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  • Exploring media discourse by Myra Macdonald
  • Shaoxiang Wang
Exploring media discourse. By Myra Macdonald. Oxford: Arnold, 2003. Pp. 224. ISBN 0340719893. $21.95.

Applying Foucault’s notion of discourse to the analysis of both verbal and visual media texts, Myra Macdonald in Exploring media discourse attempts to capture trends and changes in the ways that media configure ‘reality’. With a wealth of case studies and examples from the media, M asserts the positive role of discourse as an appropriate analytical tool and resurrects the importance of ideology in media analysis. Readily accessible and clearly written, the book should be of interest to students in media studies, cultural studies, journalism studies, and mass communication studies.

The book is divided into three sections. The first highlights the implications of approaching the media through the lens of discourse by clarifying the interrelationship between discourse, representation, and ideology. Ch. 1, ‘Discourse and representation’ (7–26), explores the relationship between discourse and representation, while Ch. 2, ‘Discourse and ideology’ [End Page 538] (27–51), investigates how discourse relates to ideology, emphasizing that as valuable as it is, the explanatory power of discourse needs to be supplemented by ideology

The second section challenges some of the binary pairings in the construction of shifts in media discourse, such as ‘information’ vs. ‘entertainment,’ ‘public’ vs. ‘private’, arguing that such shifts ought to be reinvestigated against a model of citizenship that is ‘inclusive, engaged, and open to challenge and debate’ (55). In Ch. 3, ‘Rethinking “personalization” and the “infotainment” debate’ (57–78), M reexamines the growing concerns over personalization and its potential damaging effects on journalism, contending that it is a multidimensional process calling for closer inspection. Ch. 4, ‘Publicizing the “private” ’ (79–101), presents a review of arguments about the movement from the ‘private’ into the public sphere, arguing that ‘the hierarchical supremacy and power of the public world remains remarkably untouched’ (101).

The third section of the book is devoted to the discussion of the emerging discourses of ‘risk’ at the turn of the century. Ch. 5, ‘Children “at risk” ’ (109–28), details risk to children from abusers and pedophiles, maintaining that it is more preoccupied with adult anxieties and aspirations and less with threats to children’s well-being. In Ch. 6, ‘ “Unsafe” food’ (129–50), M considers how discourses about food safety have escalated into deeper worries about failures in good governance and a lack of scientific knowledge. In Ch. 7, ‘Demonizing Islam’ (151–73), M discusses the Western media constructions of the ‘risk’ of Islam and its association with terrorism, fundamentalism, and the oppression of women. In the final chapter of the book, Ch. 8, ‘September 11th: Rethinking Islam?’ (174–89), Mreflects on the aftermath of September 11th in terms of its impact on the discourse of ‘risk’ around Islam, and speculates on the tension between warmongering rhetoric and the denials of Islamophobia.

In an engaging style, M demonstrates compellingly that the concept of discourse can be successfully applied to media analysis. Furthermore, the resurrection of ideology as an effective tool for analyzing implications also contributes to media analysis.

Shaoxiang Wang
Fujian Teachers University


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pp. 538-539
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
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