Journalism of Attachment: Dutch Newspapers During the Bosnian War
The pictures of emaciated men behind barbed wire in "Omarska," widely disseminated throughout international media in August 1992, touched everyone's conscience and acted as a catalyst for international involvement in the Bosnian war. Journalists embarked on a moral crusade for military intervention in the conflict. This "new" journalistic practice, labeled as "journalism of attachment," has become the title of this volume. It perceives reporters as participants in the conflicts they report and, as a consequence, argues that they should take part in the public debate about the conflict. Being partial, attached journalists provide the public with a Manichean picture about the "good guys" and "bad guys" in the conflict. Moreover, they cover the events in such a way as to motivate public action to do something about the situation. With respect to Bosnia, Dutch journalists, in the name of a higher moral duty, embarked on a crusade and adopted the role of heroic fighter for the oppressed, rather than impartial mediator between events and audience. Drawing on an extensive content analysis of news coverage about the Bosnian war, this study describes the extent to which, and the forms in which, the phenomenon of journalism of attachment was reflected in Dutch newspapers while covering the Bosnian war. It also discusses the consequences of this phenomenon for the objectivity and credibility of the news.
Nel Ruigrok is a lecturer at the Amsterdam School of Communications Research at the University of Amsterdam and a researcher at the Dutch News Monitor, a project of the Press Institute Foundation.