Thesis

Nicaragua: the revolutionary crisis--October 1977-July 19, 1979 in Newsweek, Maclean's, The Economist and Der Spiegel

In October 1977, just weeks after Anastasio Somoza lifted a nearly three year state of siege, Nicaragua's Sandinista guerrillas resumed their military offensive by launching a countrywide assault against the dictator. Some 22 months later, on July 17, 1979, Somoza fled to Miami. Two days later the rebels victoriously entered Managua. Their victory marked the first time in 20 years that a Latin American guerrilla movement successfully defeated the bonds of tyrannical rule. This thesis is a cross-cultural qualitative content analysis of Nicaragua's press coverage in four internationally oriented newsmagazines during the revolutionary crisis. It was inspired by the heated controversy that continues to surround the victory of the Sandinistas. Its primary purpose was to discover the magazines' portrayal of the guerrillas. It also emphasizes the portrayal of the United States and the perceived East-West scenario of the revolution. The newsmagazines examined are Newsweek of the United States, Maclean's of Canada, The Economist of Great Britain and Der Spiegel of West Germany. All four newsmagazines are deemed highly important by top political leaders and policy makers. The three non-U.S. publications are the number one newsmagazines of their countries and, with the exception of Maclean's, each has a significant worldwide audience. The study examines the first issue of each newsmagazine published in October 1977, through the first issue of each newsmagazine published after July 19, 1979. A total of 63 articles, commentaries, columns and interviews, totaling some 1,154 column inches, were located. It was discovered that the coverage was sporadic, with violence generating nearly all the articles. The longer and more intense the violence, the more concentrated the coverage. It was also discovered that the rise of the Sandinistas was not a major focus in any of the newsmagazines, Somoza's increasingly imminent downfall was. The newsmagazines also examined the crisis from a decidedly U.S. perspective as opposed to a Nicaraguan one. The needs and wants of Nicaragua's masses were generally ignored. Newsweek and The Economist strongly reflected Washington's perception of the revolution. They presented a very alarmist picture of the Sandinistas and portrayed the crisis in terms of the East-West superpower struggle. The extensive use of alarmist labels, especially in Newsweek, was a major contributing factor to the negative portrayal of the Sandinistas. Maclean's and Der Spiegel did not paint an East-West picture of the crisis. They did not use alarmist labels associating the guerrillas with Marxism and/or communism. They did not reflect Washington's perception of the revolution. Instead, they harshly condemned the United States for establishing and maintaining the dynasty. Their depiction of the Sandinistas was neutral.

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