Journalism and Mass Communications, College of


Date of this Version

Summer 8-1-2010

Document Type



Master's thesis on witness to distant suffering in print media, a novel contribution to media studies. Virtually all research to date in this area has been on visual media. Examines New York Times, Christianity and Crisis, and Sojourners magazine coverage of civil wars in El Salvador and Nicaragua during 1980s.
A THESIS Presented to the Faculty of The Graduate College at the University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of Requirements For the Degree of Master of Arts, Major: Journalism and Mass Communications, Under the Supervision of Professor John Bender. Lincoln, Nebraska: August, 2010
Copyright 2010 Charles A. Flowerday


Scholars have investigated witness to distant suffering (WTDS) almost entirely in visual media. This study examines it in print. This form of reporting will be examined in two publications of the religious left as contrasted with the New York Times. The thesis is that, more than any technology, WTDS consists of the journalist’s moral commitment and narrative skills and the audience’s analytical resources and trust. In the religious journals, liberation theology provides the moral commitment, the writers and editors the narrative skills and trust and the special vision of the newly empowered poor the analytical foundation. In bearing witness to those who have suffered state or guerilla terrorism in El Salvador and Nicaragua during the 1980s, we will investigate a distinction between “worthy” and “unworthy victims.” This last issue has a special ethical and political significance. Media witnessing to the suffering of strangers can help them become known, and so “worthy.” It can help them, and their plight and cause, become better recognized. This is the power of the media.