One night as attendees of a suburban Quebec City mosque were kneeling to pray, a 27-year-old Canadian man opened fire leaving six people dead and many others wounded. Alexandre Bissonnette was charged the following day with six counts of murder and five counts of attempted murder. The shooting was considered to be an act of terrorism and many American news platforms reported the story. This analysis focuses on how three American news platforms–Cable News Network (CNN), The New York Times, and The Washington Post–showcase the same story. All three articles were published the day after the shooting however each one is a little different from the rest. This evaluation will compare each news story in the way it uses the spatial, linguistic, and aural/visual modes of communication.
The Spatial Mode
The Linguistic Mode
The linguistic mode is primarily made up of language or text to convey a message. This is the most prominent mode used in all three articles. Although each one is telling the same story, each one has its own way of using of telling the important information. The purpose of the news articles is to give readers all the details surrounding the Quebec mosque shooting. The audience would be anyone who is affected by the shooting, those who care about the Muslim community, and people who are interested in what is happening throughout the world.
Because titles are the first things that a reader will see, they are vitally important to news stories. Based off that one line, the reader will judge whether or not they would like to continue reading.
The CNN article’s title states, “Quebec mosque shooting: ‘lone wolf’ kills 6, officials say.” This title is very interesting. Just by reading the title, readers already know a little bit about the suspect. What does ‘lone wolf’ mean? Could mean he was alone in nature–no friends, family, etc.? Or that a large group did not organize the crime, that he was alone in committing the crime? Neither of the other two articles takes the approach that CNN did.
The New York Times’ title reads, “Quebec Mosque Attack Forces Canadians to Confront a Strain of Intolerance.” The title does a good job of telling exactly what the article will be about–Canadians confronting a strain of intolerance.
The article from the Washington Post is named, “Suspect in deadly Canadian mosque shooting charged with six counts of murder.” It lists the most recent and important information that the writer knew at the time.
The textual content of each source runs along the same line of giving the main details, such as who the shooter was, what he was charged with, when everything happened, and how the country (and others around the world) are reacting. However, each article is different from the rest.
Both CNN and the Post’s articles were centered on the event and what happened. The New York Times article also included the most important information, yet instead focused on Canada, describing how the country reacted to the shooting; giving more detail on the divide in Canada of those who are anti-Muslim and those who are not.
The final remarks made in an article should leave the reader with something to think about. All three articles end with important quotes about the attack, solidarity, and the Islam community.
Suspects & Victims
The New York Times only discusses one suspect, Alexandre Bissonnette, who was confirmed and charged as the shooter. The Washington Post also wrote about and interviewed the other suspect who was released, Mohamed Belkhadir, who was arrested due to a misunderstanding by the police, while CNN just mentioned him as another suspect. CNN and the Washington Post both describe Bissonnette as a shooter, however the Times article depicted him to be a “lone wolf,” yet also described him as “boyish.”
Mr. Bissonnette, 27, who was also charged with five counts of attempted murder, appeared at the Quebec City courthouse looking boyish in a white jumpsuit.
“Lone wolf” included in the CNN title, tells the reader a little bit about his personality, however boyish described in the Times, downplays the fact that he is a murderer.
All three stories tell of the victims. CNN lists them by name and age. The New York Times lists each person alongside his or her occupation. The Post tells how many victims there were and includes a quote by Mohamed Labibi of the Quebec Islamic Cultural Center, which was where the shooting took place.
Through tears, Mohamed Labibi of the Quebec Islamic Cultural Center called the mass shooting a “very, very big tragedy,” and pleaded with reporters to “personify” those who had lost their lives — businessmen, shopkeepers and a university professor, though he did not name them. “We cannot express our sadness,” he said.
Each article uses an array of sources ranging from officials to Facebook and Twitter posts. They all refer to statements made by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and by someone from the mosque. Every source used gives either more information about what occurred or speculated why the shooting happened. All three used pretty normal journalistic sources. However, the Washington Post and CNN did something unusual by using multiple social media platforms as sources.
The Post used various tweets to show how different people around the world, such as the verified Twitter account of Paris, stood in support of the Canadians.
While, CNN not only used tweets to show what the Prime Minister and the province’s premier had to say in the aftermath of the attack, but also referred to a specific Facebook post to describe how the mosque had been targeted for being Muslim multiple times before the attack.
Last year, the cultural center received a wrapped pig’s head and a magazine with a pig on its cover, saying “Bonne Appetit,” according to a post on its Facebook page. The post reads: “We just learned that a gesture of hate towards our Great Mosque took place Sunday morning (14 Ramadan) around Salat Al-Fajr! Police was made aware and opened an investigation!”
Instead of calling the mosque or those who worship there and asking more questions, the journalists went straight to its Facebook page for information.
Both uses of the social media are vital. The first use shows how social media unites the world because not only did Paris find out about the attack, but also in a matter of seconds condolences and support were offered. The second use shows that social media platforms are growing as news sources. Young people today log onto Twitter and Snapchat to see what is happening around the world. In response, journalists are beginning to use social media for the same reason: to find out what is going on. Users tend to also show the truth on social media, so it makes sense that journalists are leaning towards subjects’ accounts as sources.
The Aural & Visual Modes
The visual mode is more prevalent in news articles than the aural mode because aural aspects only make an appearance during videos or audio. Each article uses various photos and videos to convey their story.
The article on CNN was not very photo heavy. It included a couple of photos of people, however it also featured screenshots of tweets from Philippe Couillard and Justin Trudeau–both important figures in the Quebec and Canadian community.
One thing that this article shared with the other two was the use of a virtual map. The map can zoom in and out of the area where the shooting occurred.
The New York Times article showed photos of groups of people supporting Canadians. This was important to the theme of the article: how Canadians are reacting in the aftermath of the shooting.
The difference between the map included in the CNN article and the New York Times article is that the New York Times one is not interactive. You cannot zoom in or out; it just shows a snapshot of the area where the shooting occurred.
The Washington Post article began with an extremely emotional photo of Mohamed Labibi of the Quebec Islamic Cultural Center that fell victim to the attack.
Other than one video, there wasn’t much visual aspect until around three-quarters of the way through the article where a photo story of the aftermath of the shooting is included. It showcased 26 photos of details and people consolidating with the victims. Each photo focused hard on drawing emotions from the viewer. This article also used a non-interactive map to show where the event occurred. The article ended with photos of tweets from Jim Watson and the city of Paris sending condolences to Canada
CNN used an emotion-driven video before their story that gave a full description of what happened (although one of the facts were wrong). The video was created right after the shooting took place. It used suspenseful music that gave the viewer a sense of fear and concern for the victims. The video featured large text to tell the viewer everything they needed to know alongside on street video interviews. The video is titled, “Six dead in Quebec mosque shooting.” This video corresponds to the content of the article in the way that it gives all of the important information about the event. All of these aspects combined encouraged those viewing the video to send emotional support and concern to Canada.
The New York Times also began their article with an emotional video, however this one was created to make the viewer feel angry about what happened. It started with the sound of two men speaking in another language with text at the bottom of the video translating the language. The voices are trying to make sense of what had just occurred. At one point, one of the men blamed United States President Donald Trump for what happened. You never see the men speaking. This video was also created right after the shooting occurred. This one also showed bold text to tell the viewer what the men were talking about and to describe what happened. It then included various video interviews taking on and off the site.
The Washington Post’s article was not only photo-heavy but also video heavy. Rather than beginning the story with the emotional video like the other two, the first video was placed farther into the story. This video included the sound of sad music and sirens with a soft chatter of voices heard in the background. It also included text to give detail of what occurred. The second video was placed near the end of the article. It included various video interviews taken near the mosque after the shooting occurred.
All three articles do a good job of telling the reader everything they need to know about the Quebec mosque shooting. I do not think there is one that is particularly better than the others because they each take their own angle on the story, whether that be the response of Canadians or the response from around the world.