Document Type


Publication Date




The normative role of journalism in democracy is well established: democracy depends on news media to facilitate self-government. But theories of the press point to structural limitations that inhibit the democratic ideal. To examine this contradiction, this article offers a comparative analysis of online news coverage by CNN and BBC of Colin Powell’s speech to the United Nations Security Council on 5 February 2003. Ethnographic content analysis is used to examine the coverage and to consider each outlet’s broad institutional context. The article concludes that structural limitations are less of a hindrance at the BBC, which is better situated to enhance rational–critical dialogue and democratic self-governance through inclusion of a greater diversity of sources and a wider array of opinion.

Copyright Statement

This is an author-produced, peer-reviewed version of this article. The final, definitive version of this document can be found online at Media, War & Conflict, published by SAGE. Copyright restrictions may apply. doi: 10.1177/1750635214541031

Included in

Communication Commons