The ability of news reporting to instantaneously cover unfolding political situations and events has raised questions about the impact of news on political decision-making and policy formation. Much analysis which has addressed this problem is concerned with the pressures which news coverage can bring to bear on politicians, and whether political policy can be shaped by the influences of news through what has become known as the ‘CNN effect’. According to Gowing, the CNN effect is a process which derives from real-time reporting, where instantaneous reporting of conflicts and diplomatic crises can create expectations which challenge foreign policy aims (1994a: 1). For Bell, the substance of the CNN-effect debate centres on ‘the tendency of governments to adjust their policies to cope with the something-must-be-done demands generated by TV coverage of a humanitarian crisis’ (2003: 37). The ability of news to move policy in this way is a result of television news images which ‘compress transmission and policy response times’, which, in turn, ‘puts pressure on choice and priorities in crisis management’ (Cowing 1994a: 1). The basis of the CNN effect, then, is speed, since it is speed of coverage which is able to create problems for politicians by demanding a quick response, and it is speed which is able to reveal policy uncertainty and highlight political incompetence in the light of an emerging conflict or diplomatic crisis. Without a coherent, thought-through policy agenda, real-time coverage, it would appear, is able to expose weaknesses which can have political repercussions.
KeywordsForeign Policy Media Coverage Television News Bush Administration Compassion Fatigue
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