How did the international press cover the ouster of former Egyptian president Mursi? Students in the IMS seminar "Media and Politics" are analyzing whether - and to what extent - reports were biased.
"Western media portray Mursi as if he's a victim of the military, and that's too one-sided," says Egyptian student Miret El Naggar. She is enrolled in the International Media Studies (IMS) Master's program and has long been observing how the Western media report on her country. Together with her Cairo colleague Walid Osman and nine other IMS students, El Naggar is testing to see how accurate her observation is. The group has chosen eight international dailies to see how, and to what extent, the press covered the removal in July 2013 of the former Egyptian president and leading Muslim Brotherhood member, Mohamed Mursi.
Suddenly hitting the headlines
The students sift through newspapers stored in the Friedrich Ebert Foundation's newspaper archive in Bonn. They examine, analyze and code numerous articles using a meticulous system they've developed themselves. They then file the results in a data bank. They're looking at various aspects of the coverage including the newspapers' choice of sources, their use of stereotypes, and the characteristics of biased reporting.
"I'm interested in the way the international press focused in on Mursi," says Nube Álvarez from Mexico. She is analyzing reports and photos published in the Spanish daily, El Pais. Her Palestinian colleague, journalist Mohammed Abugeth, has started looking at reports published in the German national newspaper, Süddeutsche Zeitung. "It's amazing how the media can pounce on a subject," he says. "There can be slow weeks and then suddenly something happens and it's all over the media." Vinicio Chacón from Costa Rica and Taina Mansani from Brazil agree. They're analyzing the Vienna daily, Presse and the Paris newspaper Le Monde. Bruna Amaral is also surprised. "The Brazilian newspaper I'm studying even had one of their own correspondents based in Cairo."
The students say the Friedrich Ebert Foundation's archive is a great help. "I now see why it's important to actually hold a newspaper in your hand and not to just read reports online," says Maria Gomez from Colombia. Although the method might seem old fashioned, she finds it the best way to accurately compare the scope and range of reports. "It helps me better understand the way different editorial desks work and as well as their news flow," she admits. "As a journalist that's important."
Media research in cross-cultural teams
The project is part of the "Media and Politics" seminar, enabling students to learn how to seriously conduct research. "We're training media managers," says IMS head, Professor Dr. Christoph Schmidt, "and these days it's more important than ever that they're able to comprehend and analyze facts and situations." These are key skills, he continues, "and students can develop them with projects like these."
The IMS program itself benefits from the students' various languages and intercultural skills. Over the coming weeks the international group will continue to analyze and assess hundreds of articles and photos. The results are set to be published in mid-2014.