Listening Post
Norway's mass murder and the mass media
Media speculation and guesswork in the aftermath of the Norway attacks; and a one-on-one with Murdoch's biographer.
Last Modified: 30 Jul 2011 09:45

When news of a bomb blast and shooting first broke in Norway, media organisations the world over were quick to suggest that the people behind the attacks were Islamic terrorists. Even when the facts were hazy, security experts 'analysed', editorials speculated and front pages questioned why Islamic groups would want to attack Norway.

Then, when the perpetrator turned out to be a white, anti–Muslim Christian, news outlets were quick to replace the word terrorist with extremist.

Once the initial coverage calmed down, questions arose: Why were news organisations so quick to assume who was guilty? Is it just a by-product of a 24-hour news cycle? Is there a global news narrative that makes one group guilty until proven innocent? In our News Divide this week, we look at how speculation replaced facts and what the coverage of mass murder says about mass media.

In our News Bytes this week: CNN host Piers Morgan hits back at allegations that he knew about phone tapping when he was the editor of the UK's Daily Mirror; Murdoch publications criticise the media coverage of the phone tapping scandal; journalists in Ecuador are jailed for libel after accusing President Correa of crimes against humanity in a newspaper column; and Online talk show host turned MSNBC anchor, Cenk Uygur leaves the network for political reasons.

As the UK's phone hacking scandal rumbles on, the spotlight remains firmly on the beleaguered News Corp chairman Rupert Murdoch. But few know the media mogul as well as his biographer Michael Wolff. Wolff recorded some 60 hours of interviews, gaining a precious insight into how Murdoch runs his media empire and how editorially involved he gets in the day to day decisions.

Our host, Richard Gizbert caught up with Wolff in New York recently and discussed the similarities between this story and Watergate in the USA, the Guardian UK's role in breaking the story and the Murdoch dynasty's future at News Corp.

Our Internet Video of the Week will make you think twice about news priorities – like we touch on earlier in the show. In the mid 1980's, when East Africa was hit by one of the worst famine's in living memory, the world rallied to support the region. Musicians led the charge, with the famous Live Aid concert in Britain, and the multi-platinum charity single We Are the World in the US.

There were also hours of airtime and reams of news print in the world's media. Fast-forward to today: a famine has just been declared in Somalia but even with an estimated 10 million lives as risk, the story has got little play in the international media. That is a disparity San Francisco-based online cartoonist Mark Fiore has spotted. So he has borrowed the tune from the 1985 hit, updated the lyrics and changed the title to We Are the Whirled. We hope you enjoy the show.


Listening Post can be seen each week at the following times GMT: Saturday: 0830, 1930; Sunday: 1430; Monday: 0430.

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