish a link between the distant event and the national or local context of the viewer to bring distant events closer to home and to invite the audience to care. Knowledge about the actual audience’s reactions towards domesticated news is lacking. Therefore, central to this study is whether, and how domestication strategies on the production side of the news, are recognized and if these, or other domesticating strategies are employed by the audience to be caring and morally engaged towards the distant victims. In order to study this we conducted ten focus groups (N=51) in January and February 2016, where we showed a news item about the earthquake in Nepal which happened nine months before. The empirical analysis is informed by concepts from the fields of moral and social psychology. For one, according to social psychological traditions, differentiation is made between people’s cognitive (rational) and affective (emotional) reactions towards their social environment. In addition, and more specifically, we used the concepts empathy and sympathy, defined in the field of moral– and social psychology to structurally analyze people’s reaction towards the mediated distant suffering. We also used the social psychologically informed concept of ‘denial’ to study people’s less caring reactions towards the mediated suffering. Based on the empirical results, we propose a two–flow model of domestication, consisting of first–level domestication on the production side by journalists, and second–level domestication where the audience themselves uses strategies of domestication to make sense of distant suffering. In addition, not all domestication strategies were equally, or equally successfully employed by the audience for a better understanding of– or moral engagement towards, the suffering.
Keywords
distant suffering, moralities, news consumption, journalism, domestication, audience research, focus groups

Citation

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Chicago
Huiberts, Eline, and Stijn Joye. 2017. “Close, but Not Close Enough? Audience’s Reactions to Domesticated Distant Suffering in International News Coverage.” In Etmaal Van De Communicatiewetenschap 2017. Tilburg: Tilburg University.
APA
Huiberts, E., & Joye, S. (2017). Close, but not close enough? Audience’s reactions to domesticated distant suffering in international news coverage. Etmaal van de communicatiewetenschap 2017. Presented at the Etmaal van de communicatiewetenschap 2017, Tilburg: Tilburg University.
Vancouver
1.
Huiberts E, Joye S. Close, but not close enough? Audience’s reactions to domesticated distant suffering in international news coverage. Etmaal van de communicatiewetenschap 2017. Tilburg: Tilburg University; 2017.
MLA
Huiberts, Eline, and Stijn Joye. “Close, but Not Close Enough? Audience’s Reactions to Domesticated Distant Suffering in International News Coverage.” Etmaal Van De Communicatiewetenschap 2017. Tilburg: Tilburg University, 2017. Print.
@inproceedings{8507457,
  abstract     = {The interest in audience responses to mediated distant suffering has been growing in the last decade. Earlier research about the mediation of distant suffering was often morally or theoretically based, or textually informed and recent empirical research has often focused on how the theories and text–based studies resonate with empirical research of the audience. Earlier text–based research has found that journalists domesticate news about distant events to bring such events closer by and thus make them more relevant and appealing. Four types to domesticate news about distant suffering were found; emotional domestication, aid–driven domestication, familiarizing the unfamiliar, and “what are the stakes”. These domestication strategies aim to establish a link between the distant event and the national or local context of the viewer to bring distant events closer to home and to invite the audience to care. Knowledge about the actual audience’s reactions towards domesticated news is lacking. Therefore, central to this study is whether, and how domestication strategies on the production side of the news, are recognized and if these, or other domesticating strategies are employed by the audience to be caring and morally engaged towards the distant victims. In order to study this we conducted ten focus groups (N=51) in January and February 2016, where we showed a news item about the earthquake in Nepal which happened nine months before. The empirical analysis is informed by concepts from the fields of moral and social psychology. For one, according to social psychological traditions, differentiation is made between people’s cognitive (rational) and affective (emotional) reactions towards their social environment. In addition, and more specifically, we used the concepts empathy and sympathy, defined in the field of moral– and social psychology to structurally analyze people’s reaction towards the mediated distant suffering. We also used the social psychologically informed concept of ‘denial’ to study people’s less caring reactions towards the mediated suffering. Based on the empirical results, we propose a two–flow model of domestication, consisting of first–level domestication on the production side by journalists, and second–level domestication where the audience themselves uses strategies of domestication to make sense of distant suffering. In addition, not all domestication strategies were equally, or equally successfully employed by the audience for a better understanding of– or moral engagement towards, the suffering. },
  author       = {Huiberts, Eline and Joye, Stijn},
  booktitle    = {Etmaal van de communicatiewetenschap 2017},
  keywords     = {distant suffering,moralities,news consumption,journalism,domestication,audience research,focus groups},
  language     = {eng},
  location     = {Tilburg, Netherlands},
  publisher    = {Tilburg University},
  title        = {Close, but not close enough? Audience’s reactions to domesticated distant suffering in international news coverage},
  year         = {2017},
}