Media and Communication Ph.D. Dissertations


The Media is the Weapon: The Enduring Power of Balkan War (Mis)Coverage

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


Media and Communication

First Advisor

Oliver Boyd-Barrett (Committee Chair)

Second Advisor

Lynda Dixon (Committee Member)

Third Advisor

Lara Lengel (Committee Member)

Fourth Advisor

Scott Magelssen (Committee Member)


This dissertation carries out a multi-level analysis of how media reports establish durable narratives of war in both journalism and scholarship, illustrating a multi-dimensional process of the weaponization of media. It draws on a case study of NATO's attack on Yugoslavia in 1999, examining both news coverage and scholarly accounts, and with reference to relevant historical, institutional, economic and political contexts. The author conducts a grounded theory analysis of 1058 news articles appearing in the Associated Press, New York Times, and The Times (of London) surrounding the pivotal events of NATO's military intervention in Kosovo. The ways in which these selected media represent the events and the relationship between their dominant narrative themes and the contexts in which the events occurred, is further examined, comparatively, by means of grounded theory analysis of how 4 major scholarly treatises craft an understanding of NATO intervention in Kosovo. Based on these analyses, this research argues that (a) media content foregrounds (and in various ways privileges) the frames, sources and narratives that correspond with the interests of NATO that drive military intervention and (b) these media narratives exercise a lingering influence on long-term conceptualizations of conflict and have the capacity to shape the contours of cultural memory for years to come. Emerging from this inquiry &-; which situates the interrelationships between media, power and military conflict within the context of political and economic environment &-; is the theory of a weaponization of media that moves beyond the scope of existing propaganda theories (and, in the context of propaganda, agenda-setting and framing theories) that explains to what end propaganda works and the ways in which the media system capacitates and enhances processes of propaganda.