1. city, Halabja; it hit Ezgeleh, Salase, Babajani

1.    
Introduction

 

1.1. Introduction

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On 12 November 2017, an earthquake with a magnitude of 7.3 Richter
struck Iran-Iraq border. The epicenter of this earthquake was south of the
Iraqi city, Halabja; it hit Ezgeleh, Salase, Babajani County, and Kermanshah
Province in Iran. According to official figures, 574 people were confirmed dead
and 9388 people injured. Besides, this earthquake was recognized as the
deadliest earthquake in 2017 which left over 70000 people homeless. The
discursive practices of media have an important role in covering the news of natural
disasters and organizing the disruptive information flow so that the media can
enhance control of the crises (Zhang, 2015). By constructing and strengthening
national cultural identity, the media discourse can create a sense of belonging
to the people trapped in the disaster and facilitate the control of it (Zhang,
2015). A study done by Keshishian (1997) focused on the media discourse on
Armenian and Iranian earthquake in New York times and Washington Post from
sociopolitical perspective; the result of this study supported sociopolitical
theory: the media discourse was more sympathetic toward Armenia due to friendly
relations between United States and Soviet Union.  There is a lack of research in critical
discourse analysis of media discursive practices in facilitation of the control
of crises during natural disasters in Iran. This study will have to be done to
examine how media discursive practices have facilitated the control of the
crisis by strengthening national cultural identity.

 

1.2. Statement of the Problem

Iran is an intensely vulnerable country to natural disasters like
earthquakes, droughts, landslides, and floods. News values are considered
significant in the process of selection and structuring the news stories and
are classified in three groups: (1) values in news actors and events, (2)
values in news process, and (3) values in news text (Bednarek, 2006). According
to Bednarek (2006), natural disasters are considered newsworthy due to their
negativity as the basic factor of news under values in news actors and events
class. The overlay of news on natural disasters is based on the images of
public unrest, agonizing people, criminal activities, and disaster shock (Tierney,
Bevc & Kuligowski, 2006). However, news media have an important role not
only in reporting negative events like natural disaster but also in controlling
the crises by organizing the flow of information and shaping people’s thoughts
(Zhang, 2015). Most studies which were done have focused on ideological and
sociopolitical stands in reporting natural disasters (Joye, 2009; Keshishian,
1997; Sorenson 1991). Iranian scholars have not examined news media discourse
to find out how the news media discourse facilitated the control of the crises
by articulating national cultural identity. This study should be done to
investigate how news media discourse has controlled the crisis of Kermanshah
earthquake by articulating national cultural identity.

1.3. Significance of the Study

This study will have to be conducted to examine how the news media
discourse has characterized Kermanshah earthquake and has facilitated the
control of the crisis. Although the role of news media in constructing news
stories and shaping people’s knowledge and thoughts is huge (Joye, 2009), no
systematic critical discourse studies have been done to investigate how media
discourse has enhanced the control of natural disasters like earthquakes in
Iran which is a seismically active country.

 

1.4. Purpose of the Study

The purpose of this study is to investigate how news media
discourse in Iran characterized the Kermanshah earthquake and the leadership of
the crisis and how news media facilitated the control of the Kermanshah
earthquake crisis; a systematic critical analysis of the news media discourse
will be done to examine how news media discourse tried to balance the
information flow and construct national cultural identity to create a sense of
belonging to the individuals who were affected by the recent Kermanshah
earthquake. This study will investigate how news media promote national
identity by taking the historical, sociopolitical, and situational context into
consideration.

 

1.5. Research Questions

The questions which will be addressed in this study are as follows:

1)    
How
did the Iranian news media characterize the Kermanshah earthquake?

2)    
How
did the Iranian news media characterize the leadership of crisis?

3)    
How
did the Iranian news media enhance the control of the crisis by articulating
national cultural identity?

4)    
How
did historical events affect the promotion of national cultural identity in
newspaper articles?

5)    
How
did sociopolitical issues affect the promotion of national cultural identity in
newspaper articles?

 

1.6. Theoretical and Operational
Definition of Key Terms

1.6.1.    
Identity

Although the concept of identity is really difficult to define,
Flowerdew (2012) proposed a general definition of identity as a fluid construct
which is subject to change and is manifested in the individual’s social
practices specifically discursive practices; identities of an individual are
multiple and depend on the situational and historical contexts. Besides, he
added that identity is a binary construction which means that it is constructed
by both the individual’s thoughts and personality and the perception of the
individual by others in society (Flowerdew, 2012). The type of identity which
will be focused on in this study is the national cultural identity.

1.6.2.    
National Cultural Identity

Drawing on Anderson, Bourdieu, Burke, Hall, and Hallwachs, De
Cillia, Reisigl, and Wodak (1999) define national cultural identity as a
multidimensional phenomenon which is constructed in social, historical,
cultural, and political contexts and is unstable, dynamic, and vulnerable to
change. National cultural identity will be investigated in this case study by
the use of discourse-historical approach, systematic critical discourse
analysis, and cluster criticism.

1.6.3.    
Discourse-Historical Approach

This approach which was proposed by Wodak (2001) “attempts to integrate a large quantity of available
knowledge about the historical sources and the background of
the social and political fields in which ‘discursive events’ are embedded.” (p.
65).  She also added that “it analyses the historical dimension of discursive actions
by
exploring the ways in which particular genres of discourse are subject to
diachronic change.” (p. 65). The corpus of this study will be restricted to
newspaper articles which will be investigated by integrating historical and
sociopolitical knowledge affecting the discursive practices of news media.

1.6.4.    
Systematic Critical Discourse Analysis

Fairclough (as cited in Meyer, 2001) takes a middle-range theory
position and believes that there are dialectical relationships between elements
of social practices and semiosis; the order of the discourse is the semiotic
aspect of social order. In fact, he tries to find linguistic manifestations in
discursive practices by focusing on the elements of dominance, difference, and
resistance while pursuing emancipatory objectives. Fairclough starts with the
investigation of semeiotic representations of the social problem; he uses
Halliday’s system functional linguistics to analyze language as shaped by its
social functions. After finding the dominant styles, he attempts to find
resistant styles and to take emancipatory actions. In this study, Fairclough’s
systematic critical discourse analysis will be utilized to find the semiotic
representations of Kermanshah earthquake in newspaper articles and to
investigate dominance, difference, and resistance elements in semiotic
representations of the event and how these elements contributed to the
facilitation of the control of the crisis and promotion of the national
cultural identity.

1.6.5.    
Cluster Criticism

 Burke (as cited in Littlefield & Quenette, 2007)
believes that the cluster criticism allows the researchers to investigate the
writer’s motives underlying the words and artifacts used in the text. The
researcher can use cluster criticism to understand the writer’s intentions and
motivations reflected in the symbolic use of language. In this study, the
cluster criticism will be used to investigate how news media characterized the
crisis and its leadership.

1.7. Anticipated Limitations and
Delimitations

The only limitation of this study will be pertinent to the process
of gathering the corpus; the researcher may face some difficulties in gathering
the newspaper articles on Kermanshah earthquake issue. Besides, the
delimitation of this is that the researcher of this study restricted the genre
under study to the newspaper articles on Kermanshah earthquake to make the
study feasible.

 

 

2.    
Literature Review

 

News value determines what news stories will be selected and
structured by the news media (Bednarek, 2006). The basic factor of news value
in social actors and events is negativity; natural disasters are considered to
be of high value for reporting due to their negativity factor (Bednarek, 2006).
Although news stories about natural disasters have been considered
non-political, the results of the study done by (Keshishian, 1997) showed that
even the news stories about non-political issues are affected by political
bias. News media have been considered to have a crucial role in shaping the
public’s thoughts, interpretations, and knowledge about events and social
actors (Joye, 2009). As discourse and society are mutually constitutive
(Flowerdew, 2012), News media discourse is affected by social actions and
produces social actions. Therefore, media discourse can be effective in shaping
people’s interpretation of the natural disasters and in producing social
actions to relieve the pain and pressure on people affected by natural
disasters (Zhang, 2015). News media discourse also characterize the leadership
of the crisis by authorities (Littlefield & Quenette, 2007);
furthermore, news media discourse tends to promote national cultural identity
in the times of crises like natural disasters to create a sense of belonging to
all individuals who are affected by natural disasters (Zhang, 2015). As it was
mentioned before, identity is a binary construction (Flowerdew, 2012).

National identity like other types of identities is unstable, dynamic,
and subject to change depending on situational and historical contexts
(Flowerdew, 2012). One of the assumptions of De Cillia, et al. (1999) was that
the national identities like other social identities are “discursively, by
means of language and other semiotic systems, produced, reproduced,
transformed, and destructed.” (p. 6). They also asserted that mass media
discourse has a pivotal role in disseminating and promoting national identities
which are constructed in social, political, cultural, and situational contexts.

Several studies have been done to investigate how media discourse characterized
natural disasters. A study done by Keshishian (1997) investigated how American
newspapers portrayed Armenian and Iranian earthquakes; the results of this
study showed that both New York Times and Washington Post treated the Armenian
earthquake with more sympathy because of their political bias. Their political
bias was evident in the amount of news reports and the language used to portray
the earthquakes. The results of the study done by Sorenson (1991) show that the
media discourse is not ideologically neutral; the media discourse was
constructed to highlight West’s good will and charity toward Africa’s famine
and how the influences of West on Africa was thwarted by the machinations of
Soviet Union. Joye (2009) investigated how Western Media represented
international crises and found out that Western news Media reproduced a global
hierarchy by representing the natural disasters in Europe and America more
comprehensively and sympathetically and normalizes inequality by unfair detached
representation of natural disasters in Indonesia and Pakistan. These studies (Joye,
2009; Keshishian, 1997; Sorenson, 1991) focused on the political and
ideological dimensions which influenced the media discourse on natural
disasters. Other studies focused on the adequacy and efficiency of media discourse
on natural disasters (Jalali, 2002; Tierney et al., 2006). The study done by
Jalali (2002) showed that news media discourse in Turkey has been effective in
showing the daily struggles of the survivors, raising the survivors’ awareness of
their rights, focusing on the corruption of political parties, and criticizing
the government due to its inadequate responses to the deadly earthquake.
However, the study done by Tierney et al. (2006) showed that media discourse
following Katrina presented oversimplified pictures of the natural disaster and
distorted characterization of human responses to the catastrophe; the media
discourse fell short of representing the facts and focused on spreading rumors
about lawlessness in New Orleans to reinforce political discourse calling for a
greater role of military management. Afterwards, the news media discourse was
criticized by journalists themselves. A study done by Littlefield and Quenette
(2007) showed that both negative and positive clusters of criticisms were based
on the political and ideological stands of newspaper putting the blame on
federal government and local authorities. Most research neglected how news
media can enhance the control of the crisis; the study conducted by Zhang
(2015) investigated how the Chinese news media enhanced the control of crisis
by formulating a discourse of resistance to strengthen Chinese national
cultural identity. Only one study done by Keshishian (1997) investigated news
media discourse on natural disasters in Iran. Due to a lack of research in news
media discourse on n This study should be conducted to investigate how Iranian
news media discourse characterizes Kermanshah earthquake and the leadership of
the crisis; besides, this study will examine how news media enhances the
control of crisis by articulating national cultural identity. To achieve these
objectives, the researcher of this study will utilize discourse-historical
approach of Wodak (2001), Fairclough’s systematic critical discourse analysis
(as cited in Meyer, 2001), and Burke’s cluster criticism (as cited in
Littlefield & Quenette, 2007).

 

 

 

 

 

3.    
Methodology

 

 

3.1. Corpus

The researcher of this study will gather the newspaper articles on
Kermanshah earthquake by sampling the newspaper articles from two right-wing
newspapers and two left-wing newspapers. The conservative newspapers which are
considered to be mostly-read are Jaam-e Jam and Kayhan while the reformist
newspapers are Etemad and Arman. The researcher will select the newspaper
articles on Kermanshah earthquake dated between 13 November, 2017 to 21
January, 2018.

3.2. Design

This study will be a descriptive content analysis of newspaper
articles on Kermanshah earthquake. According to Ary, Jacobs, Sorensen, and
Walker (2013), content analysis is a qualitative method of research focusing on
describing specified characteristics of the materials like textbooks,
newspapers, advertisement, and so on. This study will focus on the newspaper
articles on Kermanshah earthquake to describe how these newspaper articles
characterized Kermanshah earthquake and the leadership of crisis; additionally,
these texts will be examined to describe how newspaper articles enhanced the
control of crisis by promoting national cultural identity.

3.3. Data Analysis

The researcher of this study will use Fairclough’s systematic steps
in critical discourse analysis (as cited in Meyer, 2001) to describe how
Kermanshah earthquake was characterized by the newspaper articles and how
leadership of the crisis was characterized. Fairclough (as cited in Meyer,
2001) suggests the researchers to follow four steps in structural analysis of
the context (defining the problem, finding dominant styles, considering the range
of differences, finding resistant styles) before conducting the interactional
analysis which is focused on the analysis of linguistic features (linguistic manifestations
or semiosis). Besides, the researcher will use Burke’s cluster criticism (as
cited in Littlefield & Quenette, 2007) to find out the positive and
negative clusters about the leadership of crisis and to find the hidden
motivations of the writers describing the leadership of the crisis. To answer
the remaining questions on the national cultural identities, the researcher
will use discourse-historical approach proposed by Wodak (2001) to integrate
historical, political, and social aspects of the event influencing the process
of construction and promotion of national cultural identity. Situated in
historical context, the discourse-historical approach focuses on a number of
strategies: referential strategies, strategies of predication, strategies of argumentation,
strategies of perspectivation, and strategies of intensification and
mitigation. By the use of these strategies, the researcher will find out the
hidden sociopolitical ideologies linked with the historical context in the
process of articulating national cultural identity in the newspaper articles.

 

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