For this multimodal analysis, I decided to analyze three journalistic articles about the Quebec Mosque Shooting that occurred Sunday, January 29, 2017. News articles are written similarly to essays, however the terminology is a little bit different. The introduction in a news article is split up into two sections called the lead and the nut graf. The lead is the first sentence or paragraph of an article that tells the most important information. There are two different types of leads (and types of news stories). A news story is what is published immediately, where as a feature story is normally longer in text and is written long after an event to include all information known at the time. A news lead gives the most important information, while a feature lead normally has a creative hook to draw the readers’ attention. The nut graf gives additional information that the lead did not discuss. Together, both elements answer the questions: who, what, when, where, and why.” That is, who is the article about? What happened? When and where did it happen? And, do we know why? I chose to analyze a Cable News Network (CNN) article, a New York Times article, and an article from the Washington Post. All three were published the day after the shooting, however each one took an interesting angle in telling about the event. The targeted audience for these three news stories would be people who are interested in the content—not only Canadians, but also Americans. The situation described in the articles is something that could possible happen in the United States due to the current political divide between those who support United States President Donald Trump’s recent immigration ban and those who do not. According to the book Writer/Designer by Kristin Arola, Jennifer Sheppard, and Cheryl Ball, multimodal texts are made up of two or more modes. There are five different modes that can be included in a text—linguistic, spatial, gestural, aural, and visual. The linguistic mode is made up of language, primarily text, the spatial mode refers to physical arrangement of the content, and the gestural mode refers to the way movement creates meaning. The visual mode involves the use of images, while the aural mode involves the use of sounds. In this evaluation, I will discuss each article’s use of the linguistic, spatial, visual and aural modes.
The Linguistic Mode
The linguistic mode is the most prominent of all three articles and although they are each telling the same story, each article has its own way of using a concise title, telling the information, portraying the suspects and victims, and using a variety of sources.
The CNN article’s title states, “Quebec mosque shooting: ‘lone wolf’ kills 6, officials say.” To me, this one is very interesting. Just by reading the title, readers already know a little bit about the suspect. What does ‘lone wolf’ mean? Could it 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 Time’s title reads, “Quebec Mosque Attack Forces Canadians to Confront a Strain of Intolerance.” While the CNN title could be read as a news story, this one could be either a news or feature story. However, it does a good job of telling exactly what the article will be about—Canadians confronting a strain of intolerance.
While that article could potentially be a feature story, judging The Washington Post’s title proves it is also a news story. It says, “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. Other than that, each article is different.
CNN and the Washington Post’s leads and nut grafs both show that these are news stories. They tell who the shooter was, how he was charged, where the event occurred, and so on. They both give all the details for the reader to know exactly what happened. As you can tell above, the first screenshot is from the CNN article, the second from the Washington Post.
The New York Times had a feature lead that gave an interesting hook into the story and showed what the rest of the article is about: Canada. However in the nut graf (second paragraph), the article still gives the reader the most recent and important information about the shooting. As was stated before, the main details of the event were included in each article. However, there were some details that were included by only one or two. The New York Times gives more detail on the divide in Canada of those who are anti-Muslim and those who are not. CNN focused on the attack and how it affected Canada. The Washington Post not only mentioned but also interviewed the first suspect of the shooting, Mohamed Belkhadir, who was arrested due to a misunderstanding by the police. At the end of the article, the Post includes condolences that were sent by United States President Donald Trump, Russian President Vladimir Putin, Paris, and the Pope. All three articles end with important quotes about the attack, solidarity, and the Islam community as you can tell below. The first screenshot is of the CNN article:
From the Washington Post:
And the New York Times:
The New York Times article only discusses one suspect, Alexandre Bissonnette, who was confirmed and charged as the shooter. As mentioned earlier, the Washington Post also wrote about and interviewed the other suspect who was released, while CNN just mentioned him as another suspect. New York Times and the Washington Post both describe Bissonnette as a shooter, however The CNN article depicted him to be a “lone wolf,” while CNN described him as “boyish.” Lone wolf tells the reader a little bit about his personality, however boyish 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 by name, age, and occupation. The Washington Post tells how many victims there were and includes a quote by Mohamed Labibi of the Quebec Islamic Cultural Center.
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 that went under attack, the Quebec Islamic Cultural Center and every source used gives either more information about what occurred or speculated why the shooting happened. All 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 to describe how the mosque had been targeted for being Muslim multiple times before the attack. 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 show the truth on social media, so it makes sense that journalists are leaning towards using subjects’ accounts as sources.
The Visual and Aural Modes
Each article was full of photos and videos. CNN used an emotional-driven video before their story that gave a full description of what happened (although one of the facts were wrong). It used music that gave the viewer a sense of fear and text to tell what happened alongside on street video interviews that encouraged the reader to send emotional support to Canada. The rest of the article inserted tweets, a map to show where the shooting occurred, and another video of a CNN broadcast to give even more detail about the event. The New York Times also began the article with an emotional video, but it was made to make the reader angry about what happened. It started with the sound of voices speaking in another language and showed text to tell what the voices were saying. At one point, one of the men speaking blamed Donald Trump for what happened. Then, the video gave more text to tell what occurred alongside video interviews of those who were nearby the mosque. Check out the link below:
After the video, the article showed photos of those supporting Canadian Muslims, a map of where the shooting occurred, and a picture of the Prime Minister addressing a crowd near the mosque. The Washington Post began their article with an emotional photo followed by a video that was gave text to tell the story of what happened and included sad music and the sound of sirens and people speaking. The video also showed photos taken at the scene. The rest of the article included a photo series, a map, and another video that shows more video interviews about what occurred at the mosque, followed by tweets from Paris and Jim Watson. Each of these photos and videos in all three articles are used to either draw an emotion out of the reader or to give more information. Photos, videos, and maps can tell more about an event than only using words. Photos and videos will put the reader in the moment and give them a full view of exactly what happened. Maps show where the mosque was, where the other suspect was arrested, and how far he ran. All of this adds more detail to the story that may not be able to be portrayed with just words.
Each article does 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.