Framing Volunteerism In A Consensus Crisis: Mass Media Coverage Of Volunteers In The 9/11 Response

Argothy, Victor
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Disaster Research Center
On September 11, 2001, the world witnessed one of the most hideous terrorist attacks ever perpetrated on American soil. Individuals from the Al Qaeda terrorist network intentionally flew commercial jetliners into the World Trade Center in New York City and the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia, leaving the highest death toll (near three thousand people) ever registered for a single terrorist act. Beyond comparison in terms of its nature and magnitude, the tragedy generated both a vast disruption and the mobilization of many individuals, organizations, and resources. This paper examines the mass media coverage of volunteerism in the context of the World Trade Center disaster. Using news accounts, this paper, firstly, explores the extent of convergence in Lower Manhattan immediately after the terrorist attacks and the types of activities in which volunteers engaged. Then, using notions of “frame analysis” advanced by social scientists such as Goffman (1974) and Gamson (1985), this paper seeks to identify how the media “framed” volunteerism in the context of 9/11. The mass media both empowers and limits understanding by providing an edited or fragmented version of reality. Thus, it is crucial to identify both what frames the media borrowed from broader cultural contexts and what frames the media made available to the public when reporting volunteerism in 9/11.
Terrorism , Mass Media , Social Factors