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Julia Boelle

Research student, School of Journalism, Media and Culture

Two Central Square, Central Square, Cardiff, CF10 1FS


Thesis title:

The Media's Representation of Airplane Disasters: An Analysis of Themes, Language and Moving Images


This thesis examines the representation of airplane disasters in broadcast news. Although airplane incidents tend to receive a disproportionate amount of media coverage, research is lacking in journalism studies and disaster communication on how these disasters are reported in traditional mainstream media and broadcast news. These news sources are dominant in the UK and, given the extensive coverage attributed to airplane disasters, have the power to shape our understanding of the incidents. By drawing on relevant concepts from the academic literature, this thesis establishes that the representation of airplane disasters can be understood through several key features: media interest, the topics of the broadcasts, the causes and responses to the incidents, emotionality and ‘suffering’, safety and risk, uncertainty, ignorance and speculation as well as different types of visuals. The findings contribute to knowledge in journalism studies and disaster communication more generally as they refine our understanding of the concepts of speculation, emotionality and risk, and the visuals of television news. The research also suggests that there may be a shift in television news from traditional journalism to a more narrative form of reporting, which produces compelling coverage in line with ideals to ‘objectivity’ and truth-telling.

Supervisors: Professor Karin Wahl-Jorgensen and Professor Jenny Kitzinger

Successfully passed the viva voce on 2nd April 2020.




Professor Karin Wahl-Jorgensen

Director of Research Development and Environment

Professor Jenny Kitzinger

Professor Jenny Kitzinger

Director of Research: Impact and Engagement and Co-Director of the Coma and Disorders of Consciousness Research Centre