Remembering Our Shared Past: Visually Framing the Iraq War on U.S. News Websites

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Abstract

This exploratory study analyzes how United States news websites visually portray ongoing (contemporaneous) events and examines their potential role in shaping collective memory by commemorating past (resurrected) events through anniversary retrospectives. A content analysis of 526 images on the home pages of 26 mainstream news sites indicates that during the first five weeks of the Iraq War, the visual emphasis shifted from the official U.S. war machine to the more personal face of those touched by war, both Americans and Iraqis, as photojournalists traveled with the troops to Baghdad. The five main frames that emerged reinforced the patriotic, government-friendly war narrative: conflict, conquest, rescue, victory, and control. By the first, second, and third anniversaries of the war, the visual coverage of hostilities had dropped dramatically. This article discusses some of the reasons why online news sites did not feature many anniversary commemorations of the Iraq War.

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