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The Impact of Television News Coverage on Al-Qaeda's Operations

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Master's thesis

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Much of what the American public knows about al-Qaeda and its most prominent member, Osama bin Laden, has been delivered through television news. It remains clear that al-Qaeda uses television news as an integral part of achieving their overarching goal, but whether television news has a reciprocal effect on al-Qaedas future operations remains unclear. An analysis will be conducted to determine if the timing of al-Qaedas operations coincide with an increase or decrease in public awareness of the terrorist organization based on the volume of television news coverage both the organization and its founder receive. This analysis will be conducted in three distinct parts. First, a timeline of al-Qaedas terrorist attacks will be created. This timeline will cover the period from the 1998 United States embassy bombings through December 2006. Although Osama bin Laden officially formed al-Qaeda in 1988, they did not appear in CNN transcripts until 1998. Five particular attacks were chosen to study the trends between large-scale events the 1998 United States embassy bombings, the 2000 attack on the USS Cole, the attacks of 911, the 2004 bombings in Madrid, and the 2005 bombings of the London subway. Second, a timeline of the television news coverage by CNN will be created using the searchable news stories database, This analysis will focus on the CNN television news coverage of both al-Qaeda and Osama bin Laden. A search will be conducted for each term by month and the volume of CNN news transcripts mentioning these search terms will be compiled. The goal of this data collection is to analyze the raw number of times the search terms are mentioned in television news coverage each month. The third part consists of mapping the volume of television news coverage along the timeline of al-Qaeda attacks and analyzing their interaction. The existence of trends may give insight into the timing of future attacks.

Subject Categories:

  • Information Science
  • Unconventional Warfare
  • Radio Communications

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