The Construction of Malaysian Airlines Tragedies MH370 and MH17 in the Malaysian and British Newspapers: A Multidisciplinary Study

Ong, Theng (2019) The Construction of Malaysian Airlines Tragedies MH370 and MH17 in the Malaysian and British Newspapers: A Multidisciplinary Study. Doctoral thesis, Northumbria University.

Text (Doctoral thesis)
ong.theng_phd.pdf - Submitted Version

Download (3MB) | Preview


Human suffering is often constructed differently across countries with a classification between ‘Us’ and ‘Others’: indicating a power division between danger and safety, peace and war, prosperity and poverty (Chouliaraki, 2011: 608). Indeed, the ways in which the news media represent the suffering of ‘Others’ has been supported the findings of a number of studies (e.g. Ashlin and Ladle 2007; Joye, 2010; Chouliaraki, 2011). However, one issue constraining research on suffering is that it is usually studied from one perspective, i.e., as either distant suffering or local suffering. There is also a lack of information of how the same suffering is constructed locally as well as internationally. In addition, prior research has been conducted principally in the areas of health environment and journalism and public attitudes towards mediated suffering have been neglected. Little attention has been given to language as the main medium of communication between audiences and newsmakers.

For the reasons detailed above, it seems crucial to focus on the role of the mass media in the connection of audiences with suffering. Hence, the present study attempts to extend prior equivalent research by comparing and contrasting the ways in which the Malaysian Airlines tragedies MH370 and MH17 are linguistically constructed in Malaysian newspapers, as a local suffering, and in the United Kingdom (UK) newspapers as a distant suffering. A further study was also conducted to investigate Malaysian and UK nationals’ attitudes toward the Airlines tragedies.

In depth analysis of the newspaper content using Sketch Engine shows that the topics of aircraft-related matters and countries/nationalities were important to the news reporting of the air tragedies. Essentially, the analysis suggested a tendency of the news media to construct the air tragedies with a classification between ‘Us’ and ‘Others’. The division was featured in two dominant discursive modes: ‘honorification’ and ‘anonymity’. In contrast, analysis of the attitudinal data, demonstrated that, for both the Malaysian and UK respondents, the most salient associations with the MH370 tragedy related to ‘conflict’ and, for the MH17 tragedy, ‘emotions’.

It is hoped that the findings of the present study offer a useful contribution to language and media studies, and provide a more comprehensive understanding of discourses and ideologies surrounding the two sufferings and their public uptake. Methodologically, the present study also demonstrated the value of triangulating a corpus-based discourse study and an attitudinal study, by offering a more comprehensive and rigorous picture of public discourse of the air tragedies. The results of study also indicated that keywords analysis is also useful to examine both media and public discourse, offering information regarding both the most salient topics presented in the news corpora and the audience attitudes towards the sufferings.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Uncontrolled Keywords: Keywords, Corpus, Critical Discourse Analysis, Attitudes, Discourse of othering
Subjects: P300 Media studies
P500 Journalism
Department: Faculties > Arts, Design and Social Sciences > Humanities
University Services > Graduate School > Doctor of Philosophy
Depositing User: Paul Burns
Date Deposited: 11 Jul 2019 15:28
Last Modified: 07 Sep 2022 09:00

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item


Downloads per month over past year

View more statistics