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When We Know What We Don’t Know: Uncertainty, Ignorance and Speculation in the UK Television Coverage of Airplane Disasters

Author:

Julia Boelle

Cardiff University, GB
About Julia

Julia Boelle is a PhD graduate of Cardiff University’s School of Journalism, Media and Culture. Her research interests are in the fields of disaster and crisis communications. In the past year, she has worked on two community journalism projects focusing on the experiences of community journalists and successful funding models. She has also been involved in a project investigating the UK government's communication of pandemics and Covid-19.

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Abstract

This article examines how the media deal with absent information by examining representations of uncertainty, ignorance and speculation in the UK television coverage of airplane disasters. Drawing on thematic and discourse analyses, the article argues that there is a development over time whereby two phases can be discerned: (1) the (initial) ignorance phase and (2) the epilogue phase. The former describes coverage that contains an absence of information. The findings show that the reporting in this phase draws on modality and speculation to counterbalance the absence of information regarding the airplane disasters. The epilogue phase factually concludes what happened and brings a form of resolution to the incidents. As a result, information is presented with more certainty than in the ignorance phase. These findings have implications for journalism studies more generally because they refine our understandings about the development of media coverage on events and situate the concepts of uncertainty, ignorance and speculation at the forefront of the discipline.

How to Cite: Boelle, J., 2021. When We Know What We Don’t Know: Uncertainty, Ignorance and Speculation in the UK Television Coverage of Airplane Disasters. JOMEC Journal, (16), pp.5–22. DOI: http://doi.org/10.18573/jomec.205
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Published on 01 Jun 2021.
Peer Reviewed

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