Wednesday, April 25, 2007

"Shooting the Ayatollah" Passes!

This afternoon I successfully passed my Masters in History thesis defense. And I was worried....

Drs. William Stueck (my academic adviser) and John Morrow of the University of Georgia History Department and Alan Godlas, professor of Islamic Studies in the UGA Department of Religion gave me a good run for my money, critiquing the full text of Shooting the Ayatollah: Photojournalism, the Press, the Foreign Policy Public, and the Iran Hostage Crisis. The defense went very well, with none of the abuse or argument that other grad students had led to expect. Guess that means my committee liked it.

This thesis quantifies the volume, type, and tone of images used by the mass-market newsweeklies – Newsweek, Time, and U.S.News and World Report – to depict Iran and the Iran hostage crisis in an attempt to characterize related media coverage. In four chapters, this study’s quantitative approach describes the entire lifecycle of hostage crisis media – from its creation in Tehran and Washington by news service reporters and Iranian photojournalists, its communication on the pages of the American news magazines, a statistical examination of news media consumption by various strata of American society, and a comparison of the American press and its Arab analogue. This thesis also tests a number of core assumptions about hostage crisis media coverage that dominated the contemporary press and continue to linger in the current historiography, providing a new, more accurate image of the crisis’s cultural impact.

I had to invent a fairly complicated means of content analysis that could both quantify broadcast television coverage of the hostages crisis (CBS, shown here) as well as comparably handle printed coverage with it's variance between text, imagery, and cover news features. I was also fortunate that the vast majority of the US media's photography was credited. And while I can't know who the particular AP or UPI photographers were, I can measure the contract and staff photographers. Thus I was able to find that the most prolific photographers were, in fact, Iranian. Take that, Edward Said.

The next step is to work this overlong (161 pages) thesis into an overlong academic article. I'll keep you posted.

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