Surveillance Normalization and Critique

Wahl-Jorgensen, Karin, Bennett, Lucy and Cable, Jonathan ORCID: 0000-0002-2585-3419 (2017) Surveillance Normalization and Critique. Digital Journalism, 5 (3). pp. 386-403. doi:10.1080/21670811.2016.1250607

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In the aftermath of Edward Snowden’s leaks about “bulk data collection” by the National Security Agency and Government Communications Headquarters, questions about mass surveillance have come to the forefront of public debate. This paper, based on (1) a comprehensive content analysis of newspaper coverage, and (2) interviews with journalists covering stories related to surveillance in the United Kingdom, outlines a key tension between journalists’ self-understandings and practices which has profound consequences. On the one hand, we suggest, media coverage contributes to normalizing surveillance by emphasizing concerns about national security and stressing the surveillance of elites, to the detriment of an interest in the gathering of “bulk data” on populations. On the other hand, journalists, though acknowledging national security concerns, are frequently critical of and resistant to the extent, nature and necessity of mass surveillance. Our paper suggests that despite journalists’ desire to communicate the complexities of mass surveillance, the structural constraints of their professional practice—in particular their reliance on official sources—make it difficult for reporting to move beyond the legitimating discourses provided by these official sources.

Item Type: Article
Article Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: Content analysis, Interviews, Journalism, Mass Surveillance, National Security, Objectivity, Snowden, Surveillance
Related URLs:
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General) > PN4699 Journalism
Divisions: Schools and Research Institutes > School of Creative Arts
Research Priority Areas: Culture, Continuity, and Transformation
Creative Practice and Theory
Depositing User: Joe Cable
Date Deposited: 09 Mar 2018 15:49
Last Modified: 04 Feb 2022 12:17

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