Mideast Media Analysis Group of the Victoria Peace Coalition
August 01, 2003
Summarized here is an analysis of how the Times Colonist, Victoria, British Columbia's daily newspaper covers the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and how this coverage helps readers interpret what is happening. The Times Colonist is one of many Canadian papers owned by CanWest Global Communications Corp. The paper's Editor-in-Chief is Andrew Phillips, whose comments about his own editorial practices, including answers to my own questions in a public seminar, helped me develop the paper's analytic framework. He acknowledged the paper's policy of being pro-Israel. He also declared the Times Colonist to be a middle-of-the-road paper, and that given his concerns about declining circulation, his goal is to publish a paper that matches the preferences of the largest number of potential Victoria readers. My analytic purpose was to determine, through careful textual analysis, if and how these informally stated policies play out in the paper's news coverage. The data analysed include all the stories related to the mid-east conflict published in the Times Colonist between January 29 (just after the re-election of Ariel Sharon) and March 28, 2003 (by which time the US/UK invasion of Iraq had obliterated attention to the Israeli-Palestinian situation). Mr. Phillips subscribes to the view that readers can and do "make anything they like" of the paper's news stories and pictures. That has not been my impression and, indeed, the argument that I make here contradicts it. But, not satisfied to base a judgement of "bias" on the fact of the paper's Jewish ownership, I treated the paper's accounts of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as the fixed side of a "text-reader conversation" that I and other readers would enter. We would, of course, bring our own views and knowledge to the reading. But, as a text produced in a specific institution, the paper influences in ways that I wanted to discover and describe.