The thesis undertakes a detailed textual analysis of the coverage of the 2002 Bali bombing in three Australian newspapers. It compares two Sydney newspapers - the tabloid Daily Telegraph and the broadsheet Sydney Morning Herald - and the national broadsheet, the Australian. The central research questions are: how do the three newspapers construct the 2002 Bali bombing; and how does their coverage invoke or participate in discourses of the nation? The thesis investigates each newspaper’s coverage under three headings: its representations of Australian victims, of Bali and Indonesia, and of terrorism and politics. It argues that in each of these fields the newspapers address their readers in distinctive ways.
Methodologically, the thesis acknowledges the semiotic complexity of the newspaper texts and of the everyday experience of reading them. The analysis therefore takes in not just journalists’ words, but also images (photographs, cartoons, drawings, maps, diagrams), captions, page layout and headers, font size, especially of headlines, combinations of word and image, and narrative sequencing of articles and pages. In order to do this, original paper and microfilm sources were accessed, rather than on-line databases. The central methodology of detailed textual analysis is supplemented by content analyses.
On the first mode of address, to the Australian as mourner, the thesis compares the Daily Telegraph and the Sydney Morning Herald in terms of how affectively-oriented that address is and what implications flow from it. The second comparison concerns the papers’ constructions of Bali and Indonesia. The differences hinge on divergent approaches to ethnicity and nation. Whereas the first paper’s ethnocentric address leads to its substantial ignoring of the state of Indonesia and to a patronising construction of Balinese, the Sydney Morning Herald’s multicultural and cosmopolitan address constructs Balinese sympathetically and investigates the complexities of Indonesia’s nascent democracy. Thirdly, the thesis explores differences in how the two papers construct terrorism and politics. The key variant here is the papers’ degree of adherence or otherwise to the principles of the US discourse of the “war on terror”. This entails quite distinct approaches to the force of condemnation of those suspected of the bombing, and to the importance of fear of future attacks, as well as to connections made between the Bali atrocity and the USA’s proposals to invade Iraq for its supposed weapons of mass destruction.
Rounding out the Daily Telegraph/Sydney Morning Herald comparison is an analysis of the Australian’s representations of the bombing. The newspaper differs from the other two in being nationally distributed, but resembles the Daily Telegraph as another publication from News Ltd, and the Sydney Morning Herald as another broadsheet. The thesis investigates how far its constructions of Australian victims and of Bali and Indonesia align with those of its sister paper or those of its broadsheet competitor. The question here is the degree of pluralism or otherwise in its understandings of the province and the state. On terrorism and politics, the key question is the extent to which the US discourse of the “war on terror” affects the paper’s accounts of these issues.
The conclusions draw together the comparisons between the three Australian newspapers in terms of issues of tabloid and broadsheet, of press pluralism and partisanship, of conceptions of citizenship in a social democracy, and of the principles of the fourth estate.