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Introducing new datasets on Northern Ireland’s media in the peace process and a test of newsworthiness in times of ‘troubles’


Media, War & ConflictJournal abstract

To assist researchers studying the relationships between mass media messages and escalating conflict or peace-building, this article introduces two new datasets generated from Belfast, Northern Ireland, during the critical period before the Belfast Peace Agreement’s ratification. The first, the Northern Ireland Media Dataset (NIMD), contains coded data from a stratified, systematic random sample of articles from the three daily newspapers plus available articles from two paramilitary-related publications. The second, the Northern Ireland Community Relations Dataset (NICRD), resulted from merging one existing database – the Northern Ireland section of the Global Terrorism Database from the University of Maryland (College Park) – with the University of Ulster’s Chronology of the Conflict and coding the combined data for new variables that signify degrees of antagonism, non-antagonism, or peace-building. The latter set contains significant events, such as acts of violence, demonstrations, ceasefires, elections and peace rallies. Together and with other datasets, the NIMD and NICRD help researchers analyze and measure different aspects of mass media messages in either the escalation of violence or building peace in one conflict region. As a small showcase of the data, the research tests one hypothesis of newsworthiness in times of conflict and peacemaking, demonstrating that news norms of drama, conflict and events favor coverage of political parties like Sinn Fein, which used these norms to become the most covered political party during this time.

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