Our faculty at William & Mary are making great contributions to academia with their research. In our recent blog series, we interview faculty with recent publications for insight into their scholarship.
Dr. Maurits van der Veen, (Associate Professor, Government) and Dr. Erik Bleich (Middlebury College) recently published Covering Muslims: American Newspapers in Comparative Perspective.
In 2-3 sentences, describe your scholarship to someone unfamiliar with the field.
In this book, we present the first systematic, large-scale analysis of American newspaper coverage of Muslims. By comparing it with reporting on a range of other groups and issues over time, as well as against coverage of the subject in other countries, we demonstrate conclusively how negative American newspapers have been in their treatment of Muslims. We also show that the enduring impact of 9/11 was not, as often believed, to make coverage more negative, but instead that Muslims became more tightly linked, in the media's coverage, to terrorism and extremism.
What was the most exciting/interesting part of this project for you?
The most rewarding part of the project was being able to rigorously establish the size and scope of a pattern that many have identified more anecdotally before, but that others have suggested could be explained away by other factors. Using a new computational text analysis method that we developed with this project in mind, we are able to reliably compare the tone of newspaper articles across a wide range of issues, groups, and even countries. In turn, the findings allowed us to show incontrovertibly that the negativity in the media's coverage of Muslims is a true outlier, and cannot be explained away by broader patterns in the media's coverage of other ethnic or religious minorities, of international or violent politics, or by temporary effects associated with 9/11.
Who might be interested in reading this book?
The book should be of interest to anyone who cares about how the media covers minorities, who wants to know more about what 9/11 has meant for the media's portrayal of Muslims and Islam, and anyone interested in more abstract questions such as what makes texts positive or negative, how the media's tone might vary across countries, and how negativity may take different forms in different topics or domains.
How did W&M Libraries help support your scholarship?
Georgie Donovan, former Associate Dean for Collections and Content Services, was very helpful in reaching out to the digital news services LexisNexis and Factiva when we ran into obstacles or challenges. The ILL department is always great at obtaining articles and books quickly and efficiently. Some of the writing for the book was done during the library's writing retreats between semesters.
Where can people learn more about your book?
Check out Covering Muslims: American Newspapers in Comparative Perspective from W&M Libraries!
*W&M faculty and staff who wish to be part of this series should complete the form available at: https://guides.libraries.wm.edu/pubpromotion