“New Zealand’s darkest day”. The representation of national grief in the media: the case of the Christchurch earthquake
Theunissen, P; Mersham, G
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On 22 February 2011 an earthquake registering 6.3 on the Richter scale struck the city of Christchurch, New Zealand. Buildings had collapsed, businesses were disrupted, and many lives were lost. As the death toll rose and the realities of the destruction set in, a nation moved from initial shock to anger and depression—not unlike the stages of grieving. This paper discusses the stages of grieving and the mourning process as they were reflected in national media. It explores how national identity and national consciousness is related to national mourning by reviewing the literature and providing a thematic analysis of selected media content. The authors found that emotion is not only evident in reporting but it is necessary and expected when disaster is reported, challenging traditional views of "quality" journalism that favours rationalism and objectivity over emotion in reporting. The emotion shown in reporting of the disaster mimics the process of grieving and in this case the process of national grieving. Media reportage of such disasters, using emotion and responding to emotion, is necessary to allow those affected directly or indirectly to mourn what they have lost. In the process the media both reify and reconstruct national identity. This research contributes to scholarly debate concerning the reporting of national disasters and how it impacts on its national identity, and may contribute to re-evaluating traditional views of quality journalism.