Media criticism as competitive discourse: Defining reportage of the abu ghraib scandal

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This article treats media criticism as a specific form of discourse that aspires to define what journalism is, what it should aspire to, and who should speak about it. Recognizing journalists' cultural role of creating shared meaning, criticism either strives to uphold journalistic norms and isolate problematic incidents as deviant or calls attention to a faulty underlying framework of news production and presents foundational alternatives. Aside from being competitive discourse, media criticism is also collective by constructing various groups through its discourse by addressing specific audiences in an effort to create boundaries of acceptability. As a site for inquiry, the article tracks criticism surrounding reportage of the Abu Ghraib prison abuse scandal in April and May of 2004. Specific critical arguments regarding the scandal are systematically examined in four different spheres: within the news, the journalism trade press, from the left, and from the right.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)258-277
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Communication Inquiry
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 1 2009
Externally publishedYes


  • Abu Ghraib
  • Journalism
  • Journalistic authority
  • Media criticism


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